How the Knicks Can Reverse the Early Struggles of Bogan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks

The New York Knicks trade deadline additions have not looked good early, but it could be remedied by a simple change in the gameplan.
Mar 10, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks forward Bojan Bogdanovic (44) and
Mar 10, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks forward Bojan Bogdanovic (44) and / Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

A little over one month ago, the New York Knicks made a move that had everybody starting to seriously consider their chances at competing for an NBA title. 

When general manager Leon Rose struck payday at the trade deadline to acquire Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks from the Detroit Pistons, the reception was immensely positive as the team added quality, recognizable shooting power to a rotation that was already headlined by elite pieces. 

Even as injuries took out two starters in Julius Randle and OG Anunoby, the Knicks were confident that they found the extra depth to withstand the storm during an important stretch of games in a tight Eastern Conference. Yet, that hope has translated to nothing more than lackluster results on the hardwood from the new pieces. 

While there is no doubt that both players haven’t been thrown into their ideal situations—having to play increased minutes amid the injury carousel—they have looked uncomfortable at times in the Knicks system. Bogdanovic was an excellent 41.5% wing three and post-up shooter in two seasons with Detroit, but since joining New York has seen his numbers drop to 41.8% and 37.3% in 11 games, respectively. 

On the other side, Burks has not been the same threat that he was for the Knicks in his first stint of duty from 2020-2022. He has gone from averaging 12.6 points and nearly 40% shooting from both the field and the arc in Detroit to being near sub-30% with 7.7 points. Sure, he is playing less minutes this time around, but the effectiveness has been cut in half for a guy that was over 2.1 threes per game in that 2020 season with New York.

Over the first 11 games in orange and blue, Bogdanovic has failed to shoot above 50% in seven of them and has only three games with more than two three-pointers made. Burks’s numbers are even worse in that same span, posting nine games under 40% shooting and eight with less than two shots from behind the three-point line. 

So, what’s the exact cause of these early woes that have fans questioning the success of the exchange? Look no further than how the Knicks are trying to use the duo and how that doesn’t jive with their particular skill set. 

The Misusage of Bogdanovic and Burks

Since Randle went down with a shoulder injury on January 27th, the Knicks have relied on Bogdanovic to fill his void at the forward position. However, that has meant expecting the veteran to step in and be the “bully baller” that takes the ball into the paint, drives to the glass with aggressiveness and power and makes life difficult on the boards, something that has been a disaster for the man. 

More often than not, Bogdanovic has struggled to protect the basketball and been a very poor dribbler when trying to attack the interior in traffic, leading to an increase in turnovers as seen in the Philadelphia game last Sunday. At times he has shown indecisiveness when trying to create space for a shot or looking for active cutters to the basket, and this has led to bad looks and 3.7 turnovers per 100 possessions which is one of the highest marks on the team. 

In addition, he isn’t helping to haul extra rebounds and extend Knicks positions amid his shooting follies. Per Pro Basketball Reference, the 34-year-old is averaging just one offensive rebound per 100 possessions and accounting for 6.2% of all available rebounds to the team which isn’t great for a player earning more usage and expecting to contribute more than ever before. 

For Burks, some of these same elements were his speciality during his first run with New York, but it’s the indecisiveness factor that remains in play. He’s fallen back into the bad habit of trying to handle the ball up top instead of handing it off and getting open for the quick shots that have defined him. It's led to a lot of empty possessions and forced poor deep shots that have a slim chance of falling down.

Instead of getting to his sweet spots for quality shots, Burks tries to make up for it with the idea of quantity. He is taking three-point attempts on just over 50.5% of his total shot attempts which is the fourth highest among rotation players but is still not seeing the results with one the lowest shooting percentages on the entire Knicks squad. 

As health starts to stitch back together for the lasting stretch of the regular season, these trends may return to the mean as Bogdanovic and Burks return to being pure role players from the bench. However, therein lies the answer if the Knicks want to revive their offensive promise and this trade–taking attention away and returning them to the perimeter weapons that were recruited to be. 

Most of the offensive production will continue coming from the starting trio of Jalen Brunson, Donte Divencenzo and Josh Hart until Randle and Anunoby return in the coming days, but the approach is bound for pushback as opposing teams start figuring it out.

The core will see their good looks fade and try to play hero ball to stay afloat, when instead they should mix in a return to the facilitator offense and put their depth shooters in position to succeed. 

The Knicks are lucky to have two excellent examples of that in Brunson and Hart whose dangerousness in the interior has forced defensive respect. If they can set up the offense to where the defensive attention is pulled to the middle and tricked into committing to a potential inside shot, they can have Bogdanovic and Burks trickle to the perimeter and receive the open dish and that will lead to more wide open looks that both tend to cash before the defense can run out to respond. 

It’s the method that made Bogdanovic and Burks so deadly with the Pistons and drew praise to the front office for recruiting the pair in free agency for cheap money. They allowed their key hogs to be the facilitators into the paint while the perimeter freed up and soon they were knocking down triples with the best of them to remain competitive in a lost season. 

It’s the same strategy that made them hot commodities at the trade deadline for New York, who desperately needed depth to retool the offensive production at the second level or when there is an off night from the main moneymakers. The Knicks have a means to implement that towards their playoff push and it only takes a few simple tweaks. 

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