Bojan Bogdanovic showing why he could be potential Knicks secret weapon in playoffs

Maybe Bojan Bogdanovic had heard — or at least sensed — the whispers that he was treading on thin ice as the Knicks march toward the playoffs. Maybe he knew that these last few games of the regular season were going to determine how much — if at all — he might be a part of the playoff rotation.

Or maybe something finally clicked for him.

Sunday evening in Milwaukee, for one of the few times since he arrived from Detroit at the trade deadline, Bogdanovic provided ample testimony why the Knicks were so eager to make him a part of their post-All-Star Game plan. In the Knicks’ 122-109 win over the Bucks, Bogdanovic played 17 solid minutes, made six of his nine shots, including his only 3. He finished with 15 points, played more than adequate defense and accumulated a plus-minus rating of plus-five.

In simpler terms: He made the Knicks look significantly more dangerous.

It’s actually part of a hopeful more recent trend by Bogdanovic, who also played well against the Heat last week and helped the Knicks erase a 17-point second-half deficit before losing after tying the game late. He had 16 in that game. And he has played far more aggressively of late.

It’s good timing for him and for the Knicks. If feels like Alec Burks — the other piece the Knicks acquired at the deadline — has likely played his way out of the playoff rotation already, barring injury or other unforeseen circumstance.

That leaves the likelihood of a rotation that looks like this:

Jalen Brunson, Josh Hart, Donte DiVincenzo, Isaiah Hartenstein and OG Anunoby starting. Miles McBride and Mitch Robinson as the two big-minute reserves off the bench.

Bojan Bogdanovic drives to the basket against the Kings. Getty Images

Then Precious Achiuwa and Bogdanovic, assuming coach Tom Thibodeau keeps with a nine-man rotation. But the playoffs are the playoffs: Minutes will be earned, not given, especially when it’s Thibodeau dispensing them.

In truth, the Knicks could genuinely use the version of Bogdanovic they’ve seen lately, especially with Julius Randle now ruled out for the season.

Nobody is going to be foolish enough to suggest Bogdanovic, who scored just three points in nine minutes in the Knicks’ 128-117 win over the Bulls on Tuesday night, is Randle’s equal, but the both do the same things well offensively — Bogdanovic is the better 3-point shooter, Randle the better two-play player, though Bogdanovic has shown a willingness to get to the basket, too.

It’s Bogdanovic’s defense that will bring the biggest anchor to the playoffs. He’s always been a guy who tries hard, and earlier in his career, when he played for Indiana, he was actually used by the Pacers as a last-ditch attempt to slow LeBron James in a playoff series, and he did credibly.

But from the moment the trade was made, there were concerns.

A few hours after the Feb. 8 trade was made, I reached out to a longtime NBA insider who knows both Bogdanovic and Thibodeau very well.

“He’s a better offensive player than people think,” the insider said. “Not just a shooter. He can play out of the pick and roll and has good size.”

That was the good.

Then there was this:

Bojan Bogdanovic has picked up his play of late for the Knicks. AP

“My question is if they will be able to tolerate his defensive shortcomings. I know when we played him in the playoffs we went at him relentlessly. You know how the playoffs go. You have to be a two-way player or it can be a tough go.”

Especially if you play for Thibodeau.

“Especially then.”

So in some ways, one of the many things the Knicks need to accomplish across the four-game stretch that ends the season — which began in Chicago on Tuesday night — is to make sure Bogdanovic keeps playing at the level he’s been at the past eight games — when he’s averaged 11.9 points on 52 percent shooting from the field, 39 percent from 3.

Bojan Bogdanovic shoots the ball. AP

At his best, Bogdanovic can help keep the offense workable during the stretches when Brunson sits, and he can also be a useful replacement if the Knicks run into a game when, say, DiVincenzo’s shot isn’t falling.

For the Knicks to maximize the team they have, they need everyone to do a little extra. If Bogdanovic can do that, he can be what all teams love to have in the second season: a sneaky secret weapon.


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