EuroLeague Film Study: Can Real Madrid Stop Bogdan Bogdanovic?

Containing Fenerbahce's star guard is a top priority in Friday's semifinal

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Austin Green is an independent journalist and scout covering EuroLeague and NBA prospects in Europe. If you’d like to support and see more articles like this, feel free to donate.

Bogdan Bogdanovic might be the best player in Europe, and he knows it.

The Serbian guard, finally fresh after a season of injuries, swaggered into Athens and delivered two of the most impressive EuroLeague playoff performances in recent memory. He dominated the series with his offensive versatility, burying 3s both off the catch and off the dribble, attacking the rim and feeding teammates out of the pick-and-roll.

Fenerbahce became the first team in EuroLeague history to win Games 1 and 2 on the road, largely thanks to Bogdanovic. Panathinaikos were able to slow him down in Game 3, but it didn’t matter — too much damage had already been done.

If Real Madrid are going to beat Fenerbahce in Friday’s Final 4, they must limit Bogdanovic’s impact on the offensive end. This will require constant communication, attention to detail and a little bit of luck.

Here are some tactics Real Madrid can use to slow down Bogdanovic.

Video clips are from the Fenerbahce-Panathinaikos series

Limit Turnovers and Hustle Back on Defense

Defense starts with taking care of the ball and making good decisions at the offensive end. Defending Bogdanovic and Fenerbahce in the half-court is difficult enough — Real Madrid can’t afford to give them easy buckets in transition, especially open 3s.

Stay Attached and Be Physical 

When defending Bogdanovic off the ball, it’s critical that defenders to stay attached to him. This, of course, is easier said than done. He’s fast, crafty and strong, which is a really difficult combination to handle. To make matters worse, Fenerbahce’s big guys are good at setting screens to free him.

This is generally what happens when he catches the ball with room to breathe:

I’m not advocating anything dirty, but Real Madrid have to hit him whenever possible. Guards have to get in his jersey and go over screens. Whoever is defending the screener has to help more than PAO’s big guys did. This means bumping him as he runs by and extending an arm into passing lanes. Otherwise, he’ll knock down open 3s all day.

Also, playing a 2-3 zone against him is probably a very bad idea.

Play Anthony Randolph and Othello Hunter

Gustavo Ayon is a fantastic offensive player, but I’d like to see him play closer to 10-15 minutes than 25 in this game. His main problem is he struggles to defend pick-and-rolls, which Fenerbahce exploited in crunch-time of their first meeting with Real. He’s just not nimble enough to stay in front of guys like Bogdanovic and Bobby Dixon.

When Panathinaikos played Ioannis Bourousis, who has the same essential problem as Ayon, Bogdanovic got to the rim time with ease.

Luckily for Real Madrid, they have two very athletic big men in Randolph and Hunter. They signed them last summer with Fenerbahce in mind, as Fener pick-and-rolled Real Madrid to death in last year’s playoff sweep.

Both guys can slide their feet with guards, and they have the length and athleticism to contest their shots even if they do get beat.

Hedge Aggressively in Pick-and-Rolls 

This is where Randolph and Hunter would be ideal.

I don’t think dropping the big man back in pick-and-rolls is a good strategy vs. Bogdanovic. He’s too good of an outside shooter to be given that kind of space, and he’s too good at finishing at the rim when he builds up a head of steam. I think PAO had the most success when they jumped him right after the screen, with the big man either hedging and recovering or switching onto him.

This forces the ball out of his hands and often results in Ekpe Udoh and Jan Vesely catching it farther away from the rim. Both players are capable of making mid-range Js and passing out of the short roll, but putting them in this situation is probably better than giving Bogdan room to attack off the screen.

Hands Up at All Times

When Bogdanovic has the ball, Real Madrid’s defenders have to keep their hands up contantly. James Gist is capable of defending Bogdanovic in isolation, but he made a critical mistake: Instead of having one hand in Bogdan’s face, he dropped both down near his knees. With a clear line of sight, Bogdan easily hit the step-back 3.

Active hands are also important when he drives to the rim. Chris Singleton made no effort to contest this shot. Against a player like Bogdanovic, this is simply unacceptable.

Help Off Nikola Kalinic

On a Fenerbahce team loaded with weapons, Kalinic is the weakest perimeter link. I love Kalinic overall, but he’s a career 31.4% 3-point shooter in EuroLeague. He’s particularly bad from the left side of the floor. He’s shooting 10/33 (30.3%) from the left wing and 4/16 (25%) from the left corner across all competitions this season, according to Synergy Sports.

He also struggles to create off the dribble. If I were Pablo Laso, I’d tell players to help off Kalinic when possible, let him dribble if he tries and live with the results if he scores.

Kalinic made 6-of-9 threes against Panathinaikos, so this isn’t a fool-proof plan. But I’d much rather have Kalinic shooting than Bogdanovic, Dixon, Luigi Datome, Kostas Sloukas or James Nunnally, all of whom shot between 38.7 and 45.9% from 3 this season.


Sometimes you can do everything right and it just doesn’t matter. Fenerbahce have a lot of weapons, and even if you play Bogdanovic perfectly, someone else can beat you.

Real Madrid also don’t have a great matchup for him. Jeff Taylor will likely spend a lot of time on him, as he has the best combination of size and athleticism. However, he is prone to mental lapses, and you can’t lose concentration vs. Bogdanovic, otherwise he’ll roast you moving without the ball.

Rudy Fernandez would’ve been a great option a couple years ago, but back problems have reduced his mobility. Luka Doncic has the size, but maybe not the lateral quickness. Dontaye Draper has the quickness, but not the size. Jaycee Carroll probably doesn’t have a chance. And Sergio Llull is too valuable offensively to spend all day chasing Bogdanovic around on defense.

There’s no perfect solution to handling Bogdanovic, and the resources it takes to contain him mean you have almost no margin for error elsewhere on the court. That’s why I believe Fenerbahce will win this game.

Austin Green is an independent journalist and scout covering EuroLeague and NBA prospects in Europe. If you’d like to support and see more articles like this, feel free to donate.


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