What does Nemanja Bjelica bring to the Kings?

What does Nemanja Bjelica bring to the Kings?

The Sacramento Kings had cash burning holes in their pockets. After nearly three weeks of inactivity in free agency, the team signed a second player in less than eight hours Friday afternoon.

Yogi Ferrell inked a two-year, $6.2 million deal to start the spending spree and, according to a source, Sacramento added Nemanja Bjelica to a three-year, $20.5 million deal just as most people were settling in for dinner. The final year of his deal is non-guaranteed.

The Bjelica transaction has been rumored for the last few days, although the exact dollars figures were unknown. The 30-year-old combo forward posted 6.8 points and 4.1 rebounds in 20.5 minutes per game last season with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

He initially agreed to a one-year, $4.4 million contract with the Philadelphia 76ers, but backed out of the deal earlier this week with the thought that he would return to Europe to play. According to reports, Vlade Divac and Peja Stojakovic reached out to the Serbian-born forward in an attempt to keep him in the NBA and talk him into joining the Kings.

How does he fit with the Kings?

Bjelica split his time between the small forward and power forward positions last season with the T-Wolves, and will likely do the same in Sacramento. Listed at 6-foot-10, 230 pounds, Bjelica is known for his long range shooting touch, knocking down a career-best 41.5 percent from behind the arc last season.

The Kings have an overload at the power forward and center position, so it’s likely that Bjelica will play plenty of minutes at the small forward spot. He's a potential defensive liability against smaller wings, but he'll help to open running and passing lanes for De’Aaron Fox and the rest of Sacramento’s guards.

Who loses time?

There is a lot that can happen between now and the start of training camp. If the roster looks the same in mid-September as it does now, expect Bjelica to steal time from Justin Jackson at the small forward position and Skal Labissiere and Zach Randolph at the four.

His ability to stretch the floor will keep him on the court for plenty of minutes in Dave Joerger’s rotation.

Financial Impact

While we don’t have exact year-by-year numbers, Bjelica should eat up roughly $7 million a year in each of his guaranteed seasons. When combined with Ferrell’s $3 million salary for this season, the Kings still have more than $9 million of cap room and they will have to waive one player before making the signing official.

Dave Joerger, Kings facing reality of starting over in 2018-19 NBA season


Dave Joerger, Kings facing reality of starting over in 2018-19 NBA season

SACRAMENTO -- 25.5 wins. That’s the Las Vegas line for the Kings. It’s also a slight drop from the 27 wins the team earned a year ago. 

The bookies are usually pretty accurate with these things. 25.5 wins isn’t good, but that is where Sacramento is in its rebuild.

There is always a possibility that the Kings catch lightning in a bottle. They could jump the predicted win total and surprise a few people. They could also fall upon hard times and struggle to reach the mark. 

This is the reality of starting over. You are banking on the production of young players. Sometimes, converting potential to production takes that other p-word that no one wants to hear.


“Development, it’s going to take two or three years,” Kings head coach Dave Joerger said last week. “It just takes time. They’re learning something every game they go out. Most of the time, I’m going to be pretty positive with them individually and coach them, trying to keep them up.”

It’s a roller-coaster ride. There are no guarantees that it won’t all come off the rails at any moment. And there is nothing written in stone that any of the young talent on the roster will reach their potential. 

“We’re on a long journey, not one that’s only two or three weeks long, it’s a couple-of-year journey,” Joerger said. “You’ve just got to keep putting in your work everyday and keep encouraging each other and hold each other accountable to get your work in and come to the gym everyday or come to the locker room everyday and try to be a guy who elevates the room and not someone who saps energy out of it. Just pick it up and bring some juice.”

[HAM: Kings rookie Marvin Bagley ready to prove naysayers wrong in NBA debut]

Joerger is trying to be as honest as he can about the task in front of him and his band of unproven players. He has a couple of veterans hiding on the bench that might positively affect the win total, but it’s a franchise mandate that the youth plays the majority of the minutes.

Through the preseason, Joerger stuck to the plan. Veterans Zach Randolph and Kosta Koufos failed to make an appearance. Randolph was a healthy scratch throughout the exhibition season, while Koufos missed a couple of games with a hamstring strain.

30-year-old Nemanja Bjelica is part of the rotational plan for the early part of the season, and there is a possibility that Iman Shumpert will find minutes at the wing if he can stay healthy.

[RELATED: Bogdan Bogdanovic targeting early November return to Kings lineup]

Removing most of the veterans from the equation takes away the safety net for an inexperienced group. It also limits Joerger’s options if the group of 25-and-unders stumble out of the gate. 

The plan is to push the tempo and give the young players a chance to develop with NBA minutes. Judging by the performance during preseason and the oddsmakers' predictions, the team is still a ways away from competing. 

Sacramento is once again asking for patience. More specifically, Joerger is telling everyone that patience is the only option. Hopefully the front office, ownership and the coaching staff are on the same page with regards to what patience means. 

Bogdan Bogdanovic targeting early November return to Kings lineup


Bogdan Bogdanovic targeting early November return to Kings lineup

SACRAMENTO -- Bogdan Bogdanovic is back … well, sort of.

The second-year Kings guard is sitting out while recovering from a knee procedure he had three weeks ago. For the first time, though, he was able to get on the court and do some running, but he’s still a few weeks away from a return.

“I’m pretty confident and I don’t let these little injuries get me down,” Bogdanovic said Monday following practice. “It’s just sad because I really wanted start this season from the opening game, that’s what really bothers me.”

Bogdanovic is targeting Nov. 7 against the Toronto Raptors for his return, although nothing is set in stone. He has tried to sneak on the court, but the coaching staff has forced him to take it easy with the hopes of keeping him healthy long term.

“I miss it a lot, it’s tough to just sit back and do nothing,” Bogdanovic said. “I actually try sometimes to get on the court, but they kick me out. I just try to help with the passes, you know, just to be around the team, but they don’t want me to do that.”

As a young player, being away from your teammates is tough. Injuries can be isolating, especially early in the season when the team is in training camp and working around the clock.

“It’s just to not be able to workout with the guys, to share the effort that they’re putting in everyday,” Bogdanovic added. 

With Bogdanovic sidelined, head coach Dave Joerger is losing an important piece that is very difficult for the team to replace. Joerger has scrambled to replace him during the preseason, using Buddy Hield, Yogi Ferrell and Frank Mason III alongside point guard De’Aaron Fox.

“He’s definitely a cog in what we’re trying to do and he gives us a lot more playmaking and increases our IQ,” Dave Joerger said. “He helps us, definitely offensively. Gives us a lot more versatility and I think settles us too.”

Bogdanovic can run the offense and take some of the load off of Fox. He gets everyone involved with his passing ability and he shot 39.2 percent from behind the arc last season.

“He’s a great shooter, another playmaker that’s on the floor,” Fox said. “He just always makes everyone better when he’s playing. Of course we’re going to miss him.”

During his rookie campaign, Bogdanovic became a coach on the floor for Sacramento. After years of playing in Europe, he’s wise beyond his years by NBA standard and brings a different vibe to the team.
“He’s a special dude, he loves to play and he’s just a really good person,” Joerger said. “He’s always the ultimate team guy, he reminds me a lot of Marc Gasol - always about the team and those are the people you want to be around.”

Joerger has yet to announce who will start on opening night in Bogdanovic’s place. Hield is the logical choice, but he’s played better coming off the bench in his first two seasons in the league. Ferrell and Mason will also draw consideration for Wednesday’s season opener against the Jazz at Golden 1 Center.