Nemanja Bjelica

Harrison Barnes, two more Kings make preliminary FIBA World Cup squads

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USATSI

Harrison Barnes, two more Kings make preliminary FIBA World Cup squads

The Kings could have a pretty big presence in China later this summer. 

Harrison Barnes (USA), Bogdan Bogdanovic and Nemanja Bjelica (both of Serbia) recently were named to their respective countries' premliminary rosters for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup.

Bogdanovic and Bjelica are two of 34 players competing for a spot on the Serbian team, and Barnes and 19 other Americans will try to impress legendary coach Gregg Popovich for one of 12 spots on Team USA.

[RELATED: Cauley-Stein's future in Sacramento remains undecided]

All three have (at least) a decent chance of representing their countries when the World Cup tips off in late August.

Bogdanovic helped lead the Serbs to a silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, while Bjelica won't have much NBA competition at his position. Barnes will face a stiffer challenge on Team USA, but his experience winning a gold medal as a reserve in Rio could give him a leg up, as USA Basketball tends to value players who have national-team experience. If -- or how -- that changes under Popovich remains to be seen.

Barnes might not the only King at USA Basketball's Aug. 5-9 training camp in Las Vegas. Young big man Marvin Bagley III reportedly is expected to be there as a member of the Select Team.

Kings already back at team's practice facility early in NBA offseason

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USATSI

Kings already back at team's practice facility early in NBA offseason

SACRAMENTO -- The bounce of a ball is a siren's call for true hoopers. With the offseason fewer than six weeks old, Kings players have already descended on the team’s practice facility floor.

A few players took a quick break before jumping right back into the action. But, with the NBA draft still a month away, it’s already time to get the band back together.

De’Aaron Fox has been hitting the weight room hard for the last three weeks. He’s ready to back up his sophomore jump with another step forward in year three.

Frank Mason and Willie Cauley-Stein were in the gym shooting jumpers following Thursday’s draft prospect workout. Mason is getting a fresh start with a new head coach. The team has a third-year option on the former second round pick that becomes guaranteed in October, so he’s not wasting any time auditioning for Luke Walton and the Kings brass.

Cauley-Stein is a King until he’s not. The 25-year-old big can become a restricted free agent on June 30. It is unknown at this time if general manager Vlade Divac will extend a $6 million qualifying offer to the team’s starting center and make him an RFA, or if they will allow him to walk away for nothing.

Harry Giles continues to rehab his quad, and he’s getting stronger. He’s trying to show that he is part of the young core moving forward and he needs to bulk up if he’s going to play primarily at the center position.

After a quick trip to India with the NBA, Harrison Barnes is also back in Sacramento. The veteran forward has a player option for next season at $25 million that he’s likely to pick up. He has openly talked about the Kings’ trip to play in Mumbai during the preseason and it doesn’t look like he’s going anywhere.

Nemanja Bjelica has spent time in the gym, too, as has two-way player Wenyen Gabriel. Gabriel finished the season in a walking boot after a foot injury, and he’s just now starting to get up shots. Like most of the young Kings, his focus this summer is on getting stronger -- whether it’s for a second season with the Stockton Kings of the G League or with the parent club.

Stockton head coach Ty Ellis is in town helping run prospect workouts, as is player development coach Bobby Jackson.

Luke Walton is working to fill out his coaching staff and has not been made available to the media. The team has yet to place a timetable on the investigation into sexual assault allegations made against the 39-year-old and they have no plans to comment publicly on the situation until a joint investigation with the NBA is completed.

While no additions to Walton’s staff have been announced, Jesse Mermuys -- who was an assistant with Walton in Los Angeles with the Lakers -- has been at the workouts as well, and is expected to join the staff in Sacramento.

[RELATED: Warriors, Kings games could start earlier in near future]

Assistant general managers Peja Stojakovic and Ken Catanella, and the team’s scouting staff, have been in attendance for the prospect workouts with Divac in Europe for the EuroLeague Final Four.  

More prospect workouts are expected this week as the Kings continue search for players worthy of the No. 40, 47 and 60 picks in the upcoming draft.  

Kings season in review: Nemanja Bjelica better than expected all over

Kings season in review: Nemanja Bjelica better than expected all over

A late addition to the Kings roster for the 2018-19 season, Nemanja Bjelica proved to be a solid acquisition by general manager Vlade Divac.

While he didn’t wow anyone with his athleticism, the former EuroLeague MVP was a big reason the Kings jumped out to a fast start. He hit a wall midseason, like a few of his younger teammates, but Bjelica rebounded late and finished the year strong.

The lone veteran to see major court time throughout the season, Bjelica was an extremely valuable piece in the Kings rotation, and he likely will be one again during the 2019-20 season.

Offense

Stats (per game): 9.6 points, 1.9 assists, 5.8 rebounds, 0.7 steals, 47.9% FG, 40.1% 3PT, 23.2 min

The Kings needed a floor-spacer up front, and Bjelica proved more than adequate. The 6-foot-10 forward struggled to maintain his consistency throughout the year, but the Kings were a better team when he was on his game. And when he wasn’t, the numbers say the Kings were still a better team.

A look at the shot charts show that Bjelica is a veteran who plays to his strengths. Of his 593 field goal attempts, only 29 attempts came from outside of 10 feet and inside the 3-point line. He either shot within 10 feet (307 attempts) or from behind the arc (257).


Only 14 of Bjelica’s makes came from either corner, which would further help space the floor. But Serbian-born shooter thrived from the elbows and the top of the key. He shot a remarkable 52.2 percent from the left side behind the arc.

In addition to the deep shooting, Bjelica posted a career-best 1.9 assists per game and finished third on the team in offensive rebounding. 

Defense

Billed as a three/four when he signed, Bjelica played almost exclusively as a power forward with a sprinkling of minutes at center. He held his own for the most part, but struggled against mobile stretch fours. 

On the season, Bjelica's opponents shot 1.6 percent worse from the field against him than they did normally. He defended the perimeter well, as opponents were five percent worse from outside of 15 feet and 5.4 percent worse from behind the arc.

He held his own on the interior as well, with the players he guarded just 0.2 percent better on shots inside the arc and 0.8 percent better inside of 10 feet. These are all numbers you can live with, especially for a player who split minutes.

Per 36 minutes, Bjelica averaged 1.1 blocks and 1.1 steals. He was deceptively good at on ball defending in the post, and he was rarely out of position. In addition, Bjelica’s on-court/off-court splits indicate that the Kings were a better team on both ends with him in the game.

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Overall

Former Kings coach Dave Joerger heavily relied on Bjelica at times, much to the chagrin of many inside the walls of Golden 1 Center. The numbers are on the coach’s side.

Bjelica had a career year, and while he wasn’t perfect, the Kings received plenty of value from the 30-year-old veteran. He spaced the floor and was surprisingly better at almost every aspect of the game than expected.

The big man is under contract next season with the Kings at $6.8 million, and Sacramento has a $7.1 million team option for the 2020-21 season as well.

He likely won’t start 77 games for the Kings next season as Marvin Bagley moves into a larger role, but there is always room on a roster for a pure shooting big with a high basketball IQ.