Report: Nemanja Bjelica backs out of contract agreement with 76ers to return to Europe
Nemanja Bjelica had his $4,937,499 qualifying offer pulled by the Timberwolves (so they could sign Anthony Tolliver while remaining out of the luxury tax).
Bjelica rebounded with the 76ers, agreeing to take the $4,449,000 room exception for one year.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Free agent forward Nemanja Bjelica -- who had agreed to a one-year deal with the 76ers -- informed the team on Monday that he will stay in Europe this season, league sources tell ESPN. He never signed his contract with Philadelphia.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 17, 2018
DeAndre Jordan 2.0? Maybe. We don’t know exactly what, if any, contingencies Bjelica and Philadelphia put on the agreement.
A key distinction: Jordan pledged to sign with the Mavericks and reneged all during the July moratorium, when he couldn’t officially sign. Bjelica’s deal with Philadelphia came out a day before the moratorium ended, and he could have signed during the last 11 days.
Teams often delay signing players with the room exception, because they can exceed the cap with it. But the 76ers have long used up their cap space. Unless they have a bigger deal in mind and asked Bjelica to wait just in case, they should have known for a while something might be amiss.
Bjelica is better than any remaining unrestricted free agent, so he won’t be easily replaced. Philadelphia will probably hold its room exception for potential buyout players, as it’s unclear anyone available could command more than a minimum salary.
The 76ers certainly viewed Bjelica as a replacement for Ersan Ilyasova, who left for the Bucks. Depth matters, but at least Philadelphia still has a stretch four in Dario Saric, who improved his range (and a lot more) last season.
Bjelica’s defection will also help, though not solve, the 76ers’ roster crunch. They still have 16 players clearly getting standard contracts – one more than the regular-season limit – and 2017 second-round Jonah Bolden has stated a plan to sign with Philadelphia for next season. So, the 76ers might have to buy out Jerryd Bayless and/or waive players like Justin Anderson and Furkan Korkmaz.