clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Kings Signings of Bjelica and Ferrell Already Paying Off

New, comments

Sacramento’s free agent additions have been as successful as they were unlikely.

Kimani Okearah

In July of 2015, a bizarre story about DeAndre Jordan breaking an agreement to sign with the Dallas Mavericks was dominating the NBA news cycle.

It was reported that Jordan had verbally agreed to a 4-year contract with the Dallas Mavericks worth $80 million during the moratorium on NBA free agents — the period where teams can negotiate with players but not officially sign them. The news was broken by Marc Stein and confirmed throughout the media landscape.

These types of agreements are standard operating procedure and are generally considered to be set in stone, even before pen is put to paper. This time, however, everything went up in smoke.

The fear of losing Jordan motivated a last ditch effort from then Clippers players and front office members to keep the big man in LA. It was a frantic affair which resulted in an counter-effort from the Mavericks that allegedly included owner Mark Cuban driving around Houston looking for Jordan’s home.

The details of that last part turned out to be false and were walked back by reporter Chris Broussard, but the chaos of the situation was real all the same. Cuban confirmed that he could not get ahold of Jordan in the final moments of the moratorium and that his calls were being either dismissed or ignored.

When the clock struck 12:01 AM in the morning after the moratorium passed, Jordan re-signed with the Los Angeles Clippers.

Situations like Jordan’s have happened before, but they are extremely uncommon. While a verbal agreement is not legally binding, it’s the next closest thing in NBA free agency.

That fact makes it all the more remarkable that both of the free agents signed by the Sacramento Kings this offseason had first made verbal agreements with other teams.

Though the Kings gave out a variety of “two-way” and Exhibit 10 contracts, they only signed Nemanja Bjelica and Yogi Ferrell to standard NBA deals. Bjelica had verbally agreed to a deal with the Philadelphia 76ers earlier in the summer, and Ferrell did the same with the team that DeAndre Jordan had originally spurned — the Dallas Mavericks.

As we saw with the fiasco that was the Jordan drama in 2015, the details around the breaking of these verbal agreements can be very hard to parse. Blame gets thrown to all sides when speculation abounds, so it’s best to remark that these situations are complicated and leave it at that.

What we do know for sure is that the Kings defied the odds in landing the two players, and that Dallas and Philadelphia’s losses have been Sacramento’s gains.

Both of Nemanja Bjelica and Yogi Ferrell’s contracts are affordable, flexible, and team friendly.

Bjelica signed a 3-year deal worth $20.5 million, with a full non-guarantee on the last season. That means that Sacramento can waive Bjelica after just 2 years and $13.3 million in salary if they choose.

Ferrell’s contract also has a non-guaranteed final year, so the Kings have the choice of rostering him for this year only at his $3 million salary, or keeping him around next season as well for nearly the same figure.

These are low-risk, high-reward contracts. And just six games into the 2018-19 season, the Kings are already seeing some of that upside.

Nemanja Bjelica has started all six contests for the Kings this year, and has arguably been Sacramento’s best player. He is averaging 13.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 3.0 assists while shooting an absolutely blistering 60.8% from the field and 57.1% from three.

Advanced metrics in particular are loving Nemanja’s early performance. He’s leading the Kings in many categories, and is contributing to all aspects of the game. Here’s a look at his impact on the team so far.

Nemanja Bjelica Team Ranks

Offensive Rating Defensive Rating Rebound % Steal % Block % Effective FG%
Offensive Rating Defensive Rating Rebound % Steal % Block % Effective FG%
1st 1st 3rd 3rd 2nd 1st
(Per, minimum 40 minutes played)

Outside of the numbers, Bjelica has brought a fantastic feel for the game that a lot of the younger guys don’t have quite yet. So far he has seemed like the perfect veteran presence for this team. At some point his hot streak will probably cool off a bit, but there is no doubt that Bjelica is looking like a big time bargain on Sacramento’s cap sheet.

Yogi Ferrell hasn’t had the same impact in the early goings for the Kings, but he is still reflecting good value relative to his contract. He has provided an average of 7.5 points in just 19 minutes per contest, and is hitting 35.7% of his threes.

Quite frankly, Ferrell has not been as necessary as expected with the strong starts of fellow guards De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield — but that is always liable to change. If it does, Kings fans can sleep easy knowing they have extra depth at the position. If the starters falter or have to miss time due to rest or injury, Yogi is there to step in.

And though he hasn’t matched Bjelica’s production, that isn’t to say that Ferrell hasn’t impressed in a Kings jersey already. He was scorching hot in his first appearance in purple, dropping 26 points in 30 minutes against the Phoenix Suns in the first game of the preseason, including 6-of-9 shooting from behind the arc.

He showed out through the entire preseason, in fact. Here’s a look at where he ranked among Kings players in preseason play.

Yogi Ferrell Team Ranks (Preseason)

Points Per Game Offensive Rating Defensive Rating Net Rating Effective FG%
Points Per Game Offensive Rating Defensive Rating Net Rating Effective FG%
1st 1st 2nd 1st 3rd
(Per, minimum 40 minutes played)

If Ferrell gets back to his preseason form, he will be a very valuable weapon for the Kings and a potential starter. Until then, he will continue to be that high energy guy off the bench that will fight for every loose ball and nail his open corner threes. He fits the pace and style of this new-look Kings team perfectly, and he’s young enough to establish himself as part of the core for the Kings going forward.

Bjelica and Ferrell could mark a change in fortune for free agency signings in Sacramento. Though it is too early to call both players a complete success, things are certainly on the right track. And that hasn’t been the case for the Kings in a while.

A year ago the team spent $75 million in guaranteed money on George Hill, Zach Randolph, and Vince Carter. The results were not what fans had hoped for, and those three players are already gone from Sacramento’s rotation.

The year before that, the team’s free agent aquistions were Aaron Afflalo, Garrett Temple, Matt Barnes, and Anthony Tolliver. Together they made over $33 million in salary that season, and again, the results were mixed at best.

In 2015, the biggest signings for the Kings were Rajon Rondo, Kosta Koufos, and Marco Belinelli — and they had to trade away an unprotected 1st round pick to get the cap space to secure those players. Mistakes have been made.

However, the low-risk approach from this summer is something different — something better. The Kings are on the hook for less than $10 million in salary this year between Bjelica and Ferrell, and will have flexibility going forward if they want to make a change.

But for now, there would be no reason to consider it. Bjelica and Yogi are playing out of their minds, and have brought an element to this roster that has the Kings gaining respect throughout the league. Sacramento is playing .500 ball, and people are taking notice.

If Nemanja and Yogi keep this up, the offseason of 2018 could be the first of many more successful summers to come in Sacramento.