clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Nemanja Bjelica Effect

New, comments

When Professor Big Shots does well, the Kings do well

Kimani Okearah

Perhaps the most immediately impactful move of Sacramento’s offseason came on July 20th, 2018, when the Sacramento Kings had signed Nemanja Bjelica to a three-year deal worth $20.5 million. Bjelica had originally agreed to a one-year deal with the Philadelphia 76ers, but never officially inked the paper due to intentions to play in Europe.

While we get lost in the hype surrounding youngsters like De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Marvin Bagley and company, we should also note the importance of Bjelica to this “young superteam”.

Let’s look at some of Bjelica’s stats throughout his career:

Bjelica’s Career Stats

Year MIN FG% 3P% FT% REB AST BLK STL PTS
Year MIN FG% 3P% FT% REB AST BLK STL PTS
15-16 with MIN 17.9 47% 38% 73% 3.5 1.4 0.4 0.4 5.1
16-17 with MIN 18.3 42% 31% 74% 3.8 1.2 0.3 0.6 6.2
17-18 with MIN 20.5 46% 42% 80% 4.1 1.3 0.2 0.7 6.8
18-19 with SAC 26.1 52% 51% 68% 5.7 2.4 0.8 1.4 12.2

There’s a noticeable trend with Bjelica: the more he plays, the more he contributes. That’s in large part due to the fact the Kings need him and use him more than the Minnesota Timberwolves have. Yes, it has been only 14 games but it’s great to see him improving in almost every single category (aside from free throws, which have been a team-wide problem).

Bjelica’s usage rate of 17.6% is a career-high as the Kings are letting him do more than simply shoot spot-up threes. He’s handling the ball, he’s driving and he’s making smart passes too.

Now let’s take a look at Bjelica’s TPA (Total Points Added) so far:

NBA Math calculates TPA based on a player’s effectiveness both offensively and defensively per possession, while accounting for the amount of minutes they played. You can read more about it here, if you’d like.

Look how Bjelica just jumps out to you, all the way up there by himself. Bjelica has added about 16+ points on offense and has saved around the same amount of points on defense. His ability to hold his own on defense and stretch the floor on the other end has been vital to this team. Bjelica’s three point percentage of 51% is third in the entire league this season, and while that number will likely come back down to earth, he should still remain an efficient scorer.

Here’s a perfect example of Bjelica’s impact on both ends of the court:

He timed his block on KAT perfectly, grabbed the rebound, brought the ball up and recognized Willie coming down the middle to get an easy assist.

His ability to heat up from another continent has also been fun to watch:

Bjelica has shown the ability to go on mini-runs by himself, even after bad starts. Most recently, Bjelica scored all 11 of his points against San Antonio in the second half alone. He hit two threes, got a putback off his own miss, then did this at the right time:

Professor Big Shots is correct.


It’s no coincidence that when the Kings have won, Bjelica has been a big part of it. Take a look at Bjelica’s numbers through all eight wins:

Bjelica’s # in Wins (14 games)

GAME MIN FG% 3P% REB AST BLK STL PTS
GAME MIN FG% 3P% REB AST BLK STL PTS
OKC 31 83% 100% 5 4 1 3 12
MEM 32 60% 50% 11 5 3 2 11
WSH 36 56% 60% (6-10) 12 3 1 1 26
MIA 33 47% 43% 5 5 2 1 19
ORL 30 62% 60% 8 1 1 1 21
ATL 24 64% 60% 2 3 0 2 19
MIN 27 46% 33% 8 1 2 1 14
SA 27 80% 100% 6 0 0 1 11

Look at how much the numbers drop off in losses:

Bjelica’s # in Losses

GAME MIN FG% 3P% REB AST BLK STL PTS
GAME MIN FG% 3P% REB AST BLK STL PTS
UTAH 27 67% 100% 8 2 0 1 18
NOP 11 40% 0% 1 1 0 0 4
DEN 21 57% 33% 2 3 0 0 10
MIL 21 25% 0% 4 1 0 0 4
TOR 19 0% 0% 1 3 1 4 0
LAL 26 17% 0% 7 2 0 1 2

It’s clearly evident that when he performs at a high level, the Kings tend to win their games.

During the Kings five game winning streak, Bjelica was getting a lot of national media recognition as being one of the best free agent signings of the offseason, and deservedly so. Every team needs the presence of veterans to come in and perform on a nightly (or afternoon) basis and the Kings have been getting that from Bjelica.