Nemanja Bjelica was one of Vlade Divac’s best moves last season. Signing the 6’10” stretch forward opened up the Sacramento Kings offense, allowed space for De’Aaron Fox to flourish, and resulted in Bjelica having the best overall season of his four year NBA career. But Vlade made another good move in drafting Marvin Bagley III last season, and Bagley seems poised to enter the starting lineup this year. This begs the question, can Bjelica be as successful off the bench?
Bjelica started all but seven games last season, but those seven games saw an alarming dip in Bjelica’s shooting. As starter Bjelica shot 48.8% overall, but off the bench shot just 38.9%. From 3 Bjelica shot 40.8% as a starter and just 35.3% off the bench. He scored fewer points despite player more minutes per game in situations where he came off the bench. So, should we be worried?
Luckily, it doesn’t seem like we should. Looking at Bjelica’s 2017-18 season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, we see no such disparity. Bjelica started 21 games and came off the bench for 46 games. His three point percentages were essentially identical regardless of starter status, and his FG% was actually higher in his 46 games off the bench.
That previous success of the bench is no guarantee that Bjelica will smoothly transition back to a bench role, but it’s a good indicator that we shouldn’t be concerned at this point. There are still questions about how Bjelica moving to the bench will impact other elements of the Kings offense, or about how Bjelica’s minutes will be managed, but those are questions for another 30Q.