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Kings Progress Reports: Nemanja Bjelica

Nemanja Bjelica has been an ace from behind the 3-point line for the Kings this season, but his future with the team is up in the air.

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Sacramento Kings Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Name: Nemanja Bjelica

Age: 31

Relevant stats: Though 64 games (including 61 starts) for the Sacramento Kings this season, Bjelica has averaged 11.9 points per game on 47.5% shooting from the field, including 42.4% from behind the arc. He’s also averaged 6.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game.

Contract status: Bjelica is in the second year of a three-year, $20.5 million contract he signed with the Kings in 2018. The third year of Bjelica’s contract — worth $7.15 million — is non-guaranteed.

Recap: Bjelica has made a career out of being a knockdown 3-point shooter, and this season with Kings, his 3-point attempts are falling at the highest rate of his five-year career. Of the career-high 295 3-pointers Bjelica has attempted this season, 42.4% of them have fallen.

Here’s a look at how well Bjelica has shot from the perimeter this season:


You’ll notice that Bjelica is knocking down more than half of his 3-point attempts from the corners this season. For context, Bjelica is only one of three players that have knocked down at least 50% of their 3-point attempts from the corner this season — the others are Paul George and CJ McCollum. He’s also made above 40% of his 3-point attempts from above the break, which puts him in a group with JJ Redick and Duncan Robinson as the only three players that have averaged 40% from above the break (minimum of 200 attempts) and 50% from the corners (minimum of 40 attempts) this season.

Bjelica’s been as elite as just about anyone in the league from behind the arc this season, and the Kings maximized his value as a pick-and-pop big by playing him at the center position while Marvin Bagley III and Richaun Holmes were nursing injuries. Per Cleaning the Glass, the five-man lineup of De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Harrison Barnes and Bjelica have posted an offensive rating of 128.1 in the 121 possessions they’ve played together, which is in the 93rd percentile of all offenses in the NBA. The defensive end is where lineups with Bjelica struggle, regardless of which position he’s playing.

According to Cleaning the Glass, the Kings have been 0.8 points per 100 possessions better on the defensive end with Bjelica on the bench this season. A lot that has to do with the fact that the Kings don’t have another big man to complement Bjelica on the glass, but he’s not a great individual defender himself either — particularly in space. His defensive struggles are the reason he’s been a net negative for the Kings this season despite the fact that he’s been great in his role as a stretch big man.

Future with Kings: Whether or not Bjelica’s in Sacramento next season could depend on how much other teams value him around the league. With the exception of a few teams, the NBA will be short on cap space next season, so shooters on team-friendly contracts like Bjelica will be a premium in the offseason. If the right deal comes along, it’s not hard to imagine Vlade Divac pulling the trigger.

It could also depend on what happens in the draft and free agency. Of the half dozen big men the Kings have on their payroll this season, three of them will become unrestricted free agents in the offseason: Jabari Parker, Alex Len and Harry Giles. None of those players have similar skillets to Bjelica, but bringing back either one of them would mean less playing time for the Serbian sharpshooter, who will already be competing for minutes with a (hopefully) healthy Bagley, Harrison Barnes and Richaun Holmes.

That doesn’t mean Bjelica should start packing his bags, but he’ll definitely be one of the Kings’ biggest assets in the offseason, and with the depth they have in the front court, the front office could deem him expendable.

Grade: A-

All stats are courtesy of unless otherwise noted.