At 32 years old, Nemanja Bjelica is the oldest player on the Sacramento Kings by a year. While that’s not especially old for an NBA player, it’s old for a Kings team that’s looking to re-tool its roster around De’Aaron Fox, who signed a five-year, $163 million extension at the age off 22 in November.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the Kings worked to move Bjelica around the same time. According to a report from Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee, the Kings “explored” trades for Bjelica leading up to the 2020 NBA Draft, and they’re expected to re-visit those trade talks before the trade deadline on March 25.
A trade doesn’t appear to be imminent, but the fact that Bjelica’s role with the team has diminished this season isn’t a coincidence either, according to Anderson:
The Kings reduced Bjelica’s role as part of general manager Monte McNair’s plan to rebuild around De’Aaron Fox, the 23-year-old point guard who recently signed a five-year, $163 million contract extension, sources with knowledge of the situation told The Sacramento Bee.
Bejlica has been a DNP-CD in each of the Kings’ last six games. Prior to being demoted to the bench, Bjelica was averaging 10.5 minutes per game through 10 games. Last season, Bjelica averaged 27.9 minutes per game. The 15.1 minutes per game he’s averaging this season is the fewest minutes per game he’s averaged in his six-year career.
Luke Walton has downplayed Bjelica’s drastic role change, saying that Bjelica is dealing with “personal stuff,” and James Ham of NBC Sports confirmed that Bjelica’s personal issues have played a role in his playing time in a report on Sunday.
However, with playoffs looking more unlikely with each game, it’s safe to assume that the Kings will prioritize a move involving their sharpshooting big man near the the trade deadline. Bjelica is undoubtedly a valuable player, but to the Kings, he’s probably more valuable as an asset.