Nemanja Bjelica: Best and worst-case scenarios

SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 4: Nemanja Bjelica (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 4: Nemanja Bjelica (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Two years into his NBA career, Nemanja Bjelica will be looking to find his role with this new Timberwolves roster. Let’s take a look at the best and worst case scenarios for the Wolves forward in 2017-18.

Drafted in the second round of the 2010 NBA Draft by the Washington Wizards, Nemanja Bjelica was set out to prove he is more then just a former Euroleague MVP. He was traded on draft night to Minnesota, but it would be another five years before we would see him play stateside.

After the All-Star break last season, he provided Minnesota with some excellent play coming off the bench, and it seemed that we have finally seen the player many had anticipated. He averaged 8.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 34.5 percent from deep, helping to give Minnesota a much needed boost towards reaching the playoffs. Sadly, Minnesota came up short, and Bjelica injured his foot against the Boston Celtics on March 15th and did not play again during the campaign.

Now that the Timberwolves have added to their depth, it appears that he might be losing minutes. He could end up lining up at the three-spot, but is traditionally a stretch-four.

Here is what Minnesota depth chart probably looks like in mid-September:

PG: Jeff Teague, Tyus Jones
SG: Jimmy Butler, Jamal Crawford, Marcus Georges-Hunt
SF: Andrew Wiggins, Shabazz Muhammad, Anthony Brown
PF: Taj Gibson, Gorgui Dieng, Bjelica
C: Karl-Anthony Towns, Cole Aldrich

With the addition of Gibson, Bjelica will find a lot of his time at the end of games. The Wolves were reportedly chasing former Timberwolf Dante Cunningham (he recently re-signed in New Orleans), however, so Tom Thibodeau is clearly looking for some additional depth at forward.

Bjelica is entering a contract year, which could either seal his tenure in Minnesota, or open up more opportunity to stay. Either way, lets take a look at the best and worst case scenarios for Bjelica.

Best-Case Scenario:

It’s hard to know exactly what Bjelica can do this season coming off a foot injury that required surgery. Will he be 100 percent throughout the season, or will he be slow coming out of the gates? As of now it appears that he should be good to go.

Of course, the best-case scenario is Bjelica playing at the level we saw him play before his injury. Perhaps seeing his minutes decrease will cause him to play even harder. When he is fully healthy and confident, he isn’t afraid to shoot the ball or play hard. When he is on, he’s on.

Below is a great example to back that up.

Minnesota desperately needs a stretch-four — or a true deep threat of any kind, for that matter. The Timberwolves ranked dead last in 3-point shooting last season, which means that if Bjelica can provide some support in that category, it could go along way. After all, Minnesota hasn’t had a solid stretch-four contributor since the days of Kevin Love.

This table illustrates his ability to shoot the 3-ball.

Per Game Table

Provided by View Original Table

While he did up his takes from three, he also decreased his percentage greatly. For only shooting 0.6 more attempts per game this past season, it was a little alarming to see his conversion percentage dip by 6.8 percent.

Ideally, if Minnesota wants to improve their 3-point play, they will need him to play a bigger role. Bjelica isn’t going to fix Minnesota’s woes from 3-point land by himself, but he is a step in the right direction.

Best-case scenario is seeing the Bjelica who is confident and continues his play from the end of last season and is shooting it lights-out as Minnesota’s stretch-four.

Worst-Case Scenario

Obviously, the worst possible scenario is watching Bjelica have lingering foot injuries throughout the season, or in the future for that matter. Minnesota knows all to well what a foot injury can do to a big man, and it’s a sore subject of late (Nikola Pekovic).

Depth is a big thing to have in the NBA. It allows teams to have a lot more flexibility, whether that is more rest time for your starters, different lineup options, or it gives them an advantage usually over the other teams bench.

Last year, Minnesota lacked bench help, ranking dead last in the NBA in scoring. Over the course of the off-season, Minnesota knew what they had to do — build the bench. They were able to retain Muhammad at the end of the summer, signed Crawford, and have the flexibility of starting either Dieng or Gibson.

Losing Bjelica to an injury or even poor play would be a devastating loss, or any player for that matter. But since Bjelica was a big reason Minnesota was winning key games late last season, the Wolves’ will need his play to help further their bid for the playoffs.

Worst-case scenario would be to see Bjelica struggle coming back from an injury — or to see him struggle to find his role on the court.