Minnesota Timberwolves: Checking in on Nemanja Bjelica

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MARCH 11: Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors defends against Nemanja Bjelica #8. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MARCH 11: Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors defends against Nemanja Bjelica #8. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

Now that Nemanja Bjelica has reached seven consecutive starts following Jimmy Butler‘s injury, let’s take a step back and review his contributions to the starting lineup thus far.

On Feb. 23, Timberwolves All-Star Jimmy Butler suffered an injury to the meniscus in his right knee, which resulted in Nemanja Bjelica being asked to step up and join the starting lineup. For the last seven games, Bjeli Ball has been part of the Wolves game plan. Let’s take a glimpse into how’s he’s preforming.

As a starter, Bjelica has averaged a whopping 37.7 minutes per game and has been leaned upon heavily by Tom Thibodeau. He’s continued to shoot the ball well (38.2 percent 3-point shooting, 49.6 percent from the floor overall), and has averaged 13.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, three assists, 1.4 steals, and 0.6 blocks per game.

Let’s take this a step further and break down each category.


Nemanja Bjelica is playing more than double his average career (and, to this point, season) minutes and has adapted quickly to the starting lineup. On any given night, he’s demonstrated an ability to contribute in multiple ways and has appeared to thrive as a starter. Nemanja has proved he prepared himself to step up when called on to start.

Field Goal Percentage

Belly is shooting above his season and career field goal percentage averages since being inserted into the starting lineup. In the newly-shuffled Timberwolves shooting hierarchy, he’s done a commendable job as the fourth or fifth offensive option.

3-Point Percentage

He’s shooting below his season average since becoming a starter, which started the season astronomically high prior to a 15-game absence due to injury, yet above his career average from deep. He had a career night against the Boston Celtics when he made 6 of 9 shots from beyond the arc and scored a total of 30 points. He went 1 for 6 from 3-point range his first game as a starter against Chicago.


He’s more than doubled his rebounds when compared to his career and season averages, which aligns closely with his minute increase and is at least partially due to opportunity. He grabbed 12 rebounds against both the Trail Blazers and the Celtics.


His per-game assist numbers are higher than his career or season averages but not drastically so. He had his most impressive game last time out against the Washington Wizards, dishing out seven assists.


His steals are exactly double his season average and slightly higher than his career average. He had his most impressive game against the Sacramento Kings when he stole the ball four times.


He’s averaging more than double his season and career averages in blocks and with his intimidating size been able to provide interior defensive presences opponents need to respect.


His turnovers are slightly less than his career and season averages which demonstrates extra minutes hasn’t resulted in sloppy play.


He’s averaging 13.8 points per game — more than double his career and season averages. Over the past seven games. He’s averaging just over a point more than Taj Gibson‘s and slightly above than Jeff Teague‘s season average.

Wins, Losses, and Final Thoughts

The Timberwolves are 4-3 while Nemanja Bjelica has been part of the starting five, and 6-5 if the four-game stretch without Butler in late January is included. The Wolves have 13 games remaining until the end of the season, and Bjeli will play a big part in where the team ends up in the final standings.

Next: Timberwolves training wheels are finally coming off...

He’s proven he was ready to play when called on which what all coaches ask and fans can hope for. Look forward to seeing the how he preforms the final stretch of the season.