Drafted five years ago by the Washington Wizards and then traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves, Nemanja Bjelica of Fenerbahce Ulker is drawing up a lot of interest from NBA teams interested in winning now, including the Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks and Brooklyn Nets.
The Timberwolves own the right to the 27-year old Serbian who was taken in the second round, 35th overall. However, they’re very likely to trade him for something, as his last season with Ulker probably proved to teams in the league how good he is, and how it might no longer be much of a challenge for him to stay on an individual level.
Bjelica, who led Ulker to the Turkish title in 2014, won the Euroleague MVP, averaging 12.1 points and 8.5 rebounds in 27.8 minutes per game, shooting an impressive 35.1% from beyond the arc for someone who is 6’10, and has had seasons of making over 40% of his 3-point shots. He also helped Ulker reach the Euroleague Final Four for the first time in teams history.
Bjelica fits the role teams love these days, of the stretch ‘4’ who can play both power and small forward. Bjelica, a silver medalist from the 2014 basketball World Cup in Spain last summer, probably fits the Nikola Mirotic prototype but comes with a little bit more toughness and perhaps some defensive prowess. He’s not a project player or one to be slowly developed.
The teams interested in him are mostly teams looking to win championships or at least make the playoffs. If he does land in the NBA after so many years, it won’t be a cushy, patient arrival. He’ll be expected to deliver right away.