I literally hit send on the morning column right before Jake Fischer dropped this news:
The Sixers are signing forward Nemanja Bjelica to the room mid-level exception, per source.
— Jake Fischer (@JakeLFischer) July 5, 2018
Makes a lot of sense. Bjelica can replace Ersan Ilyasova as a power forward who can space the floor and shoot the basketball. Brett Brown LOVES a European stretch four, and Bjelica, a 30 year old with three years of NBA experience, fits the bill perfectly.
Bjelica played 67 games for the Wolves last season and started 21, averaging 20.5 minutes, 6.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.3 assists.
He’s a better shooter than Ilyasova, especially from three, though he won’t hit the offensive glass in the same way Ersan did. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of how each guy performed last year:
It’ll be interesting to see how Bjelica fits into Brett Brown’s more up-tempo, pass-happy system. I think it’ll be pretty much seamless. This isn’t going to be Tom Thibodeau running his five starters into the ground night after night, it will be much more fluid and flexible and modern.
Defensively, Bjelica isn’t amazing, though I’d say he’s at least on par with Ilyasova minus the charge-taking ability. What he will do is give you the effort on that side of the floor, even if he’s not the most athletic defender, and he’s definitely compatible with a do-it-all center like Joel Embiid.
Bjelica comes over on a one year deal and puts the Sixers’ roster at 17 players, I believe, which doesn’t include Jonah Bolden. With Brown now able to go back to a 4/5 “small ball” look with Saric and Bjelica, it seems like Richaun Holmes might be trade bait, along with buying out Jerryd Bayless or waiving him and stretching his cap hit over three seasons. The Sixers can roll with 20 rostered players throughout the summer but will need to get down to 15 for the regular season.