Sacramento Kings: Nemanja Bjelica flourishing in an increased role

Sacramento Kings (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Sacramento Kings (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

The Sacramento Kings have seen the best version of Nemanja Bjelica since he’s been given an increased role as a result of injuries.

The Sacramento Kings have found a way to survive what could have been a devastating development this season. With injuries to two of their top stars, the Kings have stayed alive and are playing some of their best basketball of the season.

When Marvin Bagley went down just one game into the 2019-20 season, Kings fans feared the worst. And that worst-case scenario seemingly came to fruition with the team dropping their first five games of the year.

Things looked bleak in Sacramento, but a surprising stretch of three wins in four games provided some hope for a brighter future. But then, tragedy struck.

Star point guard and face of the franchise De’Aaron Fox was sidelined with an ankle injury leaving the Kings without two of their most promising pieces. Darkness began to set on the city of Sacramento with many fans already calling it a lost season

But out of the darkness, some other players have been allowed to shine brighter than ever.

One of those players is Nemanja Bjelica.

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Bjelica has been given an increased role with Fox and Bagley out and he continues to make the most of it. And that increased role hasn’t solely come with a bump in minutes, Bjelica has been given more responsibility and asked to do more than ever before.

And he’s flourishing as a result.

To this point, the 31-year-old has primarily been asked to be a spot-up shooter on the offensive side of the floor. The Kings typically rely on Fox to penetrate, running the offense through him.

But with Fox out and Bagley still sidelined, Bjelica has been asked to be much more than a simple three-point specialist.

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The man they call “Belly” has been used as anything from a facilitator to a backup center to a sharpshooter. And in each role, Bjelica continues to show that there’s more to his game than originally meets the eye.

Head coach Luke Walton has been forced to get creative on offense with Fox out. Bogdan Bogdanovic has been asked to step into a facilitating role, Cory Joseph has seen a spike in minutes, but no player has taken advantage of their increased playing time more than Bjelica.

Aside from filling a facilitator role, the Kings have also slotted the 6-foot-10 Serbian in at center when spelling Richaun Holmes. He’s assumed the role once held by Dewayne Dedmon and continues to show his versatility in the process.

And all of this is disregarding his propensity for the clutch shot.

Even when Bagley and Fox return — and that day is getting nearer by the day — it would be wise for Walton to continue using Bjelica in a variety of ways. He’s proven that he’s more than just a shooter — he’s a complete player.

Having him stand in the corner awaiting a contested look while Fox penetrates would be a waste of his talent. That doesn’t mean the offense shouldn’t still run through Fox.

But make use of his versatility. Let Bjelica facilitate as well. Let him continue to play backup center. And of course, keep playing him with the starting unit in the closing minutes.

Bjelica has taken this opportunity and run with it. He’s proven that he’s more than the role he had been pigeonholed into and it’s helped the Kings remain alive in the early-season postseason race.

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And even with the Sacramento Kings returning their young stars in the coming days/weeks, Bjelica must remain a key part of the rotation.