Nemanja Bjelica and Yogi Ferrell Bring Much-Needed Depth to Sacramento Kings

Nemanja Bjelica, Sacramento Kings, Minnesota Timberwolves
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Sacramento Kings signed Nemanja Bjelica and Yogi Ferrell to multi-year contracts in a flurry of moves last week. What will the veterans bring to coach Dave Joerger’s squad?

Just as the 2018 NBA offseason appeared to be slowing down, the Sacramento Kings added two veteran rotation players. Nemanja Bjelica and Yogi Ferrell capped off an interesting week by committing to contracts with the Kings. Both players had deals in place with other teams before choosing to take their talents to Sacramento.

Now with the Kings, let’s take a numbers-driven look at what each player will bring to the Kings’ lineup.

Bjelica, Potential Floor Spacer

Bjelica is joining a crowded frontcourt in Sacramento. The former Timberwolves forward will separate himself from the pack by leaning on his above-average shooting ability. The Kings will desperately need accurate three-point shooters to open up the floor for De’Aaron Fox and the youngsters in the post. The addition of Bjelica will do just that.

The 30-year-old forward has made a living operating in analytics-friendly areas of the court. Nearly all of Bjelica’s shots come from either inside the paint or from beyond the arc.

Courtesy of NBAsavant.com, here is a look at his shot chart from last season.

Nemanja Bjelica
NBAsavant.com

By avoiding midrange shots, Bjelica will create space for Sacramento’s pick-and-roll sets. Along with spacing the floor, he will serve as a threat to score out of pick-and-pop sets when acting as the screener. Bjelica is a formidable spot-up shooter. He recorded 1.31 points per possession on spot-up opportunities in 2017-18, which put him in the 78.8 percentile of qualified players.

Inside the arc, Bjelica keeps opponents off balance by making himself available on cuts. He is far from elite, but still averaged 1.11 points per possession on plays that featured him as a cutter (62.6 percentile of qualified players).

Potential Pitfalls

Finding a clear path to minutes next season might be the biggest hurdle for Bjelica. The former second-round pick has played almost exclusively at power forward since joining the NBA in 2015. The Kings already have a veteran presence in Zach Randolph at the four, and they selected Duke’s Marvin Bagley III with the No. 2 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. Sacramento’s center rotation also features a crop of youngsters that possess the versatility necessary to compete for minutes at power forward.

Bjelica’s shooting will be in demand, but a feature role in coach Joerger’s rotation could have an adverse effect on the development of the younger players on the roster.

Yogi Ferrell, Steady Reserve Guard

Ferrell has carved out a solid niche for himself in the NBA after going undrafted in 2016 out of the University of Indiana. Standing at just six feet tall, Ferrell impacts the game with his quickness and decision making. Ferrell is an average three-point shooter, but has been a solid scorer from the corner in limited opportunities (30-59 in 2017-18).

When acting as the primary facilitator, Ferrell is a dangerous pick-and-roll operator. With a serviceable 2.58 assist to turnover ratio to his credit, the 25-year-old guard can be trusted to responsibly run an offense. When acting as the pick and roll ball handler last season, Ferrell generated a superb 0.91 points per possession (75.8 percentile of qualified players).

Ferrell’s offensive numbers dip slightly when attacking on isolation plays. In isolation, Ferrell generated a pedestrian 0.87 points per possession in 2017-18 (54.3 percentile of qualified players).

Different Position, Similar Questions

Like Bjelica, Ferrell’s quest for regular minutes will be worth monitoring in training camp. His path is clearer than Bjelica’s, but Fox and Frank Mason III won’t surrender minutes easily. The best hope for Ferrell to capture meaningful minutes will be dependent on his continued improvement as a three-point shooter.

With Fox out of the game, the hot-shooting Ferrell could throw a significantly different look at opposing defenses. Ferrell shot at or above 40 percent from the three-point line in his final three years at Indiana. He has remained close to that mark in the NBA, but hasn’t taken the next step in his development. Outside of his 36 games with the Mavericks in the 2016-17 season, Ferrell has been a sub-40 percent three-point shooter as a professional. It is possible that last year was simply a speed bump in the 25-year-old guard’s progression. Both his free throw percentage and three-point percentage dipped in 2017-18.

Overall Depth

By adding Bjelica and Ferrell, the Kings have bolstered their depth. In addition to adding experienced players, Sacramento gained some much-needed shooting with Bjelica. The skill of these two players at the modest price they were attained isn’t in question. With a plethora of similarly talented players around them, concerns regarding available minutes for the veteran duo are legitimate. Unless Bjelica breaks from his previous role in Minnesota, he will be fighting for minutes in a frontcourt that is bursting with talent.

Stats and charts courtesy of Cleaning the Glass, NBA.com, Basketball Reference, and NBAsavant.com. 

1 Comment

  1. Considering what players were available the Kings did well. They made their overall team stronger and more experienced BUT – all other teams in the west also got better so it will be hard for the Kings to improve on games won. I believe it will depend on how fast Bagley and Giles progress this year along with necessary improvement of all their young players and how much they perform as a team. If the two rookies do well and there is considerable improvement in everyone playing team basketball they could, and should do better.

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