Miami Heat: 2020-21 Season Grades For Nemanja Bjelica

Nemanja Bjelica #70 of the Miami Heat shoots a layup against Jahlil Okafor #13 of the Detroit Pistons(Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
Nemanja Bjelica #70 of the Miami Heat shoots a layup against Jahlil Okafor #13 of the Detroit Pistons(Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /

During the March 25th trade deadline, the Miami Heat received Nemanja Bjelica from the Sacramento Kings in exchange for Maurice Harkless, Chris Silva, and a Traded Player Exception. The Serbian big-man was brought in shortly after Meyers Leonard and Kelly Olynyk were dealt, to solidify the Miami Heat’s rotational depth at Center.

In favor of late-season acquisition Dewayne Dedmon, Bjelica was held out of the rotation for 13 of the Heat’s final 16 games of the regular season. However, in Nemanja’s brief run in the lineup, he operated as a floor-spacing big-man — which seemingly had potential relative to how much more he was involved.

Nemanja averaged just five points in 11 games played for Miami, while shooting 43 percent from the field and 37 percent from three. He did this after appearing in only 26 games for the Kings prior to the March deadline.

Bjelica showed in brief moments what he was capable of, whenever the Heat would allocate him those minutes. Although lacking the agility to fluently move around the perimeter, he was left with the option to either pump-fake, perform a one-dribble handoff, or shoot.

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The Miami Heat traded for Nemanja Bjelica from the Sacramento Kings in March. How did the Slovenian big-man fair in the 2020-21 season?

Worth noting, several of those three-point attempts came from well-beyond 25 feet. While it was good to see his confidence, the Heat weren’t able to consistently draw-up plays for him.

However, opponents would switch smaller players onto him and that’s where Nemanja showed the recognition to take advantage. He also demonstrated a capable playmaking ability in the Heat’s final two matchups, where he had four assists against the Milwaukee Bucks and six in the season finale against the Detroit Pistons.

Offense – C+

Coming into the organization out of shape, it was very noticeable that Nemanja couldn’t provide the quickness or foot-speed to successfully rotate and defend perimeter players. However, the activity was there, as he had some solid moments defending in the passing lanes and in post-ups.

He’s never going to be a special defender, but all you can ask for is the effort. Once he was able to get his body decent, though still not quite Miami Heat shape, he did that.

Defense – C

In small sample-sizes, Bjelica did all he could to fill the Heat’s needs following the departures of Olynyk and Leonard. But, in a system that’s heavily dependent on athletic ability, it’s unlikely that the Heat will bring back the 32 year-old.

Overall Grade – C

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If they do, he’ll need to improve his physicals and become more comfortable within the system. While he was an amazing player overseas, it doesn’t seem that he’ll ever replicate that same success in the NBA at this point but perhaps in the right format, he could find those similar strides again.