Celtics Rumors: Previously Linked to Stretch Big is ‘Ideal’ Free Agent Signing

Nemanja Bjelica is Celtics Ideal target

Getty Nemanja Bjelica #70 of the Miami Heat guards Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks during the fourth quarter in Game Three of the Eastern Conference first-round playoff series.

Much like their front office and coaching staff, the Boston Celtics roster has a chance to look vastly different in 2021-22. With that said, moving Kemba Walker’s sizeable contract won’t be a cakewalk, while pulling off a roster-gutting trade for Damian Lillard seems like an even more unlikely scenario.

In other words, president of basketball operations Brad Stevens may need to focus his energy on improving the C’s roster with team-friendly, rotational additions, rather than singular splash moves. Bleacher Report’s Mandela Namaste believes the most “ideal” place to start this offseason would be with bringing in Miami Heat big man Nemanja Bjelica — a player the Celtics had reported interest in at this year’s trade deadline.

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Signing Bjelica ‘as Good a Place as Any’ to Kick Off Free Agency

“At the most basic level, Boston struggled last season because it lacked many NBA rotation-caliber players, so adding some of those in free agency should be a high priority this summer,” Namaste wrote. “As a team without much cap space, the Celtics have to be incredibly judicious about who they pursue this summer, but Nemanja Bjelica seems like a good place to start. This is the same team that just played Daniel Theis and Tristan Thompson together in 30 games, so they clearly need frontcourt spacing, and the Serbian provides that.”

Leading up to the March 25 trade deadline, the majority of rumors connecting the Celtics and the Kings revolved around forward Harrison Barnes. However, he apparently wasn’t the only player residing in Sactown that the Celtics had eyes for. Despite seeing his output nosedive from a career year in 2019-20, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that Bjelica had “received interest” from Boston, as well as Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Golden State and Miami.

When all was said and done, it was the latter who pulled the trigger on a deal acquiring the Serbian big man in exchange for Maurice Harkless and Chris Silva. Bjelica’s output didn’t receive much of a boost in South Beach as opportunities came few and far between. Yet, he began to once again flash the three-point range that made him so sought after at the deadline, increasing his shooting percentage from beyond the arc by nearly 8.0% to 37.0% with the Heat.

“Though Bjelica struggled in 37 games this year with Sacramento and Miami, he stands 6-foot-10-inches and is a career 38.7 percent shooter from range, a rare combination of height and distance accuracy,” Namaste noted. “This is a good destination from Bjelica’s perspective too, as he could regain his footing in a competent organization, assuming the front office hires a well-prepared coach. … Obviously, this potential signing isn’t setting the Eastern Conference ablaze, but the Celtics have to start somewhere, and here’s as good a place as any.”

Bjelica to Play for Serbian National Team

Bjelica, 33, has played six years in the NBA, half of which came with the Minnesota Timberwolves before ultimately making his way to Sacramento in 2018. In 378 career games, he’s averaged 7.9 points and 4.6 rebounds. His most prolific campaign came in 2019-20 with the Kings where he started 67 of 72 games, posting career highs in points (11.5), rebounds (6.4), assists (2.8), field-goal percentage (48.1) and 3-point shooting percentage (41.9).

Bjelica is reportedly set to play for the Serbian national team this summer as they attempt to qualify for the Olympics, according to Mozzart Sport (h/t HeatNation.com).

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