The Timberwolves plan to “push hard” to sign former 35th overall pick Nemanja Bjelica this summer, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities. The 26-year-old power forward is under contract through next season with Turkey’s Fenerbahce Ulker, as Mark Porcaro shows in the Hoops Rumors Draft Rights Held Players Database, but it appears there’s a way for him to escape the deal and come to the NBA. Bjelica signed with the Wasserman Media Group before this season, and the Timberwolves have a strong relationship with agent and Wasserman vice chairman Arn Tellem, as Wolfson tweeted in December.
Wolfson speculated then that for the Wolves to sign Bjelica, it would take a contract similar to the three-year deal worth more than $16.6MM that the Bulls handed out this past summer to Nikola Mirotic (Twitter link). Minnesota already has more than $50MM in salary commitments against a projected $66.5MM salary cap for next season, not counting Thaddeus Young‘s early termination option worth nearly $9.972MM and a $5MM player option for Chase Budinger. The Wolves are reportedly trying to trade Budinger and have apparently engaged in talks with the Nets about Young, though it appears unlikely Minnesota will make a deal. Regardless of whether the Wolves are able to clear cap room, Mirotic’s starting salary this year is equivalent to the value of the non-taxpayer’s mid-level exception, so that’s a path the Wolves could take with Bjelica.
The Wizards originally drafted the native of Serbia in 2010, shipping his rights to Minnesota the same night. The 6’10” Bjelica’s rebounding is up this season for Fenerbahce, Wolfson notes, and he’s scoring more this season, too. He’s averaging 12.6 points and 8.1 boards in 26.4 minutes per game as opposed to his 9.3 PPG and 5.7 RPG in 22.0 MPG last season. His three-point stroke is off a bit, down to 38.6% from 41.0%.