Nemanja Bjelica, born May 9, 1988 is a Serbian professional basketball player who currently plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves of the National Basketball Association. He also represents the Serbian national basketball team internationally. He is a 6'10" power forward. His versatility and ball handling skills allow him to take the unique point forward role while on the court.
Bjelica began his professional career in 2007-08 with the Arkadia Traiskirchen Lions of the Austrian League. After one season abroad, he returned to the Serbian team Crvena Zvezda and spent two successful seasons there, under head coach Svetislav Pesic. During the 2008-09 season, he made breakthroughs and earned a place in the starting lineup. He gained notoriety for his performance during the Eurocup, where he displayed his outside shooting. Later in his career, Bjelica cited coach Pesic as one of the main reasons for his improvement as a player. Coach Pesic trusted Bjelica the 6'10" point forward as his primary ball handler on several occasions, which aided Nemanja in his development as a playmaker.
Bjelica was then drafted by the Washington Wizards with the 35th pick of the 2010 NBA Draft. His draft rights were then traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for Trevor Booker, while also sending Lazar Hayward to Minnesota.
In August 2010, he signed a five-year contract with Spanish club Saski Baskonia. In his first season, he didn't see much playing time, averaging only 9 minutes per game. In his second season with Baskonia, he averaged 4.8 points per game on 56% shooting from the field and 47% from deep in 13 minutes per game. His third and last season with the club was his most successful. He played 26 games, with averages of 9.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 1 steal per game on 46% shooting from the field.
On July 22, 2013, Bjelica signed a three-year deal with the Turkish team Fenerbahce Ulcer, led by one of Europe's greats Zeljko Obradovic. He cited Obradovic as the main reason why he didn't go to the NBA instead. In the 2013-14 season he quickly became the Fenerbahce's best players. He averaged career-highs of 10.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.6 steals over 24 Euroleague games.
The following season, Bjelica's game saw yet another jump in improvement and consistency. On March 30, 2015, he was named the Euroleague MVP for March, his first such mostly award in his career. Over 4 games played, he averaged 15 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 block per game. In May 2015, he was chosen to the All-Euroleague First Team for the performances he put up over the season. Eventually Bjelica was named the Euroleague MVP of the season. Fenerbahce also advanced to the Euroleague Final Four for the first time in the team's history. On May 15, 2015, they lost in the semifinal game to Real Madrid, 87-96. Fenerbahce ultimately finished in 4th place after losing the third-place game to CSKA Moscow, 80-86. Bjelica had his best season since joining Fenerbahce, averaging a career-high 12.1 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1.3 steals per game. Fenerbahce, however, finished the season without any trophy, losing in the semi-final series of the Turkish League championship to the eventual champion Pinar Karsiyaka.
On July 1, 2015, Bjelcia opted out of his contract with Fenerbahce to play in the NBA. Two weeks later, on July 14, 2015, Bjelica signed a three-year deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He made his debut for the Timberwolves in their season opener on October 28, 2015, recording 8 points and 5 rebounds in an 112-111 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. On November 7, 2015, he had a season-best game with 17 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block against the Chicago Bulls. On April 7, 2016, he scored a season-high 18 points against the Sacramento Kings. Four days later, he recorded 11 points & a season-high 14 rebounds against the Houston Rockets.
On November 13, 2016, Bjelica made his first career start and scored a career-high 24 points in a 125-99 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. On March 16, 2017, he was ruled out for the rest of the 2016-17 season with a left foot injury. He underwent surgery 5 days later to repair a fractured navicular bone in his left foot.