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Morning Pickup: Bjelica Struggles, Notes from Around the League

What's going on with Nemanja Bjelica and how can the Wolves get him back on track? Plus some notes from around the league.

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Jerry Zgoda published an article on Wolves rookie Nemanja Bjelica working to translate his game to the NBA this morning, which reminded me that I've been meaning to look more deeply into his monthlong slump and possible solutions to get the early season production we saw from him back to occurring more regularly.

December has been a month to forget for Bjelica, who hasn't scored a single point since 12/16. He's largely looked overwhelmed when on the court passing up open 3-pointers, turning into a foul machine similar to Nikola Pekovic during his rookie season, and generally appearing uncomfortable handling the ball which seems odd given he's a talented point forward with a versatile set of skills – but there's no question his role has vanished and the Wolves would be wise to let him workout some of the kinks in real time on the floor instead of hoping he figures everything out on the bench or in practice.

What's there to lose? The season is quickly getting away from the team anyway. Perhaps Bjelica could act as the spark they are searching for. The organization NEEDS to get him back on track and consistent minutes will be a necessity if that is to happen (he's averaging only 9.9 minutes per game over the last 10 contests). His stock has been trending downwards since that knee contusion he suffered in November that caused him to miss four games. He really hasn't been the same since.

How can the Wolves get him back on track?

Step one: continue working with him on the intricacies of defending without fouling. Easier said than done, no question, but Pekovic should be able to give him sound advice as this was a serious problem that hampered him early in his career and largely made him look horrible until he figured how to play in the league without logging three fouls every 8-10 minutes. Gorgui Dieng went through the same exercise.

Sidenote: while we're sort of talking about The Godfather, January 1st has been the date to keep an eye on and based on everything out there right now it sounds like he's progressing nicely and we could see him back on the court early in 2016.

Now back to fixing Professor Big Shots...

Step two: shoot wide-open 3-pointers when opportunities present themselves, as they have plenty of times throughout the season, instead of habitually passing them up like Mike Miller did back in the day.

Step three: use him as the roll man out of the pick and roll more often. It's a small sample size, but of all players that have acted as the roll man over 20 possessions this season, only Channing Frye (1.73) has a better PPP (points per possession) than Bjelica (1.45). Frye has been the roll man 22 times in Orlando – but really they both are popping out to the perimeter most of the time instead of rolling to the basket, though they're still considered the roll man – while Bjelica has done this only 20 times for the Wolves, good for 14.5 percent frequency (how often they execute the play type). This supports the eye test that he looks best in pick and roll situations. Of course, the sample is awful noisy right now, but running this action for him should be something to test out more frequently in January.

On another note, though probably highly doubtful, it might be wise to find minutes for him to play alongside Rubio, Wiggins, and Towns to build up his confidence surrounded by high usage players that can carry the load while he spaces the floor and hammer the message home: YOU'RE A SHOOTER AND FACILITATOR!

Nothing is going to work all that well if he can't stay out of foul trouble or get run to begin with, but these are some ideas to consider as his slump continues.  Patience should be exercised as well. He's still adjusting to the United States and the NBA. Give him time and more experiences to learn from. I remain convinced he's going to be a valuable forward in the future even in the midst of his alarmingly poor play that has people consistently throwing around Shved's name.

Around the League

Mediocre Rockets show no signs of figuring things out, Calvin Watkins writes. Oh, so their slow start wasn't entirely Kevin McHale's fault?

Jeff Hornacek blames illegal screen on Dellavedova, who was on bench, writes Dave McMenamin. Oops, that was inaccurate, Mr. Hornacek.

NY Knicks' Cleanthony Early shot in robbery, police say.

According to the NY Daily News, Early was surrounded by four to six men, two of them with guns, and robbed of his items and jewelry. Early, 24, was hospitalized in stable condition. Our thoughts and prayers are with him at this time.

If you remember, it was reported last week that Derrick Williams had $750,000 worth of jewelry stolen from his apartment after taking two women home from the club after a night of celebrating the Knicks win over the 76ers until 5 a.m.

Now for some light-hearted stuff. Rookie phenom Karl-Anthony Towns took some important photos yesterday. I want to make sure nobody missed out on seeing them.

Enjoy your day!