When the Golden State Warriors signed Nemanja Bjelica back in August, it was apparently the end of a months-long quest to land the veteran forward.
Bjelica, who turned in one of the worst statistical seasons of his career splitting time with the Miami Heat and Sacramento Kings last year, had apparently caught the eye of Warriors general manager Bob Myers long before free agency started and Golden State signed the big man. Myers revealed on Thursday that the Warriors had their eye on Bjelica all throughout the season, believing that his style would be a good fit for the team’s motion offense that calls for a very particular skill set.
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Warriors Tried to Land Bjelica Last Season
The 2020-21 season was one Bjelica may prefer to forget. After notching career-highs the previous year with 11.5 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, the 33-year-old Serbian followed it up with a career-low 3.4 rebounds per game to go along with 6.5 points. Even a trade-deadline move from the Kings to the Heat did little to spark his season, with Bjelica seeing his minutes drop to 14.2 per game.
Despite the down season, Myers liked what he saw from Bjelica and revealed that the Warriors tried to land him.
“We tried to trade for him a few times last year and just couldn’t find the right deal for them and us, and then he got moved to Miami and never really got a foothold there,” Myers said in an Oct. 21 appearance on 95.7 The Game. “We’ve always liked him because we thought he could fit what we do, which is what you guys see, it’s a lot of read and react stuff, lot of randomness.”
Though there were rumors that the Warriors were looking into landing an established NBA star last season, the team ended up having a rather quiet trade deadline, moving only a pair of reserves in exchange for cash and some roster flexibility. But they were able to land Bjelica a few months later, signing him to the veteran’s minimum a week into free agency. So far, it’s been quite a successful signing.
Bjelica Excels in New Role
Myers has been right about Bjelica so far this young season. The big man has been a perfect fit into Golden State’s offense, coming off the bench in the season-opening win over the Los Angeles Lakers to score 15 points and grab nine rebounds. He was nearly unstoppable from the floor, making 6 of 7 shots including his only three-pointer.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Bjelica has been a great fit because of his ability to attack defenses that focus too much on Steph Curry.
“That’s the beauty of our team this year, we are built to take advantage of 4-on-3,” Kerr said in an appearance on 95.7 The Game. “Bjelica is really a hell of a basketball player. We’ve all watched him stretch the floor and be a pick-and-pop 3-point shooter, but he’s showing what he’s about in terms of his ability to pass, dribble and make plays.
“When you get 4-on-3 with guys like Draymond [Green], (Bjelica), Andre [Iguodala], making plays with shooters like Jordan Poole and Damion Lee, Otto Porter, you’re going to get good shots every time. Steph is a guy that generates every single advantage, then we have a team that can take advantage of that this year.”