Draymond Green is one of those NBA players who everyone loves when he is on your team, and loathes when he lines up against you. Green's defensive tenacity and in-your-face style gets into the heads of his opponents in a way that has helped the Warriors be one of the league's most dominant teams over the past decade.
Nemanja Bjelica signed with the Warriors in free agency after spending time with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Kings, and Miami Heat. Bjelica says he was one of those players who couldn't stand playing against Green, but now recognizes how great of a teammate the forward is.
"I mean, I hated him, but I always had respect for him and for his game," Bjelica told reporters Wednesday. "So far he did a lot of things for this organization, for this team, he accomplished a lot of things and he has a lot of experience, and he is very unselfish player and very smart, it’s easy to play with a guy like him and he is a great teammate too."
The question from NBC Sports Bay Area's Kerith Burke was prompted by the praise Green showered upon Bjelica on Tuesday, as Draymond opined about what has surprised him about his new frontcourt mate.
"I didn't know Belli could make plays like that off the dribble, I had no f-----g clue," Green said. "That's good to see, that's good to know, because when you got a jump shot like that, teams are gonna close out at you harder and for him to be able to put the ball on the floor like that and make plays, I think for the most part in all his career he's played with traditional bigs, so where he may not have the athleticism to get into the paint and finish over guys, that's usually something you face when you have a traditional big, and we don't really play traditional basketball so when he's getting into the paint, he can either finish or now you've got somebody rotating and he's making the right play. And that's good to see because he'll have those opportunities and with him plays like that, that will be good for our offense."
Bjelica's ability to shoot from the frontcourt already gives the Warriors something they were missing last season, as Green, James Wiseman and Kevon Looney never were able to consistently make shots from the perimeter. Wiseman's 31.6 percent clip from 3-point range was the best out of those three for the Warriors in 2020-21.
Combine that spot-up skill set with being able to make plays off the dribble, and Bjelica could be one of the Warriors' X-factors off the bench this season.
He might not have loved Green when the two were opponents, but Bjelica and Green likely will be connecting for plenty of assists and 3-pointers throughout the year now that they wear the same jersey.