The acquisition of Nemanja Bjelica did not excite many fans, nor was it expected to. His resumé is similar to that of ex-Warrior Jonas Jerebko, who signed three years ago and played sparingly for one season, his last in the NBA.
So those hoping the Warriors could acquire a former All-Star like Paul Millsap, a near All-Star like Rudy Gay or bring back young Marquese Chriss have no choice but to hope Bjelica can win them over as a value acquisition.
Which Bjelica, 33, can do if his deep shooting reaches the level of efficiency coach Steve Kerr wants from his reserve big man. Though he’s a good passer, 3-point shooting is the primary reason the 6-foot-10 Serbian is a Warrior.
Well, the marksmanship and Bjelica’s willingness to embrace a $2.1 million veteran minimum contract.
“I’m like the guy who can stretch the floor,” Bjelica said Friday morning, shortly after signing. “I can play multiple positions. I think I’m more than a shooter.
“I also spoke with coach Kerr. He’s also excited that I’m here. All the people here, they know what I can do and I know what my role is in the NBA. I think I can do so many good things. We’ll see.”
Bjelica (pronounced Bee-uh-LEET-sah) is a 38.7-percent career shooter from distance. He shot only 31.8 percent splitting last season between the Raptors and the Heat, where he appeared in only 11 games. He shot a career-high 41.8 percent beyond the arc with the Kings in 2019-20.
The Warriors have made a habit of bringing in veteran big men for a specific role, suited to their abilities. David West was a pick-and-pop shooter and splendid passer from the post, JaVale McGee and Willie Cauley-Stein were hired for vertical spacing. Jerebko was acquired to stretch the floor.
Bjelica arrives, as Jerebko did, with his NBA career as a crossroads. It’s a chance, maybe his last, to contribute to a team with high expectations.
“Finally, I’m in a winning organization,” he said. “There is no better place to be. There are no more excuses. I just need to do my job and be ready to help them get better and win.”
If he shoots 3-balls in the 40-percent range, he will have done exactly as the Warriors had hoped.