Remember Brad Greenberg?
Most casual NBA fans don’t, but that’s alright.
Greenberg was the general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers when the team drafted scoring sensation Allen Iverson with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1996 draft, and he also had stints as a head coach at Radford University and NBA assistant coach for the New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Clippers.
Now, he has morphed into an overseas basketball magician.
The 61-year-old Jewish-American basketball mastermind has embraced the role of coaching struggling organizations and reshaping their DNA to build a winning tradition.
- In 2013, Greenberg resurrected an embarrassing Maccabi Haifa organization – leading the club to its first ever Israeli championship, including an 86-79 finals victory over David Blatt and powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv.
- In 2014, Greenberg jump-started Hapoel Jerusalem both domestically and abroad. Hapoel capped its best season in almost a decade with the No. 2 seed in Israel, and dunked its mark internationally reaching the EuroCup quarterfinals.
- In 2015, Greenberg accepted a challenge to coach Turkish club Eskisehir Basket – the worst and last seeded team (16, 2-13) – and in just three months transitioned his team into TBL varsity beating second, third, fifth, sixth and seventh seeds. His total record is 6-6 and Eskisehir are battling to avoid relegation.
- Greenberg also played an active role in guiding Gal Mekel – Israeli Player of the Year and final MVP – to become the second Israeli in the NBA upon signing with the Dallas Mavericks.
I caught up with Greenberg for a one-on-one scouting report and overview of 26-year-old Serbian all-around forward Nemanja Bjelica.
Bjelica, whose NBA rights are held by the Minnesota Timberwolves, has a unique skill-set with an overall package of height (standing 6’10), frame, wingspan and athleticism.
According to a 2010 report from scout guru Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.com, Bjelica – listed as a PG/SG/SF – is a point guard trapped in a power forward’s body. Reps for Minnesota, a source said, were in Istanbul to watch its overseas project in the flesh.
Greenberg, who recently coached against Bjelica’s No. 1 ranked team Fenerbahce, couldn’t agree more. Greenberg’s thoughts should have fans in Minnesota smiling.
“Bjelica is the most efficient and consistent player on his team,” Greenberg said. “He’s unique because he can move with and without the ball, run the floor and start a fastbreak. He has isolation sets run for him, he can attack from the top and poses all sorts of problems.”
Bjelica is a flat-out stud. He’s averaging 11.9 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 27 minutes per game in the Euroleague – the top-tier competition outside the NBA. He is shooting 46.4 percent from the perimeter and 73 percent from the line in the Turkish competition.
Bjelica was named the MVP of the week in the Euroleague and his play is off the charts. He is ranked No. 1 in half-a-dozen categories.
Is Bjelica ready to make the jump to the NBA?
“Can Bjelica be on an NBA team? Sure. Will he? I don’t know,” Greenberg said. “Like all high-level Euroleague players who make a lot of money overseas, it has to be a situation that makes sense financially, and where he gets an opportunity to play.
“Europeans don’t want to give up something that is comfortable, good and financially rewarding for a ‘what if?’ situation. Bjelica is talented enough to be in an NBA gym and not look out of place. That’s for sure.”
What NBA position would best fit Bjelica?
“He is a power forward who can matchup against small forwards, but NBA teams would look at him as a tweener because he is long, can shoot and run like a wing,” said Greenberg.
Greenberg also reflected on what might be a comparable NBA viewpoint for Bjelica: “Nikola Mirotic is doing well in Chicago. That probably makes guys like Bjelica think – ‘I know him, I played well against him. If he can do it, I can do it’ – but the truth is Doug McDermott got hurt, so that opened a window and Mirotic took advantage of it. The NBA is all a matter of situation.”
Bjelica is headed to the Euroleague Final Four after Fenerbahce completed a 3-0 sweep over defending European champions Maccabi Tel Aviv. Throughout the series, the Serbian phenom registered 9 points on 40 percent shooting from distance, to go along with 11 rebounds and 2.7 assists over 22 minutes per contest.
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