Juan Pablo Vaulet has a lot going for him, starting with great natural attributes. He's 6'7" now, with a wingspan of nearly seven feet. He has huge hands and is blessed with great athleticism, a good frame and as Draft Express noted last year, "an extremely quick first step." He's also not afraid to take hits around the basket, plays good defense and as his television interviews show, is a confident young man. The Argentine can play multiple positions, from point guard to small forward ... at least in the LNB, the Argentine national league.
Also, at 19, he is the youngest "stashed" player in the NBA, that is an international player whose draft rights are held by an NBA team. The Nets will have the luxury, if they want, of waiting for him. They gave up two second round picks in 2018 and 2020 plus $880,000 to get him last June, not a small price, believing that if they didn't the Spurs would grab him later in the second round. After all, Manu Ginobili is not just his role model. He's a fan and Manu's brother is his coach at Bahia Blanca outside Buenos Aires.
The problem is that he is injury-prone and it's hurt his development. Over the past two and a half years, he's had surgeries on both ankles following fractures near where the ankle meets the tibia. The first, on his left ankle, put him on the shelf for 17 months. After returning mid-season in 2014-15, he played well, being named Rookie of the Year in the LNB and was selected to the Argentine U-19 national team. Things were going well.
Then, after being drafted by the Nets in June, he played three games in the U19 world championships in early July before sitting down after feeling soreness in his right ankle. It turned out to be a stress fracture. The Nets orthopedic surgeon, Martin O'Malley, who reconstructed both Brook Lopez and Kevin Durant's feet, repaired the fracture in July. A planned audition in the Las Vegas summer league was canceled. The Nets set up a rehab program for him to follow.
That surgery cost him four months. He rejoined his team once again in mid-season and again started well, had a couple of good games but once again was laid low by injury. This time, it was an inflammation in his right ankle, the same one that needed surgery in July. His team has told reporters that there's no connection between the surgery and the inflammation. He's missed four straight games and between recovery from this summer's surgery and now the inflammation, he's missed all but seven of his team's 29 games.
He's averaging a little more than nine points a game, shooting 45 percent overall, but only 18 percent from three. For a swingman candidate, he's not much of a shooter, at least so far. And there's divided opinion in the NBA community on whether he will ever be a good enough shooter to play in the league. (Hello, David Nurse.) Before the Draft, Draft Express listed him as the 97th best prospect.
Take a look for yourself. Here's some highlights of his first game back in November...
And here's his best game, from December 14, with Nets assistant GM Frank Zanin watching from the stands...
#LaLiga Una vez más, Juan Pablo Vaulet nos brinda su ya habitual show, con 17 puntos en la victoria de Bahia Basquet II sobre San Lorenzo ...y también ligó un golpecito en la rodillaPosted by Pablo Borsutzky on Monday, December 14, 2015
He hasn't played since. Still, don't be surprised if he shows up in summer league this July --unless he's playing for the Argentine national team at the Rio Olympics-- or even at training camp in October. There's no official timetable for him to join the Nets and Vaulet himself told local media November, "I need to develop and don't want to speed it up. It may be next year, may be in five years or may be in 10 years. But at least now I have a chance."
The Nets have a number of options with Vaulet: they can let him stay in Argentina; they can facilitate a move to a European team or they can bring him to Brooklyn, either on a D-League contract or an NBA contract. (Now that the Nets have a D-League team, they can sign second rounders to a D-League contract while still retaining their rights. Vaulet would not count against the Nets roster that way and no other team could call him up.)
That decision, of course, will be up to the next general manager and coach after they review video and no doubt medical reports. That assumes he doesn't have a promise.