The Spurs have always been among the leaders in draft stashes, Europeans mixed with some South Americans who were taken late in the Draft and left to develop overseas, The classic example of course was Manu Ginobili who after being taken at No. 57 in the 1999 Draft spent three years in Italy, arriving in San Antonio is 2002. Seventeen years and four NBA rings later, Ginobili retired. Similarly, Nets scout Tiago Splitter, taken at No. 22 in 2007, spent three years in Spain before joining the Spurs ... also winning a title.
So Sean Marks, who was a teammate and assistant coach on two of those NBA champs, understands the value of stashed picks. Although NO ONE is (currently) saying the Nets have the next Manu secreted overseas, the Nets now have three stashes: one drafted in the Billy King Era, one taken by Marks in 2017 and a third acquired in a trade last summer.
It’s also possible that with the Nets so cap-conscious this summer, the Nets could take another young Euro or South American and keep them overseas. That way they can postpone giving them an NBA contract and watch the player develop overseas. They can also be used in trades. Like Draft picks, they carry no value for trade purposes.
So far, this season, the player the Nets acquired in the Jeremy Lin trade last July looks like the best prospect and if tradition holds, Isaia Cordinier may wind up in the Las Vegas Summer League two months from this weekend. It’s possible as well that the Summer League roster could include Juan Pablo Vaulet, who’s had horrible luck with injuries since the Nets drafted him as a second rounder four years ago, and perhaps Aleksandar Vezenkov, who’s been shuffled around Euroleague teams since the Nets took him in 2017,
Here are thumbnail sketches of each of the three... and what they’ve done this season.
Cordinier is a 6’5” combo guard who the Hawks took in the 2016 Draft with the 44th pick, two after the Nets took Isaiah Whitehead. The Nets, in fact, had worked him out. Then 19, Cordinier looked like he had some potential. Hyper-athletic and with some shooting skills, he was seen a potential star in the French league, but suffered from tendinitis in both knees. Cordinier, as Draft Express reported, had tried to correct the tendinitis short of surgery, but ultimately decided to go under the knife in January of last season, missing the entire 2017-18 season and beginning a grueling nine-month rehab.
His French league team, the Antibes Sharks, gave him time to work his way back, permitting him to miss the pre-season and limiting his minutes once the regular season began. The strategy has paid off. Over the last 10 games, Cordinier has looked again like an NBA prospect, averaging 16 points including games of 27 and 28. He also hit 42.5 percent of his three point attempts and averaged 5.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists.
Here’s video of his 28-point effort last month. He’s No. 10 in white.
Cordinier hasn’t spoken about his relationship with the Nets since just after the trade, but what he said back then shows how much the Nets like his potential.
“Brooklyn looks very invested,” said Cordinier in an interview with Be Basket. “They called me in the day of the trade or the next day to welcome me. I went there for two days to do a lot of physical tests to find out where my knees are. They also follow my (rehabilitation) protocol in collaboration with Antibes. They will come to France regularly. That’s why I think it’s a good opportunity and it’s very good for me.”
Vaulet is not “the next Manu,” as the Nets under King privately described him back in 2015, when they gave up two seconds and $880,000 to take the then 19 year old Argentine at No. 39. The comparison was patently ridiculous and he has been hit with one injury after another to his ankles (plural). He’s had three ankle/foot surgeries, one back in 2013 on his left ankle and two on his right. Twice, he’s been invited to Las Vegas to play for the Nets in the Summer League, once in 2015, then again last year. Injuries prevented him from playing in either.
This year has been a bit of a roller coaster. His brother, Santiago, was found to have a genetic issue with his heart and his old team, Bahia Blanca, dumped both of them even though Juan Pablo was reportedly cleared. After a particularly ugly separation, JPV is now playing for Penarol in the Argentine league and had had an injury-free season. He’s averaged 12.9 points and 6.8 rebounds in the LNB, and like Cordinier, has seemingly regained his athleticism.
Here’s some video highlights him from a game last month. He’s No. 7 in blue.
Vaulet also has spoken about the Nets interest in him.
In addition to his trips to Las Vegas, Vaulet came to Brooklyn just after Christmas in 2016 during a break in the Argentine season. The Nets wouldn’t acknowledge the visit, but Vaulet spoke about it to the Argentine press.
He said he received both individual training, sometimes with two coaches helping out, at the HSS Training Center, traveled with the team and spent New Year’s with fellow Argentine Luis Scola. He also underwent a check-up on his surgically repaired ankle which he described as giving him “peace of mind.”
“I always had a relationship with them, every three or four months they ask me how I feel, especially physically, then, of course, they constantly follow my development on the field. In these years they followed me, talked with me and worried about my situation “ he said last June. Word out of Argentina is that JPV would like to try his hand in Spain next year as the next step in his development.
Aleksandar Vezenkov was taken with the Celtics second rounder —the 57th— in the 2017 Draft, part of the infamous Boston trade. Brooklyn and Boston swapped first rounders in that Draft, the Celtics taking Jason Tatum with the No. 3 pick and the Nets receiving the 27th pick, which they used to acquire D’Angelo Russell. The 57th pick was also part of the deal. At the time, Marks described the 6’9” native of Cyprus as an elite shooter.
The 23-year-old can shoot. This year, playing for Olympiacos in the Greek League and Euroleague as well as for the Bulgarian national team, he’s been used as a spot-up shooter. While Cordinier and Vaulet have yet to play 30 games, Vezenkov has already played more than 50. He’s shot 39.7 percent from deep in the Greek league, 20.7 percent in limited minutes in the Euroleague and 34.1 percent for Team Bulgaria.
This year was supposed to be a big year for Vezenkov. He, like Rodions Kurucs, was relegated to the bench last season by F.C. Barcelona because of his NBA ambitions. Although he’s had his moments this season —he’s averaging 12.6 points and shooting 37 percent from three over his last five appearances— he hasn’t met expectations and his coach, former Cavs coach David Blatt, hasn’t played him much in big games. In the 28 Euroleague games he’s played in, he never got more than 19 minutes of burn and only averaged 9.9 minutes for the season.
Here’s video of Vezenkov from March, showing off a number of his skills in his best Euroleague game. He’s No. 14 in red.
There’s been little to nothing on Vezenkov’s contacts with the Nets since he was drafted, although one Bulgarian reporter told NetsDaily Brooklyn suggested a G League stint might help him. Problem is that Vezenkov is guaranteed a lot more money in Europe than he’d make in the G League, even as a two-way. That of course could change.
Of the three, Vezenkov plays in toughest competition, Vaulet the weakest. It’d be surprising if none of the three wind up in Las Vegas this summer. Brooklyn brought 17 players to Sin City last summer. It would be good to get a look and we’ll be able to. All 83 games are expected to be televised by either NBA TV or ESPN. It all begins July 5.
Many thanks to @Mr_Jose_82 for keeping close track of the stashes throughout the year.