Before he signed on with The Athletic this season, John Hollinger had spent eight years as Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Grizzlies. So he knows the NBA Draft, has watched a lot of tape, some of it grainy from overseas.
He and Alex Schiffer teamed up Thursday to take a look at the four European stashes the Nets have accumulated over the years in drafts and trades. A fifth stash, Aaron White, plays in Europe but is an American who played at Iowa. And technically, the Long Island Nets Jaylen Hands is also technically a stash.
Hollinger and Schiffer go pick by pick. For them, the bottom line is that out of the four, Isaia Cordinier, the French League point guard acquired in the Jeremy Lin trade, has the best chance of making it in the NBA, but they’re not that optimistic about him either. Cordinier played for the Nets summer league team last July and had a couple of memorable games, particularly this highlight from a 20-point effort vs. Detroit.
Here’s Hollinger’s take on the 6’5” guard who had been playing for Nanterre in the French League.
Cordinier has to improve his skill level to become an NBA-caliber player, but he has made some progress in the French league the last two seasons. His shot remains inconsistent and his game off the bounce isn’t consistently skillful enough to make up for it. It’s likely that he tops out as a pretty good player in the French League, but if he can make another jump in his skill level — he’s still just 23 — it’s possible he could warrant a trip across the pond as he gets further into his 20s.
In a postscript, Hollinger says he regrets getting a chance to see Cordinier play for Antibes, on the French Riviera, in the past.
As for the other four, Hollinger is downright pessimistic ... and after all, they were all second rounders.
Juan Vaulet is the last vestige of Billy King’s tenure. King traded two future second rounders and sent $880,000 to the Hornets for the 6’7” Argentine swingman on Draft Night 2015. Hollinger recounts “scouting” the then 18-year-old.
Every so often, a player completely unexpectedly will put his name in the draft pool, forcing scouts and front offices to scramble to find grainy tape from third-rate games and figure out whether the guy is any good.
Such was the case with Vaulet, who was a relative unknown still playing in Argentina in 2015 when he surprisingly put his name in the draft — again, likely as a result of a promise. I have fond memories of crowding into a conference room in Memphis and watching some of the lowest-quality high school AV club film you’ve ever seen as we tried to ponder Vaulet’s destiny. He had size and some athleticism, but couldn’t shoot at all and seemed extremely wild. He was a long, long away from being an NBA-caliber player then and hasn’t narrowed the gap much in the five years since.
So he’s not “the next Manu.”
Alexander Vezenkov, the 6’9” forward taken with a Celtics second in 2017, is, as Sean Marks called him, an “elite” shooter, but that’s it, writes Hollinger.
I spent considerable time scouting Vezenkov in Greece when he first put his name in the draft in 2015. Most notably, we were mulling whether to give him a promise to keep his name in the draft (a relatively common practice with early entry European players), so I spent four days in Thessaloniki, Greece, watching him play and practice for his club team and eating grilled octopus every day.
Vezenkov was just OK. The thing that attracts you is his feel for the game; he has almost a sixth sense at times for what’s about to take place on the court. The bad part is that he needs it because he’s not an NBA-caliber athlete. He’s a combo forward size-wise, but struggles to move his feet on the perimeter and is a poor rebounder, leaving him “positionless” — not in a good way — at the defensive end.
At lower European levels, such as with Bulgarian national team or in Greek League, he can flash a crafty post-up game, but again lacks the physical tools ...
Hollinger notes that “Sasha” is “very left-handed.” Vezenkov hasn’t come to the U.S. for summer league as both Cordinier and Vaulet did (although the Argentine was injured both times he was invited.) The Nets did bring him to Madrid last summer to get shooting tips from Stefan Weissenboeck, the Nets’ German shooting coach.
Nemanja Dangubic, a 6’8” shooting guard acquired in the DeMarre Carroll deal last summer, used to be considered a nice pick when the Spurs took him in 2014 Draft (when Sean Marks was in the front office). As Hollinger notes...
I’ve seen a lot of Dangubic in person over the years, including his pre-draft work in Europe in 2013 and 2014 and his subsequent season with Red Star and the Serbian national team.
The MVP of the 2014 Eurocamp, Dangubic flashes NBA-caliber athleticism and will occasionally open your eyes by uncorking explosive dunks. He plays pretty hard and is by all accounts well-liked. He looks amazing in the lay-up line.
So what’s the problem? He’s had a lot of trouble translating that athleticism into being a decent basketball player. Dangubic has managed to become a passable shooter off the catch in recent seasons, despite an awkward release over his head and a pronounced forward leg kick. However, he has really struggled to develop as a consistent perimeter threat.
In fact, he’s shooting just 35 percent from the field and 22.4 percent from 3.
So why stockpile stashes? Of course, you hope to hit the lottery (so to speak) and come up with a big payoff. But the other reason is to have pieces ready to do sign-and-trades, salary dumps etc. without have to dip into your pool of draft picks.
- Ask an expert: Scouting the international players the Nets hold draft rights for - John Hollinger & Alex Schiffer - The Athletic New York