Aleksandar Vezenkov and Isaia Cordinier, the Nets two healthy draft-and-stash players, have had a good start to the 2018-19 season. For one, Vezenkov, leaving F.C. Barcelona for Olympiacos of Greece was a liberating experience. For Cordinier, just getting on the court after a year lost to surgery and recovery is a big deal.
Vezenkov, a 6’9” forward (power in Europe, probably small in the NBA) has been coming off the bench for Olympiacos and has thus far proven Sean Marks assessment of him on Draft Night 2017. He is an elite shooter. He’s played in three Euroleague games and shot 10-of-14 overall, and 1-of-4 from deep. The 23-year-old is averaging 9.7 points and 3.3 rebounds in an average of 17 minutes.
Like Rodions Kurucs, his teammate at F.C. Barcelona last season, he was benched because of his NBA ambitions. And like Kurucs, he used a buyout to get out of Barca, joining Olympiacos and its coach, the very accomplished David Blatt.
Cordinier, a 6’5” shooting guard who plays with Antibes in the French League, finally returned to action on Friday after missing all last season with tendinitis so severe that he needed double knee surgery in January. He played 15 minutes in a blowout loss, scoring four points, taking only two shots — both three’s — making one.
The 21-year-old was acquired by the Nets in the July 13 trade that sent Jeremy Lin to Atlanta. The Hawks had drafted Cordinier with the 44th pick of the 2016 Draft, two picks after the Nets took Isaiah Whitehead. The Nets had worked out Cordinier in the lead-up to the Draft and were reportedly impressed. As Sam Vecenie of The Athletic has pointed out, the inclusion of Cordinier was not required to make the trade work so the Nets must have wanted him included.
Indeed, Cordinier said last month that he visited Brooklyn in the days after the trade and believes the Nets are “very invested” in his development.
Assuming the two continue to progress, could they make the move to Brooklyn (or Long Island) next season? No one is saying. There were reports out of Bulgaria, Vezenkov’s home country, that he wants the NBA, not the G League. That might be hard for the Nets to guarantee. As for Cordinier, he might have a better shot at the NBA, assuming his knees are healthy. Prior to surgery, he was seen as a hyper athletic guard with potential as a shooter and defender.
Meanwhile, Juan Pablo Vaulet, the Nets other stash, continues to have bad luck. The Argentine swingman Billy King drafted in 2015 … giving up two second rounders and $880,000 in the process … was sent home by his Argentine team to rest more than a month ago. Vaulet was in Las Vegas for the NBA Summer league but soreness in his ankle prevented him from taking the court. The decision to rest him is not related to his history of ankle injuries but rather another issue.