Aleksandar Vezenkov

Atlantic Notes: LeVert, Valanciunas, Nets Prospects, Redick

Caris LeVert‘s impressive early-season performances could make the Nets a more attractive free agent destination, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer points out. The Nets guard, who is averaging 24.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG and 4.0 APG, is a versatile talent who can mesh with anyone because of his passing, cutting and spot-up shooting, O’Connor continues. Brooklyn’s front office looks smart for taking LeVert off the table in trade discussions with the Timberwolves for Jimmy Butler, O’Connor adds.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • There hasn’t been any grumbling from Raptors players who have seen their minutes reduced, Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun reports. Jonas Valanciunas, Norman Powell and Pascal Siakam, among others, will see their playing time fluctuate depending on the opponent. “We are sharing the minutes. We don’t know what matchups are going to come to us,” Valanciunas told Wolstat. “We have versatility. Just have different things for different matchups. We have different lineups, different people going at some different players.”
  • Nets draft-and-stash prospects Aleksandar Vezenkov and Isaia Cordinier are off to good start overseas, according to a NetsDaily.com post. Vezenkov, a 6’9” forward has played three Euroleague games for Olympiacos and is averaging 9.7 PPG and 3.3 RPG in 17.0 MPG. Cordinier, a 6’5” shooting guard who plays in the French League, returned to action on Friday after missing last season with knee tendinitis. It’s uncertain whether they’ll pursue NBA careers next season. Another draft-and-stash player, Juan Pablo Vaulet, was sent home by his Argentine team for undisclosed reasons.
  • Sixers guard J.J. Redick believes the Magic made a smart move by trading him to the Bucks five years ago, Josh Robbins of The Athletic reports. Redick was heading into unrestricted free agency at the time but would have liked to finish out that season with Orlando. He would have considered a long-term deal with the Magic that summer. Orlando acquired forward Tobias Harris and two other players in the deal. “The trade for Tobias was definitely in Orlando’s favor,” Redick told Robbins. “You get a guy who’s going to get you 18 [points] and 8 [rebounds] at 22, or whatever age Tobias was at the time. … Things obviously didn’t turn out great for them subsequently, but I think they made the right call.”

Nets Notes: Lin, Faried, Napier, Vezenkov

The Nets weren’t convinced that point guard Jeremy Lin will be physically ready for training camp, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Lin, who was traded to the Hawks on Thursday, is coming off a ruptured patellar tendon that he suffered in last season’s opener.

The 29-year-old point guard hasn’t been medically cleared for three-on-three contact games and may take a while to get ready for five-on-five. He played just 37 games over two years after signing with Brooklyn in 2016 and carried a $12.5MM salary that the team needed to unload before completing a deal with Denver.

“I love Jeremy Lin because he represents the underdog in all of us — truly first class on and off the court,” tweeted co-owner Joe Tsai after the deal was completed. “Jeremy is not only exciting to watch, he sets an example for perseverance and leadership. We are great friends, and I will follow his progress no matter where he is.”

There’s more today out of Brooklyn:

  • The Nets had been trying for months to acquire Kenneth Faried from the Nuggets, Lewis adds in the same story. Brooklyn officials hoped to make a deal before last month’s draft, but Denver was unwilling to give up this year’s first-rounder, which it used to get Michael Porter Jr. Nets GM Sean Marks improved his bargaining position by unloading Timofey Mozgov to the Hornets and Lin to the Hawks, giving him enough cap room to take on Faried and Darrell Arthur while getting a future first-rounder and second-rounder.
  • Today’s agreement with Shabazz Napier will use up the last of the Nets’ remaining cap room, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. Brooklyn has 14 players under contract, 13 with guaranteed money, and can now exceed the cap by finalizing deals with Joe Harris under the Early Bird exception and Ed Davis under the room mid-level exception.
  • Aleksandar Vezenkov, a second-round pick from 2016, will get a better chance to develop his skills after signing with Olympiacos in Greece this week, according to NetsDaily.com. A stretch four, Vezenkov spent last season with F.C. Barcelona, which allotted more minutes to players who weren’t likely to eventually leave for the NBA. That shouldn’t be a concern with Olympiacos, where Vezenkov will play for former Cavaliers coach David Blatt.

Draft Notes: Bouteille, Vezenkov, Carter

French small forward Axel Bouteille intends to enter the 2016 NBA Draft, agent Sead Galijasevic of Wasserman relays (via Twitter). The 21-year-old is the No. 7-ranked international prospect in his class according to Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress. In 31 games for the French club Chalon this season, Bouteille averaged 5.5 points, 2.6 rebounds and 0.8 assists in 14.4 minutes of action per outing. The swingman needs to improve his outside shooting and ability to create his own shot if he hopes to be successful in the NBA, Givony notes in his profile of Bouteille. The deadline for players to declare their intention to enter this year’s draft was Sunday, and Bouteille got in under the wire.

Here’s more regarding the 2016 NBA Draft:

  • Luc Loubaki, another Frenchman, also intends to enter this year’s NBA Draft, Thomas Jay of Octagon Basketball Europe relays (Twitter link). The 19-year-old shooting guard is the No. 37 overall player in his class according to Givony. The 6’3″ guard appeared in 30 contests this season for Orleans Loiret and averaged just 3.0 points and 1.2 rebounds in 10.3 minutes per night.
  • Bulgarian combo forward Aleksandar Vezenkov will enter 2016 NBA draft, his representatives at Lotsos & Associates announced (via Twitter). The 20-year-old is the No. 69 overall prospect in this year’s draft according to Givony, who projected Vezenkov as an early second-rounder in the 2017 NBA Draft.
  • Former Maryland big man Robert Carter, who is the N0. 55 ranked prospect per Givony and comes in at No. 47 overall according to Chad Ford of ESPN.com, has signed with Life Sports Management to represent him, Jon Rothstein of CBSSports.com tweets.
  • Former Indiana point guard Yogi Ferrell has hired Keith Kreiter of Edge Sports International as his agent, Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com relays (on Twitter). Ferrell is the No. 60-ranked player per Givony, while Ford slots him 99th.

Draft Notes: Okafor, Upshaw, Vezenkov

Duke center Jahlil Okafor is more concerned about finding the right fit than what draft spot he is selected at, Ian Begley of ESPN.com relays. “I don’t know that I should go No. 1,” Okafor said to SI Now’s Maggie Gray. “I don’t care. I just want to go to the right environment for me and the right team. I think the hype about No. 1 is more for the fans.” With the recent report that Okafor prefers to go to the Lakers rather than the Wolves, Okafor’s statement could potentially be construed as the player angling to be bypassed by Minnesota in June’s draft in favor of Los Angeles, who holds the No. 2 overall pick, though that is merely my speculation.

Here’s the latest regarding the 2015 NBA Draft:

  • Big man Robert Upshaw has a wealth of potential, but him having been dismissed from two college teams due to substance abuse issues has put a damper on his draft stock, Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders writes in his profile of the player. Upshaw is currently ranked as the No. 29 overall prospect by Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress and Chad Ford of ESPN.com (Insider subscription required) places him 38th.
  • Early second-round prospect Aleksandar Vezenkov, who is expected to withdraw from this year’s draft, is garnering interest from a number of European teams, Vezenkov’s agent Nick Lotsos told Sportal.bg (translation by Emiliano Carchia of Sportando). “So far some teams showed interest in Vezenkov but there are no concrete proposals yet. We are not in a hurry to decide the future. We’ll consider carefully what is the best for him to develop as a player. Barcelona? It is one of the teams interested and Aleksandar is interested as well, but as I’ve said it is too early,” Lotsos relayed.
  • A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com looked at a number of players, including Jerian Grant, Kristaps Porzingis, and Willie Cauley-Stein, who have improved their draft stock over the past year.
  • Draft prospect George Lucas, who is also known as George de Paula, said the hardest part of the draft combine was the interviews since he is still learning English, Kennedy writes in his profile of the player. “The language is the most hard,” Lucas said. “I’m trying to learn English the best that I can, so it’s a long process for me and I’m trying to communicate with other people. I’ve always had an English class since high school, but I haven’t had a lot of conversations with other people.”

Aleksandar Vezenkov Expected To Leave Draft

Early second-round prospect Aleksandar Vezenkov is expected to withdraw from this year’s draft, sources tell Aris Barkas of Eurohoops.net. The 19-year-old small forward is the 32nd-best prospect this year, according to Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress, while Chad Ford of ESPN.com ranks him 42nd. Vezenkov, who was born in Cyrpus but plays for Bulgarian national teams, is one of 48 players from overseas who submitted their names as early entrants for this year’s draft, with the NBA having released its official list Tuesday.

Vezenkov is without an agent since letting go of Nick Lotsos, as Barkas details. He’s had talks with Arn Tellem about hiring the Wasserman Media Group, but they haven’t reached a deal, and Vezenkov’s father, an official with the Bulgarian club Lukoil, is serving as his representative in the interim, Barkas adds.

The 6’8″ Vezenkov has time to ponder a formal decision about the draft, since the deadline for him to withdraw isn’t until June 15th. He’s expected to leave the Greek team Aris BC for a lucrative deal elsewhere in Europe, with Greece’s Panathinaikos, Spain’s Barcelona and Turkey’s Anadolu Efes interested in him, according to Barkas. So, it appears that even if Vezenkov stays in the draft, there’s a decent chance he’ll wind up as a draft-and-stash prospect and remain overseas. Vezenkov wouldn’t be automatically eligible for the draft until 2017.

Aleksandar Vezenkov To Enter Draft

Bulgarian forward Aleksandar Vezenkov, also known as Sasha Vezenkov,  intends to enter the 2015 NBA draft, Alexander Sotirov of Sportal.bg tweets (hat tip to Enea Trapani of Sportando). Vezenkov spent the last four seasons with the Greek team Aris BC. The 19-year-old is a projected second-rounder in June’s draft. Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress ranks him as the No. 32 overall prospect, while Chad Ford of ESPN.com (Insider Subscription required) slots him at No. 44 overall.

Vezenkov is a likely draft-and-stash pick, and his game needs refining before he is ready to be productive in the NBA. While he is a solid outside shooter with good court vision, Vezenkov needs quite a bit of work to become a passable NBA defender. With further seasoning Vezenkov could be a competent role-player off the bench in the NBA, but he’ll need to add strength if he hopes to survive the rigors of an 82 game season in the league.

In 21 appearances for Aris BC this past season, Vezenkov averaged 19.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists in 32.7 minutes per contest. His shooting numbers were .525/.439/.779.