Aleksandar Vezenkov, a second-round pick of the Brooklyn Nets in 2017, is reportedly leaving FC Barcelona to play for Olympiacos in Greece, per a report.
Brian Lewis of the New York Post reported Friday that Vezenkov, selected 57th overall by the Brooklyn Nets in the 2017 NBA Draft, has signed a two-year deal with Greek side Olympiacos.
Vezenkov, who turns 23 on Aug. 6, is a power forward from Cyprus that plays for Bulgaria in international play because his ancestry afforded him citizenship.
He turned professional in 2011, at age 16, spending four seasons with Aris in Greece’s HEBA A1 League before signing with FC Barcelona in 2015.
Vezenkov was a teammate of this year’s second-round pick by the Nets, Latvian forward Rodions Kurucs, and their NBA ambition led them into the doghouse in Barcelona under coach Sito Alonso before he was replaced. But new coach Svetislav Pesic kept the pair on mothballs.
Nets Daily reported that Pesic’s explanation was that his primary concern was his own team, not his players’ NBA aspirations:
"Barcelona basketball is a section of FC Barcelona, but not a section of the NBA. For example, you put your chips on Mario Hezonja, but everyone knew that Hezonja was going to use Barca to go to the NBA."
Vezenkov played in 66 games for Barcelona in 2015-16 and logged 67 in 2016-17. Last year, as a draft-and-stash pick of the Nets, he appeared in only 34 games.
Kurucs spoke highly of his former teammate.
"We spent a lot of time together because he didn’t play either last year so we spent a lot of time in the gym. He’s a great guy, a good player. He taught me a lot of things on the court, off the court. We were good friends for sure, because we were always together. Definitely his strong suit is the shot."
Last season, Vezenkov averaged 5.6 points and 3.0 rebounds in 14.0 minutes per game in Spanish ACB and Euroleague play, shooting.511/.373/.815.
That was a significant dropoff from 2016-17, when Vezenkov appeared in 67 games in ACB, Euroleague and Spanish Cup play and put up 8.1 points and 3.1 rebounds in 18.8 minutes a night, shooting.547/.410/.837.
Olympiacos has a bit of NBA flavor, with former Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt hired last month to coach the club, replacing Giannis Sfairopoulos after Olympiacos finished second in the HEBA A1 with a 29-7 mark and placed fifth in Euroleague after putting up a 20-14 record.
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Vezenkov will join other NBA draft-and-stash players, including Dimitrios Agravanis (2015 second-rounder by the Atlanta Hawks, whose rights were acquired by the Sacramento Kings in February), 2015 first-rounder Nikola Milutinov (San Antonio Spurs) and Nigel Williams-Goss, who was taken in the second round by the Utah Jazz in 2017 and has been with their Summer League team.
Olympiacos also has 33-year-old Georgios Printezis, a 2007 second-round pick of the Spurs whose rights have bounced from San Antonio through six other clubs before coming back to the Spurs in July 2015.
The club also has two players on the roster with NBA experience, guard Vassilis Spanoulis, who played in 31 games for the Houston Rockets in 2006-07, and forward Kostas Papanikolaou, who logged 69 games with the Rockets and Denver Nuggets from 2014-16.
Vezenkov’s only taste of NBA action to date came in 2016, when Barcelona hosted the Oklahoma City Thunder in a preseason contest. Vezenkov played 26 minutes and finished with 13 points on 4-of-9 shooting, including 3-of-7 from long range, and had two rebounds.