When the Kings signed EuroLeague MVP Sasha Vezenkov over the summer, fans were ecstatic. The belief was that, as a floor-stretching big with plenty of experience, he would be able to have an immediate impact.
Things didn’t go quite as envisioned because Vezenkov struggled to get off the bench. Mike Brown often elected to stick with other players he is more familiar with instead. Just this month, the Bulgarian forward collected five DNPs in eight games.
Mike Brown is still tinkering with rotations, trusting only Malik Monk, Trey Lyles, and Alex Len to continuously produce off the bench. Everyone else has been in and out of the rotation, never knowing for sure when they will get a chance to play.
Vezenkov first got rotational minutes on Sunday in an overtime loss to Damian Lillard and the Milwaukee Bucks. After two DNPs, his six minutes on the court were rough. Last night, against the Phoenix Suns, he got another chance, as Mike Brown is shortening his rotation.
Vezenkov put together a good game in Phoenix
This time he delivered. Monk, Lyles, Vezenkov, and Len were the only four bench players to step on the court. Out of that group, Vezenkov played the second-most minutes and scored the most points. Putting up 14 points on 6-9 shooting, 2 rebounds, 1 assists, and 1 steal, he had a solid game and made a case for more minutes in the future.
The game ended in a disappointing loss after the Kings blew a 22-point lead, but Vezenkov’s performance was nice to see. Mike Brown asks his players to always stay ready. That is not an easy thing to do, and few players have succeeded so far. Keon Ellis did it earlier this season, Len claimed rotational minutes from JaVale McGee, and now Vezenkov did it as well.
On NBC California’s postgame show, former Kings player Matt Barnes voiced the same sentiment and gave Vezenkov his flowers for coming in and playing well.
“Just a true professional output tonight. It is so hard to go DNP after DNP and then get your number called and go out there and produce,” he said of the forward’s game.
Should Vezenkov play more minutes from now on?
This very question has been discussed all season long among Kings fans. The answer is usually yes and not without good reason.
First of all, you don’t convince someone to leave their home and a league in which they are a star to have them collect dust on the bench in Sacramento. Secondly, Vezenkov’s skill set could really help the Kings.
He moves incredibly well without the ball, plays smart, can stretch the floor, crashes the glass, and fights on pretty much every possession. Yes, he is not necessarily a good defender yet, but you can say that about almost every Kings player, including Harrison Barnes, who plays heavy minutes as a forward.
When given the chance, Vezenkov is a great fit for the system that brought the Kings so much success last season. All he needs to become an impactful role player in Sacramento is playing time and a consistent role.