Going into the 2023 offseason, after their first playoff appearance in 16 seasons, the Kings’ priority was to establish continuity. Domantas Sabonis, Harrison Barnes, Trey Lyles, and Alex Len all inked new deals to stay in Sacramento for at least another year.
Thanks to the Sabonis and Barnes extensions, the Kings’ starting five is under contract through the 2025-26 season, guaranteeing the core of Sabonis, De’Aaron Fox, and Keegan Murray to stay together for a while.
Even though continuity was a priority, the Kings also added some new faces over the summer in Chris Duarte, JaVale McGee, and Sasha Vezenkov. All three were solid additions, but right from the bat, Vezenkov appeared to be the most intriguing one.
The Bulgarian forward was first drafted 57th overall in 2017 by the Brooklyn Nets but never moved on to the NBA. Instead, he stayed in Europe, developing into a great stretch four, winning the 2022-23 EuroLeague MVP and the Alphonso Ford EuroLeague Top Scorer Trophy.
Not surprisingly, that caught the Kings’ attention. They acquired his draft rights from the Cavaliers last year and decided to bring him over to Sacramento.
Sasha Vezenkov is starting to look comfortable in the NBA
When news of the Vezenkov signing first broke, many Kings fans thought that he would have an immediate impact. 28 years old and a decorated EuroLeague player, he is not a regular rookie after all.
The NBA game takes some getting used to, however, especially for some of the less athletic players out there. During his first NBA experiences, Vezenkov struggled to defend, not accustomed to the explosive speed of most scorers, and Coach Mike Brown made it clear that he would have to earn his spot in the rotation.
Injuries to Trey Lyles and Keegan Murray as well as early struggles by Harrison Barnes and Kevin Huerter continuously threw him into games, however. The signing was always a good one. $13 million over three years for the reigning EuroLeague MVP is a great deal.
Now that Vezenkov is looking more comfortable in the NBA, it seems like an even better signing. As of right now, he is averaging 6.3 points, shooting 43.8 percent from the field and 37.7 percent from three, and 2.3 rebounds in 14.5 minutes per game.
He had some big games recently, like the Kings’ In-Season Tournament win over the Warriors. Putting up 8 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, and 2 blocks, his stats don’t jump off the page, but he is making valuable contributions.
His defense is still not the best and probably never will be but he puts in the effort and has some big moments every once in a while. Plus, his offense is really coming along and fitting well into the Kings’ fast-paced, movement-heavy system. He moves well without the ball, has a lightning-quick release, and his threes are finally falling.
With Lyles and Murray both healthy now, there are some things to figure out rotation-wise but Vezenkov is making it hard for Coach Brown to leave him on the bench.
He will only get better by playing more NBA minutes. Considering the Kings’ goals, he also has to contribute to winning basketball every time he steps on the court, which is not always an easy thing to do for rookies. Lately, it has looked like he is up to the challenge, however and every time he gives the Kings good minutes, signing him seems like an even better move from the front office.
Vezenkov is in no way a finished NBA player, but it seems that the process is definitely trending in the right direction.