With a EuroLeague MVP trophy on his shelf and entering the NBA at 28 years young, Sasha Vezenkov isn’t a traditional rookie. Across his final year with Olympiacos in EuroLeague play, Sasha averaged 17.6 points and 6.9 rebounds across 40 games, and shot 55.3% from the field and 38.3% from three while playing against the toughest basketball competition outside of the NBA. He comes over to Sacramento with both proven accomplishments and accolades, and also with a clear role and an elite talent. But for any player, even one with Sasha’s record, it will take real adjustment to play against NBA speed and explosiveness on both ends of the court. How will the Kings biggest offseason addition adapt to the NBA?
On offense, Sasha may be a damn cheat code for the Kings. He’s joining a team that was 5th in the NBA last year for three point makes and 6th in attempts; the Kings thrive on having on- and off-ball shooters around De’Aaron Fox and Domas Sabonis, and Vezenkov is an obvious fit given his lightning quick shooting touch, extended range, and ability and instincts to move off the ball. While the Kings will have to figure out how to balance out this talented, deep roster, it’s a great problem for Mike Brown and his staff to have. While the Kings have shooting talent in abundance, it would have been great to have had Sasha last April, when Keegan Murray and Terence Davis were the only Kings to shoot better than 35% from deep against the Warriors in the playoffs.
The questions for Sasha will come across the rest of the court; can he hold his own on defense when teams come to attack him? Can he help the Kings improve on the glass, as they try and improve on last season’s mark of 20th in the league for rebounds? How will Mike Brown shuffle lineups between Sasha, Keegan, Harrison Barnes, and Trey Lyles for the forward spots? Is Vezenkov ready for 82 games and 7 months of opportunities against the world’s best and most explosive opponents?
4 months ago in the EuroLeague Finals, Vezenkov dropped 29 points (a EuroLeague Finals record), 9 points, 4 assists, and shot 11-21 from the field, and his Olympiacos squad was one basket away from winning the title. Now, he’s joining an NBA offense tailor made for his skills, but also one that would need him to show up across the court if he wants to take on as big a role as he did in Europe.
But putting Sasha’s talent aside for a moment… the real question is if the Kings lockerroom will treat him like a normal NBA rookie. Will the Kings veterans make Sasha perform all the normal rookie duties? Is Vezenkov going to have to pick up fast food for the whole team on plane rides? Will Harrison Barnes make him wear a Hello Kitty backpack for a long roadtrip? Is Keegan Murray going to fill Sasha’s car up with popcorn?! These are the real questions I need answers to.