The Sacramento Kings started off slow in their 2023-24 campaign because of De'Aaron Fox who missed several games due to an injury. Their offense was sputtering, but it has been solved and improved ever since Fox's return. The stars have been contributing, but it is the ancillary pieces like Malik Monk and Kevin Huerter who have been incredible compliments to their core.
During the offseason, Sacramento decided to stick with the majority of their rotational guys, but they added a couple of names and one of it is Bulgarian sharpshooter Sasha Vezenkov. Coming into the NBA scene this season was a surprise for most because he is an unknown individual in the United States even if he applied and was selected in the 2017 NBA Draft.
He joined a team with the same starting five as last year, and similar second-unit players, such as Monk, Davion Mitchell, and Kessler Edwards. Fighting for minutes could have been an issue, but it has not been one for Kings head coach Mike Brown.
Why does Sasha Vezenkov deserve more minutes?
Keegan Murray has missed the last week of action because of lower back pain, while Harrison Barnes has not been very consistent the past couple of seasons in Sacramento. The wing position has been a glaring issue and the missing piece to the championship puzzle for their organization. Players like Pascal Siakam, Draymond Green, and Kyle Kuzma have been rumored to land in Sacramento in the last months but nothing was ever close to happening.
As free agent signings start to be trade-eligible on December 15, trades may start being completed at that juncture of the season, but Sacramento has not been busy in the rumor mill. With that being the case, they are likely riding it out with this group, so they will need another forward aside from Murray to step up in the postseason—that man must be Sasha Vezenkov.
He was the 2022-23 EuroLeague MVP and the top scorer of the year with the Olympiacos B.C. squad. That incredible award might have been the major reason on why Sacramento was heavily interested in bringing him to America and helping their franchise continue their winning ways. Vezenkov has been averaging only 6.4 PPG on 36.5% shooting from long distance, but that is still far from his capabilities at the NBA stage.
In his first few contests, it was evident that he was still adjusting to the style, pace, and physicality in the NBA, but he has since been a vital piece in the rotation. During their recent game against the Golden State Warriors, Vezenkov played 15 minutes and contributed eight points and four rebounds. What stood out from that night was Vezenkov was part of the closing unit of the Kings, and he was exchanging clutch triples with the marksmen of the Warriors.
His shooting stroke is not similar to most Americans because he lets go of his follow through right as the ball is in the air. However, the release is so quick that defenses have an arduous time contesting his shot in a catch-and-shoot situation. After his excellent showing against Golden State, Brown inserted him for 24 minutes in their most recent game against the Los Angeles Clippers, wherein he increased his point total to 13 and added five rebounds to the stat sheet.
The consistency is still a challenge for Sasha Vezenkov, but he has proven that if he is given a legitimate opportunity to thrive on both ends, he will do it. It will not be a surprise if Vezenkov will earn more minutes than Barnes by the end of this season and possibly be on closing lineups as well.