Before the draft even started, the Kings were involved in a trade, but not as advertised. Sacramento dealt their 49th pick in this year’s draft to the Cleveland Cavaliers for the rights to international player Sasha Vezenkov and cash.
He is a left-handed, 26 year-old, 6’9″ stretch-four that plays in Greece. The Bulgarian was the 57th overall selection in the 2017 draft by the Brooklyn Nets. His rights were moved to Cleveland in January 2021 as part of the multi-team blockbuster that sent James Harden to the Nets.
Born in Cypress to Bulgarian parents, Vezenkov began playing club basketball there at a young age.
In 2011 at the age of 16, he began his professional career in Greece’s professional league (GBL). He won two straight GBL Best Young Player awards before winning a third, the Most Improved Player, and the league’s Most Valuable Player in 2015. In that MVP season, Vezenkov averaged 18 points on 39% from deep and 7.7 rebounds.
Following the big season, Vezenkov signed a contract in the Spanish League that included a buyout option for the NBA. In Spain, he was part of the Supercup winning team in his first season. His role during his three seasons in Spain was smaller, though, in 2017, he did make the All Young Players Team prior to being drafted by the Nets.
He returned to the GBL for the last three years, averaging 14.9 points on 37.8% from three and 6.6 rebounds in his most recent season.
In total, during his 11 seasons played internationally, Vezenkov averages 8.6 points on 38.9% shooting from behind the arc as well as 4 rebounds and 1 assist.
As a smooth-shooting stretch-four, it’s no surprise that Sasha Vezenkov is often compared to Nemanja Bjelica. He has the ability to score in a variety of ways and play both inside and out, possessing a nice feel for the game. Inside, he’s smart and equipped with skill, but it’s his perimeter shooting that makes him potentially valuable in the NBA. He specializes in pick and pop situations, but even more so coming off of screens, and happens to shoot well under pressure. In addition to that, he’s a smart and adept cutter.
However, he’s really relying on his shooting if he’s coming to this level any time soon. Defensively, he could use some work. As decent as his understanding of the game is–which shows promise for usefulness as a team defender–Vezenkov has subpar speed and lateral quickness.
It’s unclear whether he’ll be on the NBA roster next season or not. Monte McNair was asked about that during his post-draft press conference and didn’t give anything near to a clear answer. Whether it’s now or a little later, Sasha Vezenkov could be a useful rotational weapon with his ability to stretch the floor as a power forward.