Throughout the last few weeks, the growing expectation that the Kings will reach a contractural agreement with EuroLeague MVP Sasha Vezenkov was widely recognized as “growing towards inevitable,” according to one of Marc Stein’s sources earlier in the month.
“I’m only thinking about how to become the champions of Greece and what will be the right decision for me at this moment,” Vezenkov said. “Nobody knows what will happen in a few years, so I will decide how to continue when the time comes.
“I feel very good when specialists and coaches say nice words [about me], but I know it’s a business and it’s all about how, what, and when,” he added. “We agreed that it would be fairest to finish the EuroLeague season and then talk. We’ll see if they have a specific offer. I’m ready for new challenges but, as I’ve said before, Athens and Olympiacos are my home and I feel great. For me, the most important thing is what’s best for my future.”
While that does not necessarily mean he’s set on sticking around in Europe for another season or more, it is the first sign of ambiguity about his plans in the coming months.
The Olympiacos star’s draft rights were acquired on the day of last year’s draft, but due to the cap room limitations in Sacramento at the time, the European star did not make the jump overseas.
After that had become clear, Vezenkov stated that there were some “big priorities” with his team. The understanding among European reporters was that, along with the cap factor, his desire to seal the deal and win a EuroLeague title was a factor in his decision to stay put.
In fact, before the final was played against Real Madrid, one European reported said that a championship win would pretty much secure Vezenkov’s move overseas.
So after narrowly losing the championship game and hearing him say that he’s “only thinking about how to become the champions of Greece,” it does raise questions about his potential move to the NBA.
There are other factors to consider as well.
Everyone seems to agree that Vezenkov’s shooting, basketball IQ, and toughness, among other things, make for a complementary fit with the Kings’ style of play. However, some more in tune with the European game have their doubts.
On a BasketNews podcast, there was some honest concern about what a move to the NBA could mean for the MVP.
The European analysts cited another talent from their continent that made the jump and did not find satisfaction. Nikolo Melli spent two seasons in the league and, according to the guys from BasketNews, the Italian sharpshooter eventually “had enough of the NBA because he felt he could do way more things” aside from being a mere spot up shooter.
The two also noted the oft cited concerns of athleticism and defense, saying the “NBA is just a different world” than it is in the EuroLeague, which might end up making Vezenkov a mere corner dweller or even a guy who doesn’t see the floor.
One of them also added that among the discussions he’s had with scouts, he “heard more skepticism than excitement.”
All of that has to be in the consideration of Vezenkov and his camp.
Furthermore, last summer, when Mike Brown went to Germany to see Vezenkov and the Bulgarian National Team play at EuroBasket, the Kings head coach highlighted another factor that can limit success in another league.
Brown cited Sasha Pavlovic from his Cleveland days, saying he thought Pavlovic “could’ve played longer” and have “had a bigger role” in the NBA. On that front, he attributed it as being “one of those things” where “sometimes guys get homesick” and want to go back home.
That can’t be factored out either. In his recent discussion with Bulgarian television, Vezenkov explicitly said “Athens and Olympiacos are [his] home” and later mentioned the importance of family support.
In all, it still appears more likely than not that Sasha Vezenkov comes over to play for Mike Brown and the Kings, but nothing can be ruled out at this point. And as the EuroLeague MVP prudently noted, “it’s a business” after all and thus “the most important thing is what’s best for [his] future.”