Sasha Vezenkov

Kings Expected To Renew Talks With EuroLeague MVP

The Kings are expected to renew contract talks with EuroLeague MVP Sasha Vezenkov in the coming weeks, according to Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee.

After ending their playoff drought this season, the Kings are in position to add another key piece to become a more serious title contender. Vezenkov is under contract with Olympiacos beyond this season, but has a buyout clause believed to be worth approximately 1.5 million Euros.

The 6-foot-9 Vezenkov averaged 17.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.9 assists during his MVP season while shooting 53.6% from the field, 37.8% from 3-point range and 87.9% at the free-throw line. He continued his stellar play in the postseason, scoring a championship-game record 29 points along with nine rebounds and four assists in a 79-78 loss to Real Madrid.

Sacramento acquired his rights from the Cavaliers in exchange for the 49th overall pick in last year’s draft. The Kings negotiated with Vezenkov last summer but couldn’t reach an agreement.

Prior to the EuroLeague playoffs, Sacramento coach Mike Brown said the Kings are eager to bring in Vezenkov.

“We’ll let him finish the season out and then we’ll talk to him, but we’ve obviously been highly, highly intrigued with him,” Brown said. “We made a trade to get his rights last year. … For us, the interest is at a high level, but we’ll let him finish the season and then he’ll make decisions as well as us when it’s time.”

Technically, teams must wait until after this year’s draft to begin negotiations with unsigned draft picks, including those from prior years, Anderson points out.

Those negotiations could impact whether the Kings re-sign unrestricted free agent Harrison Barnes. Last year’s lottery pick, Keegan Murray, had a solid rookie campaign and started 78 of 80 games at the other forward spot.

Pacific Notes: Paul, DeRozan, Myers, Vezenkov

The Sunsreported plans to fully guarantee Chris Paul‘s contract for next season don’t ensure that he’ll remain with the team, writes Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports. The veteran point guard’s $30.8MM salary for 2023/24 only carries a $15.8MM guarantee, and the front office must make its decision by June 28.

Bourguet argues that guaranteeing the deal before that date will make Paul easier to trade. He also wonders whether the rumor that the Suns’ “mindset” to have him as their starting point guard next season was leaked by the team ahead of trade talks or by Paul’s camp to make him more attractive to teams that might be interested in acquiring him.

At age 38, Paul is coming off another disappointing playoff exit that was related to injuries. This time, he suffered a left groin strain in Game 2 of the conference semifinals against the Nuggets that sidelined him for the rest of the series. Bourguet hears that Paul likely would have been able to play if the series had reached a seventh game, but Denver closed it out with a convincing victory in Game 6.

“That was the tough part about the injury, when, before he got hurt, you could just see the offense starting to figure out a few things,” former head coach Monty Williams said. “And then he comes up with an injury that he can’t control.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Bulls star and Los Angeles native DeMar DeRozan has gotten past the feeling that he needs to return home to play for the Clippers or Lakers someday, he said in an appearance on Paul George‘s podcast (hat tip to All Clippers). “I used to feel like that,” DeRozan said. “I used to think like, man I gotta play home so I could see what it’s like. It’s like I get it from both ways now. From home, and I’m able to represent home from where I’m playing. I’m at a stage now where I’m okay now if I don’t. It’s not like an ultimate desire of mine.” George admitted that he tried to recruit DeRozan to the Clippers as a free agent two years ago, but it wasn’t financially feasible.
  • As Bob Myers ponders his future, sources tell C.J. Holmes of The San Francisco Chronicle that the contract the Warriors offered would make him the highest-paid general manager in the NBA. Holmes also confirms that Myers is expected to talk to the media next week after spending this week at the draft combine in Chicago.
  • As he arrived in Lithuania for the Final Four, EuroLeague MVP Sasha Vezenkov didn’t address his NBA future, but he showed that he has been following the Kings, who own his rights, per a EuroHoops story. “In the playoffs, they did their best, but they were facing a superstar like Steph Curry,” Vezenkov said. “The competition in the NBA is really hard, there are so many superstars and ultimately only one gets the rings. However, the Kings had a great season.”

Pacific Notes: James, Moneke, Vezenkov, Suns, Winger

LeBron James twisted his left ankle in the late going of Game 2 against the Nuggets on Thursday but the Lakers’ superstar said he’ll play in Game 3, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. James, who has dealt with right foot problems this season, stepped on Anthony Davis‘ foot. “A little ankle [injury] isn’t going to stop me,” James said.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Chima Moneke, who played two games with the Kings this season before signing with AS Monaco in the EuroLeague, fully expects league MVP Sasha Vezenkov to play for his former NBA team next season, Aris Barkas of writes. Sacramento holds Vezenkov’s NBA rights. “I know that they love him over there. They’re really excited to bring him over,” Moneke said. “I believe they’re going to do what it takes to implement him on the team. I think he can contribute in a lot of ways.”
  • The Suns have gotten numerous inquiries from college coaches regarding their head coaching job, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic reports. While Rankin doesn’t reveal any specific names, he notes that owner Mat Ishbia is extremely close to his former college coach, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo.
  • Clippers general manager Michael Winger has interviewed with the Wizards in Washington’s search for a top executive. However, there’s skepticism around the league that Winger, one of the highest paid GMs in the league, will leave the stability of his current job, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports.

Sasha Vezenkov Named 2022/23 EuroLeague MVP

Kings draft-and-stash prospect Sasha Vezenkov has been named the Most Valuable Player in the EuroLeague for the 2022/23 season, the league formally announced today.

Vezenkov, a 6’9″ forward, was the EuroLeague’s leading scorer this season, averaging 17.2 points per game with an impressive .538/.385/.879 shooting line in 38 contests for the Greek team Olympiacos. He also grabbed 6.8 rebounds and handed out 1.8 assists per night.

Vezenkov’s strong play helped earn Olympiacos a spot in the EuroLeague Final Four, where they’ll face AS Monaco on Friday for the right to take on either Barcelona or Real Madrid for the EuroLeague championship on Sunday.

The Nets drafted Vezenkov with the 57th overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft, but his rights were flipped to Cleveland in the 2021 James Harden blockbuster and then to Sacramento last June in exchange for the No. 49 overall pick in the 2022 draft.

If Vezenkov is going to sign an NBA contract, he’ll have to do so with the Kings, and it sounds like there’s mutual interest between the two sides in making that happen this summer. The 27-year-old is under contract with Olympiacos beyond this season, but has a buyout clause in his deal that’s believed to be worth approximately 1.5 million Euros.

And-Ones: Trade Market, Front Offices, Coaches, EuroLeague, More

Tonight’s NBA draft lottery is highly anticipated due to the hype surrounding projected No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama. However, some league executives are more focused on the trade implications for the team that lands the top selection, noting that quality centers could be dealt to free up playing time and address other parts of the roster.

I’m as interested in what comes after the lottery as the lottery itself,” one general manager told Sean Deveney of “This could be a tidal wave after it gets decided.”

For example, if the Pistons land the top pick — which they have a 14% chance to do — an Eastern Conference executive speculated that Detroit could get an impressive return for Jalen Duren, who was recently named to the All-Rookie Second Team. However, it’s worth noting that the Pistons have shown no desire to move Duren to this point after trading for him during last June’s draft.

They probably could get a top-10 pick for him this year,” the executive said. “He has a lot of Robert Williams qualities, and he is like Williams because it might take a little time to polish. You can’t really play him and Wemby together, so he’d have to go. It would be crazy to see the market on him, he is still mostly upside.”

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Twenty-six clubs have been eliminated from title contention, but that doesn’t mean anyone is taking time off. In an interesting article for The Athletic, former league executives Seth Partnow and John Hollinger discuss the busiest time of the year for NBA front offices — the stretch that starts with the draft combine, which is currently ongoing, and runs through the first couple weeks of free agency.
  • Three of the past four championship-winning coaches are no longer with their former teams. The recent spate of dismissals — including Nick Nurse, Mike Budenholzer, Monty Williams and Doc Rivers — has left a negative imprint on some of the longest-tenured coaches, as Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press writes. “It’s disturbing,” said Erik Spoelstra, who has been the Heat’s head coach since 2008. “Doc’s a Hall of Famer. … There’s only so many teams that can advance. It’s just a really hard thing to do. Yeah, it’s been a tough couple weeks, hearing the news of just some really surprising firings.”
  • The All-EuroLeague First and Second Teams were recently announced (Twitter links), and several former NBA players made the cut. The First Team features Walter Tavares, Mathias Lessort, Lorenzo Brown, Sasha Vezenkov and Dzanan Musa, while Darius Thompson, Kevin Punter, Nikola Mirotic, Wade Baldwin and Mike James comprise the Second Team. A recent rumor indicated that Vezenkov, whose NBA rights are controlled by the Kings, is seriously mulling the possibility of coming stateside and making his debut next season.
  • Leonard Solms at profiles Samkelo Cele, who is hoping to become the second South African-born player to reach the NBA (the first was Steve Nash). Cele is currently competing in the Basketball Africa League.

Stein’s Latest: Kings, Vezenkov, Pistons, Ollie, Mavs, Lindsey, Ayton

Kings draft-and-stash prospect Sasha Vezenkov is seriously considering the possibility of making the move to the NBA for the 2023/24 season, reports Marc Stein in his latest Substack story. In fact, Stein says one source believes a deal between the two sides is “trending toward inevitable.”

The No. 57 pick in the 2017 draft, Vezenkov had his NBA rights acquired last offseason by Sacramento. A year later, both the Kings and Vezenkov are coming off hugely successful seasons and may be in a better position to team up than they were in 2022.

The Kings snapped a 16-year playoff drought by posting their best record since 2004/05, while Vezenkov had an MVP-caliber season in the EuroLeague. The 6’9″ forward averaged 17.6 points and 7.0 rebounds per game on .546/.398/.857 shooting in 33 games (28.7 MPG) for Olympiacos and is attempting to lead the Greek club to a EuroLeague title.

Vezenkov is under contract with Olympiacos beyond this season, but has a buyout clause in his deal that’s believed to be worth approximately 1.5 million Euros.

Stein shared a few more tidbits from around the NBA at Substack. Here are the highlights:

  • Pistons general manager Troy Weaver is believed to be a major supporter of head coaching candidate Kevin Ollie, according to Stein, who says the belief in coaching circles entering this week’s interviews with finalists was that Ollie was the frontrunner for Detroit’s open position. James L. Edwards III of The Athletic first suggested last week that Ollie may be in the lead for that job.
  • After reporting last month that the Mavericks were in advanced negotiations with former Jazz executive Dennis Lindsey, Stein says Lindsey has joined the Mavs as a special advisor to general manager Nico Harrison and will be part of Dallas’ front office contingent at next week’s draft combine in Chicago.
  • In the wake of the Suns‘ elimination from the postseason, a league-wide consensus that Deandre Ayton has played his last game for the team is “quickly forming,” Stein writes. We wrote earlier today about the expectation that the former No. 1 overall pick will be on the trade block this offseason.

Kings Notes: Sabonis, Brown, Vezenkov, Lyles, Offseason

Kings center Domantas Sabonis received a $1.3MM bonus for being named to the All-NBA Third Team on Wednesday, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN.

The 27-year-old had a career year in his first full season with Sacramento, appearing in 79 games (34.6 MPG) while averaging 19.1 PPG and a league-leading 12.3 RPG. He also posted career highs in assists (7.3) and field goal percentage (61.5%) in helping lead the Kings to the No. 3 seed in the West, snapping their record-long playoff drought in the process.

Sabonis previously earned a $1.3MM bonus earlier in 2022/23 for making his third All-Star team. Both bonuses were considered unlikely this season, but that will change for next season — his cap hit for ’23/24 will now be $22MM instead of $19.4MM due to those bonuses being considered likely.

Here’s more out of Sacramento:

  • In an interview with Greek outlet (YouTube link), head coach Mike Brown spoke glowingly about Olympiacos star Sasha Vezenkov, whose NBA rights are controlled by the Kings. Brown traveled overseas to watch Vezenkov — a favorite for EuroLeague MVP — compete in the playoffs. “The way we play, he fits in really good,” Brown said. “He shoots the three ball. He’s got size. He’s got toughness. He rebounds. All those things are exciting with the way we play the game of basketball, so we’ll let him finish out his season, and then we’ll make decisions from there.” Brown added that the Kings were “highly, highly intrigued” with the 27-year-old.
  • James Ham of explores Trey Lyles‘ impending free agency and how he might fit in long term with the Kings, noting that the reserve big man has been open about his desire to return to Sacramento.
  • Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee provides his offseason preview for the Kings. How they’ll use their three draft picks and if they’ll re-sign Harrison Barnes are among the big questions the team faces.
  • In case you missed it, point guard De’Aaron Fox also earned a spot on the All-NBA Third Team. If he makes another All-NBA team in ’23/24 or ’24/25, he’ll be eligible for a super-max extension in 2025.

Kings Notes: Defense, Sabonis, Barnes, Vezenkov, Murray

The Kings‘ 118.6 offensive rating this season was easily the best mark in the NBA, but their 116.0 defensive rating was the worst of any of the 16 teams that made the playoffs. It’s no surprise then that general manager Monte McNair identified upgrading the defense as a top priority for Sacramento this offseason, per Eduardo Razo of NBC Sports Bay Area.

Still, McNair made it clear that he doesn’t want defensive upgrades to come at the expense of the Kings’ NBA-best offense, stressing that the front office will need to find a way to balance those efforts.

“You always want to continue to shore up your deficiencies, but you don’t want to pull on one string and you lose another,” McNair said. “So we’re going to have to do it in a way that we were able to put all the things we need on the floor for both offense and defense. So, yeah, I don’t know, delicate balance. Everybody has the same challenge, but yes, we need to maintain and improve. We can’t just make trade-offs that keep us in the same spot.”

Here’s more on the Kings:

  • Domantas Sabonis will be extension-eligible this summer and the new CBA will allow the Kings to give him a 40% raise (instead of 20%) in an extension offer. Still, that may not be enough to entice him to sign a deal, writes Anthony Slater of The Athletic. An extension for Sabonis could be worth up to $27.1MM in 2024/25, whereas his maximum salary as a free agent that summer may exceed $42MM. “Domas is a huge part of what we do,” McNair told reporters on Wednesday. “We’re going to do all we can to keep him here and build around him.”
  • Asked about Harrison Barnes‘ possible future in Sacramento, McNair referred to the free-agent-to-be as “a pretty fantastic part of our team,” per Slater, and suggested the Kings will have conversations in the coming weeks about retaining Barnes.
  • McNair praised the season that draft-and-stash prospect Sasha Vezenkov has had in Greece for Olympiacos and told reporters that a decision on the standout EuroLeague forward will be made later in the summer (Twitter video link via Deuce Mason). Vezenkov is under contract with Olympiacos through 2025, but could be bought out of that deal.
  • Keegan Murray didn’t come close to averaging 20 points per game in his first NBA season like Rookie of the Year winner Paolo Banchero, but McNair made the case this week that the Kings forward was the standout player in his draft class for another reason. “A rookie who started seven games in a playoff series, was, I believe, the most winning impact rookie on the court this year,” McNair said, per Tristi Rodriguez of NBC Sports Bay Area. “While we didn’t ask him to come in and shoot 30 shots, he certainly could have, he was the leading scorer in college basketball last year. But to come in and know what we need, which was to actually defend multiple positions, hit shots, cut to the basket, play off of our veterans, I thought it was a fantastic year for him.”
  • Chris Biderman of The Sacramento Bee explores whether it’s realistic for the Kings to attempt to emulate the Warriors’ championship blueprint.

Pacific Notes: Davis, Vezenkov, Lamb, Bazley

Terence Davis, an unrestricted free agent after the season, has seen his playing time plunge this month. He got a chance to play big minutes on Saturday due to injuries and delivered a 21-point, seven-rebound game for the Kings, Chris Biderman of The Sacramento Bee writes. Davis acknowledged that he needed an outing like that.

“I haven’t been playing well,” the Kings guard said. “So that’s just point-blank, period. I haven’t been playing well. I haven’t been locked in, honestly. I’m just trying to get that rhythm back. The opportunity opened back up for me and I was able to take advantage of it.”

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Kings GM Monte McNair and VP of player personnel Phil Jabour traveled to Greece to watch draft-and-stash prospect Sasha Vezenkov play, columnist Shot Vetakis tweets. The Olympiacos Piraeus forward is considered the favorite for the EuroLeague MVP award, according to Javier Gancedo of Kings players have endorsed bringing in Vezenkov, who is averaging 18.2 points and 7.2 rebounds in 28 EuroLeague contests this season.
  • Anthony Lamb‘s new contract with the Warriors only covers the rest of the season, Hoops Rumors has confirmed. That will make Lamb a restricted free agent after the season. The swingman was promoted from a two-way deal to a standard contract on Friday.
  • Forward Darius Bazley said that getting traded from the Thunder to the Suns jolted him, per Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. “It was kind of tough,” Bazley said. “When it first happened, it was one of those moments when you’re like, ‘Dang.’ That’s all I knew. A lot of those guys, I’ve been with them since I first came here.  In the NBA, your teammates and staff, you spend more time with them than you do your own families.” A restricted free agent this summer if extended a qualifying offer, Bazley has only made two cameos with the Suns.

Pacific Notes: James, Vezenkov, Craig, Okogie

LeBron James has battled knee soreness recently but he vows to stay on the court for the remainder of the season, Joe Vardon of The Athletic writes. James doesn’t want the Lakers to miss the playoffs for a second consecutive year.

“These are 23 of the most important games of my career,” James said on Sunday. “I’m going to figure out ways to make sure I’m available and on the floor for every single one of these 23 (Lakers) games.”

The Lakers, who have the Western Conference’s 13th-best record, are two games behind the Thunder for the final play-in spot.

“I want to make a push to make the playoffs,” the Lakers superstar said. “I see myself not being kept out of the postseason two years straight. That’s not part of my DNA. We’re sitting here talking about the (scoring) record, things of that nature, but I’m more passionate about us trying to make the postseason and give us another chance to hold the Larry O’Brien Trophy. That’s what I am cut from.”

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • De’Aaron Fox believes Sasha Vezenkov would fit right in with the Kings, Sacramento radio reporter Sean Cunningham tweets. “Obviously, we would love for him to come over and just add to our team. I feel like you can never have a team that’s too deep,” Fox said. Kings assistant coach Jay Triano visited Europe this week to scout the EuroLeague star, whose NBA rights are held by Sacramento. Domantas Sabonis also endorses bringing in Vezenkov, who is having a stellar season in Greece for Olympiacos, according to “He’s a great player, very talented. He’s playing great in Europe with Olympiacos. They’re doing amazing in EuroLeague. I don’t know what he’s thinking, but we obviously would love to have him here,” Sabonis said.
  • Torrey Craig and Josh Okogie are vying for the final spot in the Suns starting lineup following the addition of Kevin Durant, Dana Scott of Arizona Republic notes. They’re not sure what coach Monty Williams will do. “I’m pretty sure the coaches will figure it out. The same with the second unit, don’t know how it’s going to look either. So I guess you’ll have to wait and see,” Craig said.
  • In case you missed it, the Clippers signed shooting guard Nate Darling to a two-way contract. Get the details here.