Sasha Vezenkov

Pacific Notes: C. Johnson, D. Lee, Kuminga, Vezenkov

Suns forward Cameron Johnson, who is recovering from knee surgery and has been out since November 4, has played some 1-on-1 but isn’t yet taking contract, head coach Monty Williams said on Wednesday (Twitter video link via Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic).

While Johnson has a few more hurdles to clear before he’s ready to get back onto the court for the Suns, general manager James Jones indicated on Wednesday that the 26-year-old is entering the final stage of his rehab process, according to Kellan Olson of Arizona Sports 98.7.

“He’s in the latter stages of it but as far as a definitive timeline I don’t have anything,” Jones said during a radio appearance on Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo. “I do know at some point soon we should get him back. I just can’t tell you if that’s going to be in five days, 10 days, but every day he’s getting closer.”

The banged-up Suns have also been without Devin Booker, Chris Paul, Deandre Ayton, Cameron Payne, and Landry Shamet as of late, so getting Johnson back would provide the team with a huge lift.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Current Suns and former Warriors guard Damion Lee, Stephen Curry‘s brother-in-law, finally got his 2022 championship ring when his team played in Golden State on Tuesday. Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic takes an in-depth look at what was a memorable day for Lee, who helped upset his old team by going 14-for-14 from the free throw line and scoring a season-high 22 points.
  • With Jonathan Kuminga getting close to returning from a right foot sprain that has kept him out of action since December 30, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said he’ll welcome the “physicality and athleticism” the second-year forward brings to the lineup. “I thought last game against Phoenix (on Tuesday) we were not physical enough,” Kerr said, per Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area. “Phoenix came in and really took it to us. They were physical, they were aggressive on the boards.”
  • In an interview with BasketNews, Kings draft-and-stash prospect Sasha Vezenkov clarified that the extension he recently signed with Olympiacos in Greece doesn’t rule out the possibility of him making a move to the NBA this summer or in a future season, since the deal includes a buyout estimated to be worth $1.5MM. “Before the contract and after the contract, I’m in the same position,” Vezenkov said.

Pacific Notes: Vezenkov, Walker, Leonard, Williams

Sasha Vezenkov may not play for the Kings in the near future. The EuroLeague star has signed a contract extension with Olympiacos through the 2024/25 season, relays.

The Kings acquired the NBA rights to Vezenkov, 27, from Cleveland in a draft-day trade. However, the contract does include a buyout of over one million euros (approximately $1.1MM in U.S. dollars). He was named to the All-EuroLeague First Team last season and is enjoying another highly productive season.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Lonnie Walker IV will miss his second straight game on Monday against the Hornets because of a tailbone contusion, Dave McMenamin of ESPN tweets. Walker is averaging 14.7 points in his first season with the Lakers.
  • Kawhi Leonard is listed as questionable for the Clippers’ game against Miami on Monday due to a non-COVID illness, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times tweets. Leonard has averaged 23.2 points in his last four games.
  • Suns coach Monty Williams believes the adversity the team is going through could be beneficial in the long run, according to Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic (Twitter link). Williams suggested that when Phoenix cruised to the league’s best record last season, things may have come too easy. “Last year, I felt like we won, but we didn’t learn. I love winning, but I think it’s a benefit to your program to continue to learn, and win. … I think all of this is going to pay dividends for us going forward, if we learn,” Williams said.

And-Ones: Cousins, Howard, Vezenkov, 2023 Draft

Appearing on the All The Smoke podcast with Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson, Warriors president of basketball operations Bob Myers said that free agent big man DeMarcus Cousins got in touch with him in October to ask why he’s not in the NBA, as Tristi Rodriguez of NBC Sports Bay Area writes.

According to Myers, he explained to Cousins that because of his reputation as a potentially disruptive locker-room presence, the veteran center has to go above and beyond what people expect from him.

“I said, ‘You want that answer? … Because people are afraid of how you’re going to act,'” Myers said. “And he’s like, ‘Why?’ And I said, ‘Well whatever the reason is, it’s here now.’ And I like DeMarcus. … I can’t blame him for him because of all he’s been through.

“… I said, ‘Here’s the issue, you have to act better. To get back, you can’t just be average. You’ve got to convince people.’ And that’s not really fair, but that’s just what it is.”

As Dario Skerletic of Sportando relayed earlier this week, reports out of Taiwain have indicated that Cousins could follow in Dwight Howard‘s footsteps and join a Taiwainese team, but that has yet to be confirmed.

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

  • Speaking of Howard, the three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year will miss the next couple weeks for the Taoyuan Leopards due to a knee injury, his Taiwanese club announced (story via Howard, who logged 91 total minutes during a back-to-back set last weekend and averaged 30.5 PPG, 17.0 RPG, and 9.5 APG in the two games, said his body is still adjusting to playing so much.
  • In other international basketball news, Olympiacos forward Sasha Vezenkov won the EuroLeague’s “MVP of the Round” award on Saturday for the fourth time in 10 weeks so far this season, per a press release. Vezenkov, whose NBA rights were acquired by the Kings this past summer, is one of five draft-and-stash players we highlighted on Friday as candidates to eventually make an impact in the NBA. He ranks second in the EuroLeague with 20.1 points per game.
  • Sam Vecenie of The Athletic prefaces his list of top 100 prospects by observing that the 2023 NBA draft looks “wide open” outside of the top 10, with a ton of first-round slots potentially up for grabs depending on which players have strong seasons. Vecenie adds that several of this year’s highest-rated freshman have been slowed by injuries or have underperformed in the early going, making the class more difficult to evaluate.

Five Draft-And-Stash Players Worth Knowing

Not every player drafted in a given year signs an NBA contract right away. Each year, at least a handful of draftees are “stashed” either in the G League or in various professional leagues around the world. The NBA team that drafted the player retains his exclusive NBA rights as he continues to develop his skills elsewhere.

Some of these players never end up making it to the NBA, whether by choice or because they don’t turn into an NBA-caliber contributor. Their draft rights eventually become more useful as placeholders in minor trades than for the possibility of the player coming stateside.

But many draft-and-stash players do eventually turn into useful contributors. Bogdan Bogdanovic, Davis Bertans, Cedi Osman, Dario Saric, Willy Hernangomez, Raul Neto, and Furkan Korkmaz are among the current NBA veterans who were stashed for at least one year after being drafted before signing an NBA contract.

Another member of that group? Nuggets star Nikola Jokic, the 41st pick in the 2014 draft, who remained in Serbia for a year before signing with Denver in 2015.

None of the players currently being stashed overseas are likely to turn into a Jokic-esque superstar at the NBA level, but there are certainly a few who look capable of cracking a rotation sooner or later.

Here are five of the most noteworthy draft-and-stash played worth keeping an eye on at the moment:

Vasilije Micic

  • Current team: Anadolu Efes (EuroLeague)
  • Drafted: 2014 (No. 52 overall)
  • NBA rights held by: Oklahoma City Thunder

Long considered one of the best guards in Europe, Micic was the EuroLeague’s Most Valuable Player in 2021 and has been named the MVP of the league’s Final Four in each of the last two seasons.

It looked like there was a chance he’d make his way to the NBA for the 2022/23 season, but there were a number of hurdles to overcome. Micic was reportedly seeking a salary close to the full mid-level exception and wanted a real, defined role rather than just coming over to sit on the bench.

The biggest roadblock may have been the fact that his NBA rights are held by the Thunder — the Serbian would reportedly prefer to join a contender, and Oklahoma City remains very much in the rebuilding stage.

Despite some offseason trade rumors, the Thunder ultimately held onto Micic and he opted to re-sign with Anadolu Efes in Turkey. He’s once again thriving in EuroLeague play, ranking third in points per game (18.9) and second in assists per game (6.6) through nine appearances.

Micic will turn 29 in January, so if he wants to try to make his mark in the NBA, it probably has to happen soon.

Sasha Vezenkov

  • Current team: Olympiacos (EuroLeague)
  • Drafted: 2017 (No. 57 overall)
  • NBA rights held by: Sacramento Kings

Vezenkov is coming off his best season in 2021/22, having led the Greek Basket League in scoring en route to an MVP award and a championship. He also earned a spot on the All-EuroLeague First Team.

The 27-year-old forward has looked even better so far in the ’22/23 season. Through 10 EuroLeague games, he’s second in scoring (20.1 PPG) and first in rebounding (8.7 RPG), leading Olympiacos to a 7-3 record.

After acquiring Vezenkov’s rights from Cleveland in a draft-day trade, the Kings reportedly planned to meet with him during the Las Vegas Summer League to discuss his future. However, that meeting didn’t end up taking place and Sacramento ultimately didn’t sign Vezenkov for the 2022/23 season.

It’s unclear whether it was the Kings or Vezenkov who backed off a potential deal, but based on how this season has played out so far, there’s reason to believe both sides could be more interested in teaming up next summer. Sacramento is off to a 10-7 start and has one of the NBA’s most exciting offenses, while Vezenkov is making a legitimate case for a EuroLeague MVP consideration.

Juhann Begarin

  • Current team: Paris Basketball (EuroCup)
  • Drafted: 2021 (No. 45 overall)
  • NBA rights held by: Boston Celtics

Still only 20 years old, Begarin played a significant role for Paris Basketball last season during the team’s first year in France’s top league (LNB Pro A) and is doing so again in 2022/23. The French shooting guard is a long-distance threat who showed off his scoring ability in Las Vegas this July, averaging 18.2 PPG in five games for Boston’s Summer League team.

It makes sense that a team with title aspirations like the Celtics wasn’t necessarily eager to bring over a 20-year-old prospect right away, but it seems like it’ll be just a matter of time before he gets his shot.

Former NBA assistant Will Weaver, who is now Paris’ head coach, raved about Begarin last month, referring to him as an NBA-caliber player who “can make an impact in Boston.”

Filip Petrusev

  • Current team: Crvena zvezda (EuroLeague)
  • Drafted: 2021 (No. 50 overall)
  • NBA rights held by: Philadelphia 76ers

Still just 22 years old, Petrusev already has an impressive international résumé. He was named Most Valuable Player of the Adriatic League (ABA) in 2021 as a member of Mega Basket, then won a EuroLeague title with Micic and Anadolu Efes in 2022.

The forward/center is currently playing for Crvena zvezda in his home country of Serbia and has been an effective role player in 10 EuroLeague appearances, averaging 7.0 PPG and 4.7 RPG on .543/.455/.625 shooting in 18.4 MPG. In five ABA games, his shooting percentages have been even better (.609/.800/.824).

Petrusev was reportedly interested in joining the Sixers this past summer, but there wasn’t room for him on a veteran-heavy roster. He has since expressed confidence in Philadelphia’s “plan” for him and said he believes competing in the EuroLeague will be a boon for his development.

Gabriele Procida

  • Current team: Alba Berlin (EuroLeague)
  • Drafted: 2022 (No. 36 overall)
  • NBA rights held by: Detroit Pistons

Procida is one of eight prospects who are playing in international leagues this season after being selected in the 2022 draft. The Italian wing was the first of those eight players to come off the board in June and may be the most intriguing of the bunch at the moment.

Although he’s only 20 years old, Procida is playing a rotation role for Alba Berlin in EuroLeague competition, averaging 7.2 PPG with a .351 3PT% in 16.7 minutes per contest.

Procida’s contract with Alba Berlin is a three-year deal and details about possible NBA outs haven’t been reported, so it’s unclear if and when we might see him in the NBA. However, he told Orazio Cauchi of BasketNews that the Pistons are in frequent contact with him and visited him in Berlin, so it sounds like he’s in the club’s plans going forward.

Pacific Notes: Ayton, Williams, Nunn, Lakers’ Staff, Vezenkov

The Suns matched the Pacers’ four-year, $133MM offer sheet for Deandre Ayton but there’s still some lingering tensions between the center and coach Monty Williams. Ayton said on Tuesday he still hasn’t spoken with Williams since he was benched during the Game 7 conference semifinals loss to the Mavericks in the spring.

“I haven’t spoken to him at all, ever since the game,” Ayton told ESPN’s Brian Windhorst and other media members. Asked what he plans to say to Williams when they do speak, Ayton replied, “I can show him better than I can tell him. It’s life. Nobody cares about the uncomfortable nature of it, it’s how you perform and what you bring to the table. What’s said is already said.”

Williams believes he’ll be able to mend fences with Ayton.

“I think 1-on-1s are always needed between guys I’ve been around for awhile,” Williams said. “Some guys need it and some guys don’t. I’ll identify that as the season progresses. I’ll talk to everybody as I always do during camp and it won’t be an issue at all.”

If things can’t be worked out, Phoenix will have to wait before finding a new home for Ayton. He’s not eligible to be dealt until January 15.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • After missing all of last season due to a knee injury, Lakers guard Kendrick Nunn was a full participant in the team’s first practice on Tuesday, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register tweets“Getting the rhythm back and feeling good on the floor with no injuries, feeling pain-free and able to play is everything for me,” he said. “So today was a good day for me.”
  • The Lakers officially announced Darvin Ham‘s coaching staff in a press releaseChris Jent, Jordan Ott, J.D. DuBois, Schuyler Rimmer and Zach Peterson are the newcomers, joining Phil Handy, Dru Anthrop and Jon Pastorek.
  • The Kings expressed some interest in European star Sasha Vezenkov this offseason but he decided to stay at least for one more season with Greece’s Olympiacos. Vezenkov, a 2017 second-round pick, believes he made the right move, according to Achilleas Mavrodontis of “It was the first summer in a long time that there was some solid talk, and the Kings showed interest,” he said. “Based on the information, what I heard, and what I had on the table, I decided that the best option for me was Olynpiacos. I don’t look back. I always stand by my decisions. I’m trying to prove that it was the best choice.”

Western Notes: Gobert, Mitchell, Jazz, Westbrook, Vezenkov

Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert had some differences with Donovan Mitchell over the years but he feels his former Jazz teammate will thrive with the Cavaliers, he told Antonis Stroggylakis of

“I think he has a bright future,” Gobert said. “He’s one of the best young players in his position. He’s going to keep getting better. I think it’s a great opportunity for him to just get to a new system, a new team and be able to show what he can do.”

Gobert also praised Utah executive Danny Ainge for the players and draft picks he collected from Cleveland in the trade: “I think he definitely did a great job in getting as many assets as possible.”

We have more Western Conference news:

  • Jazz fans will need to get acquainted with all the players the team has acquired in the Gobert, Mitchell and Patrick Beverley trades. Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune takes a quick look at each of the acquisitions, highlighted by Collin Sexton and lottery pick Ochai Agbaji.
  • Russell Westbrook is expected to show up if LeBron James hosts a players-only minicamp before Lakers training camp, as James has often done in the past, Marc Stein reports in Substack article. The mini-camp would help ease any lingering tensions among their veteran players. Citing well-placed sources, Stein adds that the franchise won’t sit out Westbrook if he remains on the roster, unlike what the Rockets did with John Wall last season. New coach Darvin Ham will carve out a role for Westbrook if he’s not dealt.
  • Kings draft-and-stash prospect Sasha Vezenkov said he’s not focused on a potential jump to the NBA for the 2023/24 season, according to Semih Tuna of “It’s a big season, I have a big priority with my team Olympiacos in what will be a very difficult year,” he said. “My only thought is to stay focused and stay healthy, to give everything I can [to Olympiacos]. And then we will see. Next summer is ten months away.” Vezenkov, 27, was a 2017 second-round pick. The Bulgarian star is the leading scorer in the EuroBasket event.

Kings Sign Chima Moneke, Won’t Bring Over Sasha Vezenkov

JULY 18: The Kings have officially signed Moneke, Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee tweets.

JULY 15: The Kings are signing free agent forward Chima Moneke, sources tell Sean Cunningham of Fox 40 KTXL (All Twitter links).

According to RealGM, Moneke started his college career with Northeast Community College prior to transferring to UC Davis. In 21 games (30 MPG) as a senior for the Aggies, he averaged 18.4 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 1.0 SPG and 1.1 BPG on .515/.375/.714 shooting.

After going undrafted in 2018, Moneke has played internationally for teams in France and Spain, first competing in the French LNB Pro B league before receiving a promotion to Orléans Loiret Basket of LNB Pro A, the top league in France, in 2020/21.

Last season he played for Baxi Manresa of Liga ACB, the top Spanish league, averaging 14.5 PPG, 8.2 RPG and 1.6 SPG on .521/.290/.735 shooting in 36 games (30 starts, 24.1 MPG). He was also named the MVP of the Basketball Champions League with Baxi Manresa in ’21/22.

As Cunningham details, Moneke has ties to the organization due to the Nigerian national team, which was led by head coach Mike Brown and also featured associate head coach Jordi Fernandez and assistant coach Luke Loucks. The 6’6″ forward should bring an infusion of defense and athleticism to Sacramento, Cunningham adds.

According to Cunningham’s sources, the Kings will not be bringing over Sasha Vezenkov for the upcoming season. Sacramento acquired Vezenkov’s rights in a draft-day swap with the Cavaliers. The Kings still might bring him over in the future, just not for 2022/23, Cunningham reports.

The terms of Moneke’s contract were not disclosed by Cunningham, but as our roster count tracker shows, the Kings only have 12 players on the standard 15-man roster at the moment, so he could be given a chance for one of those spots.

Pacific Notes: Biyombo, Wiseman, Haliburton, Vezenkov

According to Suns center Bismack Biyombo, “winning teams” showed interest in him in free agency and he potentially could’ve made more money elsewhere, but he’s comfortable in Phoenix and believes the team’s system allows him to “excel,” writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic.

Biyombo also said that he’s looking forward to being a Sun from day one this season after joining the team midway through the 2021/22 campaign.

“All the structure was set, and you’re kind of catching a rhythm of a team and trying to join the dance,” Biyombo said. “I think it’s always good to start the dance at the beginning, which is training camp. Have a better understanding of the team.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Warriors center James Wiseman looked good in his return to the court on Sunday in Las Vegas, scoring 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting and blocking a couple shots in 19 minutes, writes Kendra Andrews of ESPN. It’s an encouraging first step for the former No. 2 overall pick, who missed the entire 2021/22 season due to a knee injury. “Walking into the locker room after the game and all the players cheering for him I think he can kind of (say), ‘Ah, I can breathe again,'” Warriors Summer League coach Jama Mahlalela told ESPN. “Every conversation I have with him is, ‘I am so proud of you but now the real work begins.'”
  • Now a member of the Pacers, Tyrese Haliburton says he still has love for Sacramento, despite unexpectedly being traded to Indiana prior to the 2022 deadline. Haliburton told Sean Cunningham of Fox 40 in Sacramento (video link) that his feelings toward the Kings organization and Kings fans are “completely different” from one another.
  • After having his NBA rights acquired by the Kings in June, Olympiacos forward Sasha Vezenkov had reportedly planned to meet with the team in Las Vegas this month. However, Vezenkov isn’t traveling stateside after all, according to Vangelis Ioannou of, and he recently made comments hinting he may remain in Greece for the 2022/23 season, per Antonis Stroggylakis of Vezenkov has an NBA opt-out deadline of July 20 in his deal with Olympiacos, so he’ll have another nine days to see if he and the Kings can work out a deal. Sacramento has a small portion of its mid-level exception available to offer the 26-year-old more than two years, or could dip into its bi-annual exception to offer a two-year deal worth more than the rookie minimum.

Pacific Notes: Murray, Vezenkov, Santos, Leonard

Kings first-round pick Keegan Murray put on a show Saturday in the California Classic Summer League, writes Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. The No. 4 selection posted 26 points and eight rebounds in 28 minutes and drew a vocal crowd reaction with his array of moves.

“My goal going in was, obviously, get the win first,” Murray said. “I knew that was a big thing for me, and just play my game. Don’t do anything out of the ordinary. Don’t do anything I was uncomfortable doing. Just stick to what I do best, and that’s knock down shots and get rebounds, so I just stuck to it.”

Murray said he wasn’t nervous heading into his first game as a professional and he was encouraged after seeing his first shot fall. He wound up shooting 10 of 14 from the field, including 4 of 5 from three-point range, and impressed his coaches and teammates with his efficiency.

“Every time, it seems like he does the right thing,” Summer League coach Jordi Fernandez said. “He doesn’t force it. He makes it look simple, and, as you guys know, when you watch a professional athlete that, whatever he does looks simple, that is usually a really good professional athlete. Overall, I think the kid is very special. What we saw in college, I’m seeing it right now, and if I have to — well, I cannot bet because this is the NBA, but if I could, I’m going to say that he’s going to be a very, very, very good NBA player.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Sasha Vezenkov, whose draft rights were acquired last month in a trade with Cleveland, will meet with the Kings during the Las Vegas Summer League to discuss his future, according to Stavros Barbarousis of Eurohoops. The 26-year-old forward is under contract with Olympiacos, but he has NBA opt-outs this summer and in 2023.
  • Gui Santos, a second-round pick by the Warriors, also had an impressive Summer League debut, notes Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area. The 21-year-old swingman out of Brazil had 23 points, six rebounds and three steals. “Before the game, I was nervous because it’s a different game here,” Santos said. “I’m playing outside of my country and my family is not here. But when I started to play, I gained confidence. Catching the ball and making the plays, I started to feel better.” Golden State will likely keep Santos overseas for another year or two, but that decision hasn’t been finalized.
  • Clippers owner Steve Ballmer believes “the sky is the limit” for his team, especially if Kawhi Leonard can make a full comeback from the torn right ACL that prevented him from playing this season, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

Cavaliers Acquire 49th Pick From Kings

3:13pm: The Kings have officially announced the trade, reports Sean Cunningham of Fox 40 KTXL (via Twitter).

11:59am: The Cavaliers will pick up a second-round draft choice in a trade with the Kings, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Cleveland will send the draft rights to Sasha Vezenkov to Sacramento in exchange for pick No. 49 in tonight’s draft.

The Cavs will also ship $1.75MM to the Kings in the deal, according to Chris Fedor of (Twitter link).

Cleveland now has three second-round picks at 39, 49 and 56, along with a first-rounder at No. 14. The Kings are left with picks No. 4 and 37.

Vezenkov, a 26-year-old forward, was a first-team All-EuroLeague selection this season, Wojnarowski notes. He has played for Olympiacos in Greece for the last several seasons and averaged 13.8 PPG and 5.6 RPG on .547/.388/.840 shooting in 31 EuroLeague games (29.6 MPG) in 2022/23.

Vezenkov was drafted by the Nets with the 57th pick in 2017, and his NBA rights were sent to Cleveland in the 2021 James Harden trade.