Is Vezenkov’s game NBA ready?

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The 2022-23 Euroleague MVP, Sasha Vezenkov, had another impressive season for Olympiacos – leading his team to the Final Four again, falling to eventual champion Real Madrid

Unfortunately, this season’s playoff exit follows last year’s heartbreaking defeat to Efes, courtesy of an epic Vasilije Micic buzzer beater; and as the off-season begins, the big question is whether or not Vezenkov will make the long-awaited move to the NBA with the Sacramento Kings, or run it back with Olympiacos in the Euroleague? 

The team at AGS explored his Euroleague season and potential role/impact in the NBA next season.

Euroleague Season in Review

The 6´9 forward left his mark on the competition, 1st in scoring (17.6 PPG) and 3rd in rebounding (6.8) while breaking two individual records: highest PIR in a single season (859), most field goals made (261).

He played close to 29 minutes per game and finished top 15 in both 2-pointers made (4.6 per game) and 3-pointers made (2 per game), displaying his offensive versatility while shooting an efficient 53.6%.  

Apart from scoring, he controlled the defensive boards (5.2 per/1st in EL) and proved to be a decent passer for a stretch forward (1.9 Ast per).

When looking at Vezenkov´s offensive portfolio, a couple of things stand out:

  • He moves tremendously without the ball and with his quick release + size, he can get his jump shot off against anyone 
  • He is a constant threat in catch-and-shoot situations and must be guarded each possession
  • 47.2% of his FGA are jumpers, and 82.6% of these jumpers are catch and shoot 
  • 36.6% of FGA are at the rim, 86% are layups – he always cuts and looks for easy finishes

His jump shot, willingness to move without the ball, and ability to find open spots are qualities that will translate nicely to the NBA.

NBA Outlook

Vezenkov will have to make a major decision that considers his NBA Buyout (that he or the Kings will have to pay) along with the salary Sacramento can realistically offer.

For the Kings, Venzenkov plays the same position as Harrison Barnes, who will become a free agent this summer, but the similarities between players are why the transition for Venzenkov can make sense: 

5.23-point attempts4.3
12.1Field Goal Attempts9.65
30.3%Spot up Scoring (percentage of total offense)33.1%
82.6%Catch and Shoot (percentage of overall jump shots)71.7%
36.6%Percentage of overall FGA that come directly at the rim38.2

Vezenkov had a higher usage percentage for Olympiacos (24.78) while Barnes played a lesser role (17.07). Another major difference between the two players is off-dribble shooting, accounting for 27% of Barnes’ jump shots, compared to 16.5% of Vezenkov’s. However, playing alongside De´Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis would lessen the need for Vezenkov to create his own shots.

More specifically, within Mike Brown’s fast-paced offense, and because of how well Vezenkov moves without the ball, he will get a lot of easy looks to capitalize on, including behind the perimeter.

Final Thoughts

  • A player of Vezenkov’s caliber and skill will not have many problems adapting to the style of play in the NBA, but potentially the pace. Per 48 minutes, Olympiacos averaged 71.1 FGA per game while the Kings averaged 88.2, roughly 17 possessions more per game
  • Vezenkov’s game is similar to Harrison Barnes, so with his size and rebounding capabilities, he has an opportunity to be a factor at the 4, or as a big 3, and is a good fit for the King’s system 
  • His outside shooting, natural scoring instincts, and constant movement without the ball will all translate smoothly