Trent? Vezenkov? Raptors roster looks complete, for now

Raptors used up most of flexibility with Kings trade, Brown option.

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There’s a lot of interest in Greece about the future of Sasha Vezenkov, but not so much in Toronto.

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Vezenkov, the 2022-23 Euroleague MVP and leading scorer, was acquired from the Sacramento Kings after his lone NBA season, but reports surfaced this month that he would be heading back to Olympiacos in Greece. However, the European media jumped the gun, as the situation is more complicated than the sweet-shooting big man simply packing up his stuff and leaving North America. Vezenkov is owed $6.65 million U.S. by the Raptors (with Toronto owning a team option for the 2025-26 season) and would likely have to agree to a large buyout covering all or the vast majority of the $6.65 million to get the Raptors to agree to let him go.

It isn’t so much about what Vezenkov can provide on the court. He’s turning 29 next month, so doesn’t really fit Toronto’s timeline, though you can never have enough shooting. But the Raptors might want to use his salary alone or with other players on expiring deals like Bruce Brown or Chris Boucher later in the season.

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Which is probably why team president Masai Ujiri told reporters gathered Monday for the contract signings of Scottie Barnes and Immanuel Quickley that nothing has yet been decided concerning Vezenkov.

“We’re still going through that situation. I had conversations with Sasha, his representation (George Roussakis and Mark Bartelstein, who also rep Raptors guard Garrett Temple, free agent forward Jordan Nwora and former Raptor Dennis Schroder, amongst others), (general manager Bobby Webster, Darko Rajakovic), and I think that should develop in the next few days or we’ll see whether it’s a few months,” Ujiri said.

“We acquired a player in a trade and we feel we’ve communicated well. We communicated well with the agent and the team before and so we’ll see. We’ll see how that goes.”

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Vezenkov was not the catalyst for the deal, but was needed to make it work as Sacramento needed to clear out salary in order to eventually land former Raptors great DeMar DeRozan in a separate move. Davion Mitchell, potentially Toronto’s backup point guard, the former No. 9 overall selection, the 45th pick of last month’s NBA draft (Jamal Shead, another option behind Immanuel Quickley) and Portland’s 2025 second round pick were also added with only Jalen McDaniels going out the other way.

Still, Vezenkov could provide some value either on the court or in a follow-up move. The buyout possibility also exists, as it would open up a spot on a roster that is currently full. Toronto is also close to the luxury tax, so cutting the Vezenkov salary would provide breathing room, making it potentially easier to make Brown or Boucher moves. In addition to a mid-level exception, Toronto still should have about $3.77 million left after the Sacramento deal from the original trade exception created in the Pascal Siakam trade with the Indiana Pacers. That will expire in mid-January. The Raptors won’t be going over the luxury tax, so wouldn’t use either of those options unless salary gets cleared out.

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The Kings deal was made on June 27, Brown’s team option picked up the next day. Those decisions left no room for Gary Trent Jr., who played four seasons for the Raptors after being acquired for Norman Powell. Trent had somewhat surprisingly opted in to the final year of his contract last summer and has had trouble finding a contract worth what he’s after in the NBA’s chilly new financial climate.

TSN’s Josh Lewenberg reported that Trent and the Raptors couldn’t find common ground on a new deal, (Toronto just drafted a similar player with more upside 19th overall in Ja’Kobe Walter) so the Raptors pivoted to the Kings trade. Webster told Lewenberg in an on-air interview while the two sides remain in contact, “A lot of the flexibility was eaten up by the Sacramento deal and that wasn’t anything other than we got draft picks and we got young players.”

Other qualify free agents still looking for homes include point guard Tyus Jones, ex-Raptors Kyle Lowry and Precious Achiuwa and former top-five picks Markelle Fultz and Isaac Okoro.

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