After having a week to digest the Cleveland Cavaliers selecting Sergey Karasev with the No. 19 overall pick, I feel the same about this pick as I did on draft night despite learning more about Sergey’s game. This is a good thing. His father, who was a former premier point guard for Team Russia and is the current coach of Sergey’s Russian club Triumph Moscow, obviously had his passing skills rub off on him, because he has shown to be a keen passer for a wing player and is able to function well in the NBA-style PnR. His knowledge and familiarity with the American way of basketball via his experience at the 2013 Nike Hoop Summit and 2012 Olympic Games will allow him to come in right away and receive minutes off the bench. Even after the signing of Earl Clark, I could still see Sergey giving Alonzo Gee and the new addition a run for their money. That’s because I really like Karasev’s attitude and approach to coming over to the States. He was there for draft night, even though he had a game to play in Russia the next day. He’s only 19-years-old, but he will be ready by training camp to suit up for the Wine and Gold. He also said this in an interview at the 2013 Nike Hoop Summit on Draft Express, which I really liked:
If they say, “I need you tomorrow,’ I’ll come tomorrow.
Even though there is not much elaboration on Karasev’s comments to teams wondering if he’ll be stocked away like some international prospects who don’t even end up coming over in the long haul, Karasev did have some interesting things to say about his Russian teammate Andrei Kirilenko, who happens to be a free agent this summer. He wanted to be drafted higher than Kirilenko, who went 24th to the Utah Jazz in the 1999 NBA Draft, and that came true last Thursday, making him the highest picked Russian player in NBA Draft history. However, Kirilenko didn’t make an appearance in the NBA until the 2001-02 season. Because of the wait, Kirilenko came into the NBA with the Jazz ready to contribute as a starter after honing his skills for a couple of years overseas. He played in all 82 games (started 40), averaged 10.7 points and shot 45.0 percent from the field in his rookie campaign.
Kirilenko is a much more poised rebounder than Karasev will ever be, but the 6-9 wing makes up for that with his ability to acknowledge passing lanes with a high basketball IQ. He has also shown a lot of promise from outside the arc, where he shot 49.0 percent from three as a member of Triumph Moscow in Eurocup play (11 games). He differs from Kirilenko in that respect too, where the 6-9 small forward only puts up around one long ball a game and converts around 30 percent of the time. Karasev, in Eurocup play during the 2012-13 season, put up 4.6 treys per game. He also led his team in scoring during this time, averaging 16.1 points. His release, which is extremely mature for a 19-year-old international player, looks automatic at this point from beyond the arc. This will, in turn, earn Karasev minutes off the bench, because as Karasev pointed out on draft night, the Cavs need shooters.
In the Draft Express interview mentioned above, the work ethic of younger international stars has always been questioned. Karasev agreed that once these players get noticed around the age of 16 and 17, they feel like the rest will come naturally. In his broken English, which is slowly improving, the lanky small forward made it clear that the time to put in work is now and for the next four or five years. There’s no time to relax at this point, and I love the eagerness that Karasev has shown in wanting to make an impact right away. You don’t expect players to say much different, but Karasev is genuine in his comments, and we will see him work well with the possible complimentary rotation of Clark and Gee.
Those who have been down on Sergey’s defense need to realize a couple of things: He’s still very young with a highly developed offensive game and has been deemed as a hard worker and grinder by his Russian coaches. A statistic that I found on ESPN Insider stated that, “Karasev held his opposing shooters to a 28.6 field goal percentage on spot-ups, which ranked in the 95th percentile in all European competition.” Although spot-up shooting isn’t the hardest area to defend, it does show that Karasev will be able to be a proficient defender on the perimeter at the next level. This, coupled with the fact that defense will come with more exposure to the NBA style of play, makes me extremely comfortable with this pick – especially taken that he fell all the way to the Cavs at 19 after being projected between picks 10 and 15.