The one player that I was most hoping to see the Cleveland Cavaliers come away from the 2013 NBA Draft with is Sergey Karasev. Karasev is a 19-year-old, 6’7″, 197-pound small forward/shooting guard with great upside and potential. He previously played for Triumph Lyubertsy in Russia. Sergey climbed up the rungs of mock drafts on respected sports sites, reaching as high as 11th on some. Many teams were not prepared for the Cavs selection of Anthony Bennett with the first overall pick, throwing the early first round into disarray. More than likely, this led to Karasev falling to the Cavs at 19, as teams scrambled to react. In my opinion Karasev is a complete steal for the Cavs.
Karasev brings to the Cavs the ability to fill the small forward slot, which has been a weakness for the Cavs the past three seasons. A strong scoring acumen, requiring very little space or time to get his shots off, gives Karasev the ability to stretch the floor in the half-court set. Karasev is a willing passer with very good court vision/ imagination. He has some ability to put the ball on the floor in the half-court game and shows toughness and fights for rebounds, even though opponents are usually much stronger than he is.
In 11 Eurocup games this season, Karasev averaged 16.1 points, while shooting 49.0 percent from deep. Opposing players may find it difficult to defend Karasev’s jumper, given his quick release and high release point. Some experts have compared Karasev’s jump shot to that of Peja Stojakovic.
Like all rookies, Karasev will need to work on various aspects of his game to play in the NBA, the most obvious being the distinct need for more muscle and weight on his thin frame. He also needs improvement on his ball distribution skills, as he averaged only 2.4 assists in those 11 Eurocup games, playing 32 minutes per contest. The Cavs will be looking to spread the floor this season, opening up driving and passing lanes, so this will be important. The potential is there for Karasev to become an excellent assist man, as he has an imaginative perspective of how he sees the court. He simply needs more game experience to work on it.
Karasev is only an average athlete, and this could really hurt him defensively on the pro level. He lacks great lateral speed, making him a liability in isolation, and his overall speed is less than ideal for a shooting guard. He has shown periods of inconsistent shooting from the midrange during his professional play and spends too much time behind the arc, falling in love with the long ball rather than mixing up his offensive repertoire. He will have to go through a drastic role change and culture change upon entry to the league. Finally, he needs quite a bit of time in the weight room before being considered as a rotation option at the NBA level. Right now, I can see him being frustrated when pressured by a taller, more athletic player.
One intangible overlooked when evaluating Karasev is that Sergey is a coach’s kid, growing up and playing under his father Vasily Karasev at Triumph Lyubertsy. This young man has been groomed to succeed, possessing a very high basketball IQ. He also has a life history of playing and succeeding at the highest levels, even as a mere kid. Karasev played with the junior national teams of Russia. He played at the 2009 FIBA Europe Under-16 Championship. He also won the silver medal at the 2010 FIBA Europe Under-18 Championship and the bronze medal at the 2011 FIBA Under-19 World Championship. Finally, Karasev was honored by being named to the senior men’s Russian national basketball team roster for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, winning the bronze medal in London.
Karasev has done an awful lot during his short 19-year life, much more than most 19 years olds have. He has a ton of positives about him, but like most 19 year olds entering the NBA, there is a list of things that he will need to work on and develop. Then again, how many times do you get a perfect player with the 19th overall selection? Sergey has been a gym rat most of his life, so I would expect him to work hard on further developing his skills and attacking his shortcomings. This kid was raised to be a winner. The Cavs got themselves an excellent prospect in Sergey Karasev. Don’t be surprised to hear his name more and more in the near future. He is the real deal.