Sergey Karasev will enter the draft as one of the top international prospects in the field.
He's been putting up monster numbers for a 19-year-old in the top league in Russia. The buzz got louder at this year's Nike Hoops Summit after Karasev helped lead the World Team in a win over U.S.A., a roster loaded with projected 2014 top-10 picks.
Based on his mature offensive game, Karasev is generating first round and potential lottery attention just four weeks before the draft.
Karasev has the size of an NBA wing at 6'7'', but he'll need to add bulk to his 197-pound frame. And with an average wingspan and below-average athleticism, Karasev could become a target on defense for opposing offenses.
If Karasev were to flop as an NBA player, chances are it's because of his mediocre physical tools. They might prevent him from getting easy buckets and ultimately allow him to give them up.
But Karasev is a finesse player, using touch and IQ to help neutralize a lack of strength and athleticism.
Karasev has one of those pure lefty strokes where it feels like every shot is going to drop. He shot 25-of-51 from downtown during Eurocup play, just to paint you a picture of how accurate he can be.
He's got a clean, simplistic, catch-and-release delivery—no wasted motion.
Karasev simply has a great feel for the basket. He doesn't need to stare at his target before hitting it. Look at how quickly Karasev catches, square and releases with the shot clock winding down:
Scoring Touch, Finesse
Karasev has a soft touch on the move when attacking the basket. He uses runners and floaters to avoid traffic and float it over the interior defense. This is a nice luxury to have considering defenders will have to respect his three-ball and play up on him on the perimeter.
Karasev is capable of making shots in the half court from all angles on the court. His scoring instincts help offset some of his physical limitations.
Fadeaway jumpers, pull-up jumpers, runners in the lane and shots on the move are all in Karasev's arsenal. And though he doesn't have the ability to create them all with ease, he seizes the opportunities that defenses give him.
Karasev is an excellent passer with the ability to set up teammates. He even ran the point at times for his team overseas. Karasev has a handle that allows him to weave between the defense and the vision that allows him to find the open man.
He's got a high basketball IQ and provides a sense of on-court maturity that can make his teammates better.
Most of Karasev's weaknesses stem from his physical tools, which might contribute to him becoming a defensive liability.
Athletic scoring wings would probably salivate at the idea of going head-to-head with Karasev, who lacks the lateral quickness to keep up on the perimeter or strength to prevent them from finishing.
And though he puts up points, Karasev isn't the most adept shot-creator. He scores a lot of his points on catch-and-shoot opportunities, touch shots in the lane and layups off slashes. But as an isolation scorer, Karasev lacks the ability to separate off the dribble.
Draft Breakdown and NBA Outlook
Karasev is the most NBA-ready of any international prospect, and is quickly moving up draft boards. Given his experience on Russia's Olympic team and his individual dominance in a top league overseas, teams might feel a sense of assurance knowing he's produced against tough competition.
He doesn't project as the featured scorer he is abroad; rather, a complementary one that can score and facilitate from the wing. Karasev is the type of player who can add balance to a rotation as a ball-mover, floor-spacer and shot-maker.
The mid-first round sounds about right.
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