Why Sergey Karasev Is the Cleveland Cavaliers Rookie to Watch This Season

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Why Sergey Karasev Is the Cleveland Cavaliers Rookie to Watch This Season
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Sergey Karasev may very well be the NBA version of the most interesting man in the world.

Karasev is just 19 years old, yet he's already led the Russian League in scoring, was a member of the Russian national team and has been selected in the first round of the NBA draft.

Oh yeah, and he's been speaking English since he was six.

Flying back and forth between the United States, Europe and Russia all summer means Cleveland hasn't seen a whole lot of Karasev just yet—but they soon will.

Even though Anthony Bennett was the first overall pick in the draft, Karasev is the real rookie for Cavs fans to keep an eye on this season. Here's why:

 

Skill Set

The Cavaliers struggled with the three-ball last season.

Connecting on just 34.6 percent from deep put the Cavs at 23rd overall in the NBA.  It's worth noting that the top-five teams in three-point percentage (Golden State Warriors, Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, New York Knicks) not only made the playoffs, but all advanced at least one round.

The five teams with the lowest three-point percentage (Minnesota Timberwolves, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns, Charlotte Bobcats, Toronto Raptors) all missed the playoffs, with the Magic finishing with the worst record in the NBA.

Three-point shooting is critical to a team's success, and the Cavs have to get better.

Enter Karasev, whose best skill is shooting the deep ball.

In 11 Eurocup games this past year, Karasev averaged 16.1 points while shooting 49 percent from deep. He has a quick trigger and strong shooting mechanics that should transfer well to the NBA.

While he'll never be considered a passing aficionado (2.3 assists per game in the Russian League), Karasev has the ability to create for others when needed.

He's a strong all-around player, but for now look for Karasev's outside shooting to earn him minutes on the court.

 

Media Darling

Karasev was born and raised in Russia, but he never uses a translator, and his English is very good.

He attributes this to his father, who told him early on that if he wanted to go to the NBA someday, he should learn English early.

Thanks to this, and the fact he's still getting used to American sayings, Karasev's early interviews have been pure gold.

When talking to reporters at his introductory press conference Karasev was very excited about coming to Cleveland. He described being drafted by the Cavs as having "a fire inside me".

Karasev also told reporters that he hopes "Cleveland fans like me", which is just awesome.

Few players in the league seem to carry as much interview potential as Karasev does heading into the 2013-14 season. His good nature and development of American adjectives will be fun to watch all year long.

 

Bennett vs. Karasev

While it may seem crazy to want to watch a 19th overall pick over a No. 1, there's actually some logic behind the madness.

For one, we've seen what Bennett can do while playing for UNLV this past year.

He's a combo forward, who the Cavs have said they plan to strictly use as a power forward for now.  Bennett is extremely skilled on the offensive end, where he can use his wide body to post up smaller opponents, but also possesses a nice outside shot.

For his freshman year, Bennett averaged 16.1 points and 8.1 rebounds on 53.3 percent shooting from the floor.

It's widely presumed that Bennett will be coming off the bench for Tristan Thompson, but should still see 15-25 minutes a game.

Basically, we know what Bennett brings to the table.

Karasev is different.

David Liam Kyle/Getty Images

He hasn't played for an American high school or college. He didn't get to compete on a national stage in the NCAA tournament. He wasn't a highly touted draft prospect, although many praised Cleveland for selecting him.

We know that he's an outstanding outside shooter. He's great in interviews (be it intentionally or not), has a real passion for the game and is the son of a coach.

There are so many interesting story lines to follow with Karasev that set him apart from Bennett and Carrick Felix. With so much focus teams have to devote to Kyrie Irving, Andrew Bynum, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and now Bennett, Karasev could prove to be a real X-factor for the Cavaliers this season.

Overall, we don't know what to exactly expect from Karasev and his sky-high potential this season, which makes him the rookie to watch.

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