Height/Weight: 7'1", 228 lbs
Age: 20 years old
Projected NBA Position: Center
Pro Comparison: Timofey Mozgov
After a strong season in the paint for Russian Superleague club Avtodor Saratov, Artem Klimenko emerged as one of the better big-man prospects in the 2014 NBA draft.
As he transitions to the Association, the 7-footer is viewed as a valuable asset on the boards and in the pick-and-roll. He also has some intriguing upside.
He could be a superb cog to control the middle of the floor, earn extra possessions and convert high-percentage scoring opportunities. Klimenko is only 20 years old, so he could become proficient as a secondary offensive piece.
What exactly does he bring to the NBA from the Russian Superleague?
|Statistics at Avtodor Saratov|
Klimenko has all the length anybody could ask for. He's 7'1" with a 7'4" wingspan and a colossal 9'4" standing reach, per DraftExpress.
That's going to allow him to compete at the rim most of the time, even against athletic opponents. His reach will enable him to collect boards on both ends and finish efficiently around the hoop.
The big fella also moves really well from end to end considering his towering frame, something that will come in handy against the other 7-footers in the NBA.
Klimenko isn't quite as gifted in other areas, to say the least. He can't jump very high at all, he's not fleet of foot and he's a bit slender. Consequently, he'll be overwhelmed in the open floor, as superior athletes will go over, around and through him when they get momentum.
In the near and distant future, Klimenko should serve as an increasingly effective target in pick-and-roll scenarios.
Not only is Klimenko a big receiver who can catch and finish crisply near the bucket, but he has the mobility to dive to the rim and put himself in good position.
His great hands allow him to pluck the pass and score with his left or right via the glass or baby hook. If he can turn and seal off opposing defenders, he'll have some high-percentage opportunities at the rim in the NBA.
Klimenko's ability to score with either hand makes him a great candidate for back-to-the-basket play down the road.
He's shown several sequences of post-ups in Russia and has fared well against inferior competition. Klimenko can take a couple power dribbles, assess the situation and make pump fakes in either direction before going up with a shot attempt.
His awareness is key, as his ability to post up will help him play aggressively when he needs to and dish the ball back out when he's in too much traffic.
The main thing holding him back from excelling on the low block is his lack of upper- and lower-body strength. Klimenko has a slight frame and will struggle to carve out position until he puts on another 25 pounds of muscle in his legs and torso.
In 2013-14, Klimenko averaged 12.1 rebounds per 40 minutes, including an impressive 7.4 offensive boards per 40.
That's not an indication of what his statistics will look like in the NBA, even at a per-minute rate. His Russian opponents aren't anywhere close to NBA-caliber athletes.
However, it does indicate that he has great instincts and that he'll make the most of his length and mobility. Klimenko displayed great timing and aggressiveness on the offensive glass throughout this past season, as he's great at splitting double-team box-outs and quickly finishing putbacks.
Once he becomes stronger, he'll be more productive on the defensive backboard as well.
Klimenko's weight is something he should certainly address over the next couple years, as it's the one physical tool he has control over. Right now, he's listed at the same weight as many wings and small forwards. In order to battle for position, box out and finish through contact, he needs to be closer to 240 or 250.
He doesn't have much control over his leaping ability and probably won't be able to improve it much. That's going to limit his effectiveness in the open floor, and it will put him at a disadvantage when competing for caroms and lobs. The NBA is a high-flying league, and he will be outclassed often.
Lastly, his offensive game is still quite limited, even with the post-up potential. He's not very fluid and doesn't show advanced skills or the ability to square up and take his man off the dribble. In addition, his mid-range shot is in the early stages of development.
Size always comes in handy, so there's a chance Klimenko could see minutes in reserve duty, but only if he's playing against the opposition's backup center or third-string center.
He's just not strong or skilled enough yet to have a big impact within the first couple years.
Klimenko is only 20 years old, so there is time for him to improve in all facets of the game. With added bulk and more fluid post skills, he could become a dependable backup center or rotational frontcourt asset.
Remember, it took guys like Timofey Mozgov and Tiago Splitter a couple years before they even saw 20 minutes per game. And in Splitter's case, he spent three years overseas after he was drafted before joining the NBA ranks.
A similar progression could happen for Klimenko, who could turn from a seldom-used mop-up center to the seventh or eighth player in the nightly lineup cycle.