Russian prospect Sergey Karasev, like point guard Dennis Schroeder, continues the unusual pattern of 2013 international prospects not looking at all out of place among their NCAA peers. His 15.2 possessions per-game usage ranks above the norm, while his 0.99 points per-possession is exactly average.
Playing against some of the top teams in Europe in the VTB United league and EuroCup, Karasev led Triumph in scoring many nights, and while his efficiency in any single playtype does not stand out, his extensive usage is a reminder that he was a go-to scorer in some of the top Leagues outside of the NBA at the tender age of 19, which is incredibly rare.
Knocking down just 31.1% of his jump shots last season, Karasev's numbers seems to belie his shooting ability, as he regularly impressed scouts with his range and consistency over the course of the week at the Nike Hoop Summit, but struggled to find consistency through much of the season.
One of the first international players we evaluated this season, and for a good reason, Sergey Karasev is years ahead of the learning curve of the average 19 year-old European prospect, and it showed all week in Portland.
Having already appeared in the Olympics for the Russian national team and leading the country's top basketball league, the PBL, in scoring, Karasev is likely the most productive young prospect in all of European basketball. Able to attend the Nike Hoop Summit thanks to some fortunate scheduling that did not force him to miss any game action for Triumph Lyubertsy, he was clearly the most mature player in attendance.
The son of a coach and former player, Karasev impacted the World Select Team's practices and the game itself with his high basketball IQ, even when he wasn't scoring. An extremely savvy passer, Karasev is unselfish and possesses excellent court vision. Forcing very little this week, he was content to take a complimentary role, but still managed to impress with his feel for the game and decision-making.
Karasev did most of his damage offensively in catch and shoot situations, taking advantage on the occasions when he found himself open. Shooting the ball with great range and effortless mechanics with his feet set, Karasev impressed scouts with his prolific perimeter shooting both in drills and game action to the point that it was surprising to see him miss at times. Making 38% of his 3-pointers this season, Karasev's numbers belie his consistency from the perimeter given the defensive pressure he regularly faces.
When Karasev did attack, he showed deft touch on his pull-up jump shot and the ability to create for teammates. Lacking great foot speed and strength, particularly as a finisher around the rim, Karasev is not a prolific threat off the bounce one-on-one, but can take what defenders give him.
His defensive potential is the biggest question mark regarding his NBA potential at this point. Karasev put good effort in on this end of the floor, but needs to continue to add strength to his 197 pound frame and work on his technique if he's able to handle the very athletic wing players he'll face on a nightly basis in the NBA. His 6-9 wingspan isn't terrible, and he certainly didn't embarrass himself, even matching up with Andrew Wiggins on a daily basis, but he'll have to continue to improve here to show he can hold his own.
An aggressive, decisive, and confident scorer in the European game, Karasev showed the ability to seamlessly translate his game into a smaller role this week, a promising sign considering the role he'd likely be asked to play early in his NBA career. Having already put his name in the draft and extremely flexible with regard to when he would like to make the jump to the NBA, Karasev is among the most intriguing international prospects in this draft and certainly helped himself in Portland.
Scouting report by Jonathan Givony. Video analysis by Mike Schmitz
Despite turning 19 just one month ago, Sergey Karasev is playing arguably the biggest role of any serious draft prospect in European basketball right now. Seeing 30 minutes per game for Triumph in the extremely competitive EuroCup, VTB and Russian Leagues, Karasev is blossoming into a star in his third season of professional basketball, averaging 16 points per game thus far.
The buildup to this point has been steady, as we've documented on a number of occasions throughout the past few years. Karasev was already seeing consistent rotation minutes as a 16 and then 17-year old during the 2010-2011 season, exploding for 34 points in a game against Dynamo Moscow in the Russian league in one game even. He then helped his Russian National team knock off a talented USA Basketball squadat the U-19 World Championship in Latvia with a 17-point outing, eventually finishing in 3rd place.
He continued to progress last season, playing 30 minutes per game for Triumph in the Russian league, and surprisingly earning a spot on the men's Russian National team, coached by David Blatt, which won the bronze medal at the London Olympics.
Karasev has become a go-to guy this season despite his tender age and the level of competition he's facing, and is doing so on a winning team, as Triumph is 10-5 on the season and already qualified for the next stage of the EuroCup.
Karasev shows good size for a small forward at 6-7 with decent length and a frame that should continue to fill out in time. Although he's not a great athlete, he appears to have expanded his game this season, doing a much better job of attacking the rim and getting to the free throw line, averaging nearly 8 attempts per-40 minutes on the year.
He is an extremely confident and aggressive player who can attack the basket with either hand and does an excellent job of playing at different speeds to keep defenses off-balance, relying more on timing and smarts than on sheer quickness. While not terribly explosive, Karasev is pretty crafty with the way he finishes around the basket, doing a good job of mixing in Eurostep moves and reverse layups to compensate for his lack of verticality.
Always driving with his head up, and usually very under control, Karasev sees the floor extremely well and is his highly adept at reading the defense and finding open teammates as plays develop. He passes ahead in transition unselfishly, and finds teammates off the dribble in a variety of creative ways, showing maturity and poise that is extremely uncommon for a player his age.
Just like last season, Karasev is shooting 37% from 3-point range, on six attempts per game thus far, which is a decent clip that he can likely continue to improve on with age. With his typical lefty shooting mechanics, he's a bit on the streaky side, but can get very hot at times, as he did for example in a huge road win in Le Mans earlier this month where he knocked down 6/7 attempts from beyond the arc. Continuing to progress in this area will be a major key for him to make an impact in the NBA, as he'll likely have a difficult time getting to the free throw line at the same rate he does in Europe.
Inside the arc is where Karasev has struggled a lot more this season, only converting 39% of his 2-pointers thus far, a very poor figure which he only manages to compensate for with how often he gets to the free throw line. He struggles to finish with his right hand inside the paint, often switching the ball awkwardly to his left hand despite being on the right side of the basket, which opposing defenses have caught onto. He's also been taking too many long off the dribble 2-pointers, which is partially a product of the extremely heavy offensive load he's shouldering, but also due to his fearless nature and the extreme confidence he has in his abilities, which can often lead to poor shot-selection.
Beyond his shooting and slashing, Karasev brings a lot to the table with the versatility he displays. He moves off the ball intelligently and with great timing, and is starting to develop a bit of a post-game that he's utilizing more and more of when Triumph plays him at the shooting guard position. He also does a nice job fighting for rebounds (6.2 per-40 minutes) and getting his teammates easy baskets as mentioned thanks to his high basketball IQ.
The biggest concerns NBA scouts might have about Karasev revolve around his defensive potential. While he shows solid toughness and anticipation skills, his lateral quickness is below average and he often looks very upright in his stance. He doesn't cover ground very well on the perimeter and gets beaten off the dribble a fair amount, so there are plenty of question marks about his ability to stay in front of quicker small forwards in the NBA. Adding strength should help here, as will more experience and coaching, but he'll need to continue to put the effort in to get better on this end of the floor.
To Karasev's credit, he gets very good reviews about his character and work ethic, which is very important considering his background and the reputation of Russian players that precede him.
The head coach of the Russian national team, David Blatt, surprised many by making Karasev one of the 12 players he took to the Olympics, despite being only 18 years old at the time. He raved about him when speaking to us about him via Skype.
"He speaks English. He's an outstanding worker and is highly intelligent. He's a special talent. A three position player. He has a great feel. Very creative. He can shoot and score. He plays with no fear. He doesn't look athletic, but he does athletic things. He still hasn't grown into his frame. He will improve his strength. He's a quick and attentive learner. He held his own on defense better than I thought he would."
Karasev's father Vassily, the head coach of Triumph, had a distinguished career playing for CSKA Moscow and the Russian national team, even leading the Euroleague in assists one season. It's unknown how his father's position on the team will affect Karasev's NBA status moving forward, or even how much interest his son has in declaring for the draft and going through the process.
Born in October of 1993, Karasev was already eligible for the draft last year, and considering how he's playing this season, would likely draw serious interest from NBA teams should he decide to put his name in this upcoming June. While his upside might not be off the charts due to his average physical tools, there's little doubt that he's going to develop into a quality all-around player thanks to his combination of size, creativity, aggressiveness, intelligence and versatile skills, especially considering how well he's playing at such a young age.
With almost half the season already in the books, we continue to search for draft-eligible prospects making an impact in high-level Europe.
Arguably the most productive young player in Europe these days relative to his age might be 6-7 small forward Sergey Karasev, who has been putting up impressive numbers in the Russian PBL, the EuroChallenge and Baltic League. Playing 24 minutes per-game in 26 contests thus far, Karasev is averaging just under 12 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists, shooting a solid 50% from 2-point range and 36% beyond the arcdespite turning 19 just a few months ago.
Watching Karasev play, two things stand out.
First is the amount of confidence his coaching staff has in him. Often allowing him to bring the ball up the floor and initiate his team's offense, they give him tremendous freedom to make decisions with the ball, be it in pick and roll or transition situations.
Second are the confidence, maturity and basketball IQ Karasev displays in this featured role, which belie his age. He regularly appears to be a step ahead of his opponents in terms of anticipating what will happen next on the floor. This manifests itself most prominently in his passing ability, as he's able to get the ball to his teammates in every way imaginable, be it with bounce passes off the pick and roll, lobs over the top of the defense in transition, kick-outs to open shooters, post-entries, and more.
A natural lefty, Karasev is capable of dribbling and finishing with either hand. He's relied upon fairly heavily in terms of creating offense for his team, and shows a nice ability to change speeds to keep his opponent off balance. Karasev has excellent timing moving without the ball, and thanks to his rapidly improving his frame, is doing a better job getting to the free throw line, where he finds himself nearly 6 times per-40 minutes.
Just an average athlete in terms of his first step and overall quickness, Karasev may have a difficult time creating shots for himself and his teammates against higher level competition than he's facing right now. He struggles finishing around the rim in traffic at times, and thus would be well served developing his mid-range game, which is not very polished at the moment.
Karasev is capable of making shots from beyond the arc, but still probably isn't as consistent as NBA teams would like him to be with his feet set. He's making 36% of his 3-pointers on the season (30/83 in 26 games), but shows plenty of potential for growth in this area.
Defense is the other part of his game where he'll need to show improvement to play at the highest levels of basketball. Part of this has to do with a lack of strength and experience, but some of it has to do with his intensity level. He gives up too much space on the perimeter at the moment, lacking a degree of lateral quickness that would help him stay in front of more athletic opponents. He's shown some ability to rebound (6.4 per-40) this season, which is definitely a plus, and gets in the passing lanes on a semi-regular basis, thanks to his strong anticipation ability.
One of the youngest players who could possibly be eligible for the NBA draft with his late 1993 birthdate, Karasev may not be in a major rush to declare considering he's still proving himself at the Russian league level. The early signs have been very promising, so we'll have to see how he continues to develop in time.
Coming off a very successful season competing against players significantly older than him as a 17-year old at Triumph Moscow Region, Sergey Karasev was one of the leaders of an overachieving Russian team that knocked off Team USA in the quarterfinals and finished an impressive third place in Latvia.
Karasev is a versatile, highly aggressive offensive player. He's a 6-7 left-handed small forward with good size and solid skills.
Having made nearly two 3-pointers per game in Latvia, Karasev is capable of punishing opponents from the perimeter (particularly in catch-and-shoot situations) thanks to his quick release. His shot selection isn't great, though. He took quite a few difficult off-the-dribble jumpers at this tournament and was unable to convert them at a high rate.
On the positive side, Karasev is able to create his own shot off the dribble. He has a solid first step and the ability to get to the rim, especially in transition. His ball-handling skills are still in need of refinement and he could use some added strength to help finish in traffic, but he has the makings of a versatile floor game, which is intriguing considering his size.
Karasev's potential on the defensive end is questionable. He struggles to get in a low stance and doesn't show great lateral quickness. His ability to defend his position will likely play a big role in how much he's able to move up the ladder of professional basketball. It will be interesting to see how he develops on this end of the floor.
Considering he still hasn't turned 18 years old, Karasev's a player teams will likely want to follow in the Russian league over the next few years to see how he develops.
Sergey Karasev, Dmitry Kulagin's teammate at this year's U18 European Championships, had a fine showing for the Russian side as well. The son of former Russian Nation Team player Vasily Karasev, the 17 year-old played almost exclusively on the wing despite being amongst his team's tallest players. A fluid athlete at 6'7 with good speed in the open floor, Karasev finished 15th in the competition in scoring at 12.4 points per game and was a big reason his team finished in second place. Displaying a good feel for the game Karasev had some nice moments, but showed his inexperience at times too.
A bit too eager to shoot the ball from the perimeter and settle for tough floaters from the midrange, Karasev showed a good activity level without the ball in his hands and flashed the ability to get hot from beyond the arc on a few occasions. He still needs to shore up his defensive ability and become more assertive and versatile offensively, but he's performed admirably in playing a surprising 15 minutes per game off the bench for Triumph Lyubertsy, and still has plenty of time to develop. If Karasev adds weight to his frame and polish to his game as he matures, he'll be a major factor in junior play again this summer and a player worth keeping an eye on down the road.