In a very rare occurrence, there may not be a "loser" in Wednesday's trade between the Nets, Cavaliers and Celtics; each team fulfilled a prominent need. The Celtics continued to gain assets as well as young prospects, the Cavs shed more cap space so they could reacquire LeBron James, and the Nets landed Shaun Livingston's replacement in Jarrett Jack.
Something that has dropped under the radar in this transaction was the acquisition of Sergey Karasev who was shipped from Cleveland to Brooklyn. On its face, putting the Russian connection aside, in that the Nets had just gotten Bojan Bogdanovic. The two European swingmen have similar styles and both have three year deals.
Bogdanovic is more NBA-ready, at 25, while Karasev is more about promise.
The Nets were high on Karasev during last year's draft, but the Russian guard/forward was gone at No. 19 three spots before where the Nets sat, where they decided on Mason Plumee.
Indeed, Nets official told NetsDaily that "Our scouts were waiting for Sergey at No. 22 last year."
Last May, leading up to the 2013 Draft, we wrote, "Karasev can be a great fit in Brooklyn, he can help spread the floor for Deron Williams and Joe Johnson to isolation and kick out to him for a three, but also facilitate when either of the two or Lopez get going during the course of a game. Karasev's dual-threat ability, passing and scoring, makes him a prime candidate go at No. 22."
Here is the promise of Karasev. Although it came in a preseason game last October, there were hints of his skills in a late game performance where he made smart plays and showed off his range. He's a lefty, too.
Still, Karasev struggled to get acquainted with the Cavs in his rookie season, playing in only 22 games this past season, spending most of his time in the D-League. His high game in minutes (21), points (8) and rebounds (5) came early in the season, during a 30-point blowout loss to the Spurs.
When in the D-League, Karasev went for 13.5 points per game, grabbed five rebounds per game and hit on 41% of his three-point attempts. He was often teamed with Jorge Gutierrez on the pick-and-roll.
As his D-League highlights show, Karasev has a quick release and some nice moves in the paint that help free him up for some nifty finishes.
However, there was no denying that it was a tough transition for him after being an elite player overseas, leading the Russian league in scoring at age 18. A Nets executive tells NetsDaily the team feels Karasev didn't get the development help he needed in Cleveland, that he was an afterthought. With so many lottery picks in Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters and Anthony Bennett, little attention was devoted to him. It wasn't getting better with the arrival of Andrew Wiggins. The exec believes that with plenty of veterans -- most prominently Andrei Kirilenko -- to help guide him, Karasev can find his NBA niche with Brooklyn.
The Russian has a high basketball IQ while still only 20 years old. in addition to his passing and shooting abilities. Karasev has a nice form on his jumper, keeping his body squared to the hoop while also shooting with confidence.
However, it is his passing abilities that stick out considering his position. It didn't show up much this past season-he registered just six assists all year-but Karasev does a fine job of finding the open man and staying within his limitations. On a team that features ball-dominant players such as Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez, Karsev can be a great complement to the trio by roaming the perimeter looking for his shot as well as keeping the ball in constant motion. Too many times last season the Nets were found playing iso-heavy basketball and the team became to reliant on one player to score, but Karasev can help buck that trend, as can Bogdanovic.
There is certainly a drop-off in the 2013 draft pick's play on the defense end. Karasev is not very quick laterally and can be seen losing his man ever now and then. After watching some film though, it is clear that he isn't a lazy defender, for he just isn't that quick. Karasev does hustle to find his man, get back on defense and fight to get through screens, but he can't seem to keep up with the faster shooting guards of the NBA. At 6'7", he can play small forward, but at 203 pounds, it's tough for him not to get beat up by bulkier small forwards either. Lionel Hollins is a defensive mastermind, and despite Karasev's clear limitations on the defensive end, one can infer that Hollins will find a way to put him on the floor to at least earn a shot.
There's little doubt about his confidence. In this interview with Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress at the Nike Hoops Summit, it was evident over and over. At one point, he said his goal in the draft was to be taken higher than Kirilenko, who he notes went 24th.
Lastly, Karasev is still a work in progress. The tools are there for him to succeed. He can be a fine outside shooter for a team that can use a spot-up threat, he can stimulate ball movement, and is incredibly young (He was the youngest men's basketball player to medal --a bronze-- at 2012 Olympics). The Nets truly might be the best place for him. Brooklyn has wings such as fellow Russian Kirilenko who can help develop Karasev's defense. The two can become a nice pairing at each forward position with their high BBIQ's, but different styles of play. The team may also bring back Paul Pierce, who Karasev can learn from and maybe take parts of The Truth's game and add it to his own repertoire.
Brooklyn is in the midst of a youth movement, adding three second-round picks (Markel Brown, Xavier Thames, and Cory Jefferson), a likely lottery pick if he was in this draft (Bogdanovic), and a top-20 pick in the 2013 draft (Karasev). With so many young guys looking to start their careers off right, Karasev has an opportunity to learn and develop from the remaining veterans in the fold.
Expect the Nets to give Karasev a fair shot at being in the rotation come next season. Why, "Because we're Russian," a team exec said, only half laughing.
We will learn a little more about Karasev Friday afternoon when he suits up as a Net for the first time, in a summer league contest vs. the Rockets.