The Cleveland Cavaliers will likely have the 1st and 33rd pick in this upcoming draft. In the next few weeks here at Right Down Euclid, we will be profiling players the Cavaliers might draft in the second round on June 26th. Today, we profile Russian center Artem Klimenko. Click here for more draft profiles.
Tale of the Tape
Name: Artem Klimenko
International Team: Avtodor Saratov
Weight: 228 lbs.
2013-2014 Per Game Stats: 13.5 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 54.3 FG%, 73.1 FT%
Russian players don’t have a great history in the NBA. While Andrei Kirilenko is the biggest name to come from the country, and Timofey Mozgov has had some success sticking in the NBA, the early struggles of guys like Sergey Karasev and Alexey Shved make Russian players a perceived risk in the NBA Draft. However, Artem Klimenko could change that. He is a likely Euro-stash candidate in this year’s draft, but even though he played in the Russian second division this year, he has a lot of potential at the NBA level as a mobile, gigantic center.
Klimenko’s physical tools are what have drawn scouts to Saratov, Russia to watch a second division team play. He has the combination of size and mobility that are greatly coveted in the NBA, standing at 7’1” with a 9’4” standing reach, and incredibly quick for his size. Klimenko is solid at both running the floor and moving laterally on both ends, which makes him a solid in offensive pick-n-rolls and against pick-n-rolls defensively. Klimenko’s strength is under question, as he struggles on both ends against larger centers, and he’s not an explosive athlete. However, he is just 20 years old, and has time to fill out, so physically, he’s quite an enticing prospect.
Offensively, Klimenko has the tools to be a successful modern NBA center. He’s an excellent finisher, which makes sense given the fact that he’s 7’1”. There’s a question of how well that will translate to the NBA, as he’s by far the largest player in his league in Russia, but Klimenko has a nice array of moves developing, including jump hooks with either hand and a soft floater. Klimenko is also a strong offensive rebounder, and is incredibly active around the basket, working for tip-ins and tap-backs over smaller opponents. Klimenko’s best utilized in the pic and roll, where he has the size to be a great high screen-setter, and the mobility and soft hands to be a nice weapon as a finisher. In the post, Klimenko can struggle, as he gets pushed out of deep position easily and he is prone to turnovers when facing up a defender. However, he is an adept passer from the post for his age, particularly against double teams. Klimenko has strong offensive potential, especially if he adds strength and becomes more disciplined in the post.
Defensively, Klimenko has a lot of work to do before he’s a functional, NBA-level player. He’s a decent pick-n-roll defender, using his mobility and length to hedge screens really well. He’s also incredibly active on this end, and puts himself in positions to make plays. However, he lacks a lot of technical skill, and his lack of strength is going to be tough to overcome as well. Like his struggles offensively, Klimenko really struggles to defend the post, and gives up deep post position almost as much as he struggles to secure it himself on offense. Klimenko’s rim protection potential isn’t that high either, somewhat of a shock given his physical profile. His explosiveness leaves a lot to be desired when he contests shots, and his positioning needs improvement as well. Klimenko does a decent job of keeping out of foul trouble, usually a tough thing for international bigs to overcome, but outside of the pick and roll, Klimenko probably won’t have much use as a defender at the NBA level.
Klimenko has a lot of potential as an NBA player, given his age and physical profile. However, there is a huge question of how his game will transfer to the NBA, given his current level of competition. It’s very difficult to project him against NBA bigs, because the second league of Russia doesn’t have many players his size, where the NBA has several. Honestly, there’s probably no chance that Klimenko comes to the NBA right away, nor should he. He needs some kind of middle-level of competition before he makes the jump. That should come within the next few seasons; an NBA team owning his rights may make him more attractive to a higher-profile Euroleague team, and there’s a great chance he’ll be a part of the Russian National Team at the 2016 Olympics. However, a team taking a flyer on Klimenko won’t be making the pick for 2014-2015. This is a pick for the 2016-2017 season, or perhaps even later.
Klimenko has a lot of the same offensive skills and physical profile as a young Tristan Thompson, if he were 7’1” instead of 6’8”. The raw offensive capabilities are there on both sides, and both have strengths in similar areas; Thompson is an athletic catch-and-finish big, while Klimenko operates very well out of the pick-and-roll. They both also have similar potential defensively, although it will take awhile for both to live up to that potential, if they ever reach it. Both have weird tics defensively, as well; Klimenko almost always has his feet moving, like he’s always ready in case a defensive slide drill is about to start, while Thompson always seems to have his arms up at awkward angles. Klimenko is obviously a couple years behind where Thompson was last year, or even in his rookie season, but in five years if Klimenko is a more offensively skilled, bigger, Soviet Thompson, that sounds like a solid backup center.
How Does He Fit on the Cavaliers?
The Cavaliers realistically will only have a few roster spots available for incoming players, especially if Matthew Dellavedova, Karasev, and/or Carrick Felix are all kept around. Therefore, it would make sense for the Cavs to look at one of the many international prospects that will be projected to go at the top of the second round. Klimenko makes sense to be one of those players. He’s an excellent PNR prospect, and a player who could join the team in 2015 or 2016, when guys like Tyler Zeller or Thompson could be moving elsewhere. Bringing in Klimenko in a similar fashion to the Spurs’ decision to bring Tiago Splitter to their roster in 2010 could pay dividends, especially if the Cavs select Joel Embiid with the top pick this year. With a more fully developed Embiid as the defensive center for the Cavs, Klimenko could bring offensive firepower to the team, and with his mobility and Embiid’s shooting potential, the Cavs could also play those two at the same time, which would be terrifying for opponents to deal with.