Sunday, June 15, 2014

2014 Draft Scouting: Artem Klimenko

There is a difference in opinion on whether or not the Pistons need to add a backup center this offseason.  One half of the fan-base seems to want Josh Harrellson back for another year (contract becomes guaranteed on 7/20/14) and the other half wants to go in a different direction.  The free agent center market isn't exactly robust this off-season (I see you, Greg Stiemsma) and the majority of the valid options are all veterans who are likely to chase titles.  The other option to fill the potential backup C void would be to utilize the 38th overall pick on one.  I've already covered a few of the options here, namely Johnny O'Bryant and Mitch McGary, who appears to have a promise from a team picking in the 20's.  One of the more unknown quantities at C who may be available when the Pistons pick is Russian big man Artem Klimenko.  The 20 year old Klimenko has spent the last three years playing professionally in Russia, spending last season in the Super League (second tier of Russian pro ball) with professional club Avtodor (Notable alumni include Viktor Khryapa, Cortney Fortson, Yaroslav Korolev and Sergei Monya).  He posted impressive numbers with Avtodor, which can be found here in his Euroleague profile: LINK

Klimenko has a large frame at 7'1, 230 pounds; and according to scouts and those on the European pro circuit, he's still gaining weight at a decent rate.  He boasts a 7'4 wingspan, which, along with his other measurements, was taken at the 2012 Eurocamp, so he very well may be bigger at this point.  Recent articles and video from suggest he's up to 240 pounds.  Regardless of the exact numbers, Klimenko's sheer size is very enticing.  Despite his height and length, Klimenko maintains very good mobility both in the open floor and in halfcourt situations.  He's laterally quicker than most young 7-footers and appears to run the floor extremely well.  The downside with Klimenko physically is that he is practically glued to the floor.  His length and height should somewhat help mask his inability to get off the floor, but his leaping ability is a cause for concern with regards to how his game will translate to the NBA.  Nonetheless, Klimenko's size and skill will warrant serious interest from teams picking in the 2nd round.

Click "Read More" for the rest of the scouting report...

Klimenko's highlight film certainly does pinpoint some of his strengths, but in his case, I'm not sure that it tells the whole story of his game.  I watched one of Avtodor's Russian Cup games, as well as their game against Universitet-Yugra Surgut (find them on YT if interested, they're oddly entertaining) and came away fairly unimpressed with Klimenko.  He was hardly a factor in the paint in their Russian Cup contest against BC Khimki and seemed to play a decent chunk of minutes drifting on the perimeter instead of battling on the block.  While this could be part of the offense Avtodor runs, he seemed to be inclined to spending more time on the perimeter than somebody his size should against this level of competition.   When he is playing on the block, Klimenko operates with his back to the basket, with a nice hook shot with either hand.  He also uses his length well to score on moves across the lane, from the right block to the left side of the rim and vice versa.  

From a rebounding standpoint, Klimenko probably won't be anything special in the NBA.  His slight frame and lack of explosive leaping ability will be a detriment on the defensive glass, especially if he struggles to add additional weight to box out the NBA's bigger PFs and Cs.  His prospects might be slightly more promising on the offensive glass, as he seems to have good timing for putbacks and could put his length to use on tip-ins.  Defensively, Klimenko moves his feet well and uses his length and good timing to his advantage as a shot blocker.  While, again, his lack of verticality could hurt him against more athletic players in the NBA, I think he can have an impact as a shot blocker and a shot changer.  Holding his position against opposing post players may be a challenge early in his career due to poor lower body strength.

While Klimenko seems to have some upside if he can fill out and continue to expand his offensive arsenal, I will be a little disappointed if he's the pick at #38 for the Pistons.  I'm in the half of the fan-base that wants to move on from Josh Harrellson, but I don't think Klimenko is worth taking, whether Harrellson is back or not.  He seems to have a high level of projection in his game, and I don't think he would be ready to make an impact at the NBA level for at least a year or two, even provided that he comes stateside immediately.  I would much rather see them take someone like Johnny O'Bryant who can hold his own from day one.  Currently, Klimenko is projected 38th to the Pistons by and is slotted to go undrafted by  I could live with the Pistons trading back into the 2nd round to take him late as a draft-and-stash candidate, however.

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