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Cavaliers drawn to first-round pick Sergey Karasev for skills, basketball IQ

By Ryan Lewis
Beacon Journal sports writer

INDEPENDENCE: One of the things David Griffin, Cavaliers vice president of basketball operations, said he loves about the organization is that the team’s ownership is “willing to invest in the process.”

It’s what allowed the Cavs to take time and to send multiple scouts to Europe to watch Sergey Karasev from St. Petersburg, Russia, play on junior national teams and in All-Star events on the international stage. That due diligence eventually led to the team targeting and then taking Karasev with the 19th pick in the first round of the NBA Draft.

“Throughout that process, what we were really excited about was his skill-set,” Griffin said Tuesday at Cleveland Clinic Courts. “His basketball IQ is excellent. He’s a very accomplished young player. To lead the Russian league in scoring at the age he did is unprecedented. He’s somebody, with his skill-set, [who] really spoke to us.”

Karasev, a 6-foot-7 left-hander with a good shooting stroke, according to many scouting reports, also has good court presence and is able to score with his right or left hand. That ambidexterity came about as Karasev shot with his left hand but off the court often lived as a righty.

“I just shoot with my left hand. Everything else I do with the right,” he said. “Like, I eat with the right. It’s not a big problem for me to go to the right. That’s good for me because it really confuses defenders.”

Griffin said Karasev doesn’t want to just be a “shooter” in the NBA, because anybody can do that. He wants to be a “shot-maker.” The same versatility — Karasev said he can play either the small forward or shooting guard positions — that first drew the Cavs to Karasev leads them to believe he’s capable of being a productive NBA player.

“We look at him as a kid with tremendous upside, certainly with a lot of room to grow and evolve,” Griffin said. “We hope he gets to the point where he makes shots on the NBA level and we feel his trajectory fits us very well for the long term.”

The acclimation to the NBA game will certainly be one of Karasev’s biggest hurdles. He said he watched a lot of games from this past season but knows he, currently at about 200 pounds, will have to adjust.

“I think it’s way different game against Euro,” he said. “I’m gonna feel it, I’m not a stupid guy. I think if I work hard and show coach [Mike] Brown, I can be on the team and in the rotation. I know I need a couple more pounds.”

Karasev said he watches San Antonio Spurs star Manu Ginobili, from Argentina, for his toughness on defense and ability to make shots. Karasev knows that defense will be key to find minutes in Cavs coach Mike Brown’s rotation.

“I know he’s a [defensive] coach,” he said. “So I will try to bring some weak-side help or 1-on-1 defense. [I am] gonna play aggressive defense and work hard.”


Karasev will play for the Russian senior national team in EuroBasket, held in Slovenia from Sept. 4-22. He’ll then come to Cleveland. Karasev’s father, Vasily Karasev, is the head coach.

At the World University Games, Karasev averaged 19 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists a game in 24.9 minutes.

Griffin also noted Tuesday that the team expects Karasev to be signed “in the next few days, maybe by the end of the week.” Only the “finer details” remain.

Ryan Lewis can be reached at Read the Cavs blog at Follow him on Twitter at and on Facebook at


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