Weight: 210 lbs.
Date of Birth: October 26, 1993
Years Pro: 1
Before NBA: Triumph Lyubertsy, Russia
Drafted: 19th overall, 2013 NBA Draft
– Full Stats –
You may know Vladimir Nabokov as the author of Lolita. If you’re a particularly literate basketball fan, maybe you’ve read Pale Fire. But unless you’re related to Mikhail Prokhorov, you almost certainly haven’t read any of his nine Russian language novels, which include The Gift, a dense, semi-autobiographical work exploring a man’s exodus from Russia.
In July, the Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Boston Celtics completed a three-team trade that freed up cap space for the Cavaliers to reunite King LeBron James with Cleveland, gave the Nets a replacement for the departing Shaun Livingston in Jarrett Jack, and landed the Celtics a first-round draft pick from the Cavaliers as well as the mercurial Marcus Thornton.
The Cavaliers were so set on shedding salary in the deal that they sent 19th overall pick in the 2013 draft Sergey Karasev and his $1.5 million salary to the Nets. While Jack is a full decade older than the lanky Russian swingman, Jack, a native english speaker and the much more celebrated half of the Nets haul, is the Lolita of the trade. Karasev is The Gift: less celebrated, Russian-speaking, and possibly the true gift of this deal.
The 6’7″ Russian swingman saw the majority of his rookie season playing time down in the D-League, where he averaged 13.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game on 45.6 percent shooting in 18 games for the Canton Charge, alongside his new Nets teammate Jorge Guiterrez. Karasev was treated like a yo-yo, being assigned and recalled from the D-League 10 times by the Cavs. When in the Association, he managed just 37 points and 156 minutes of action in 22 games.
The lack of playing time doesn’t mean the southpaw can’t play. In Cleveland he was caught behind a logjam of recent lottery picks, including Kyrie Irving, Dion Waters and Anthony Bennett. Karasev entered the league about as seasoned as a 19-year-old could be, having earned an Olympic Bronze with the Russian national team in 2012 and leading the Russian PBL — one of the best basketball leagues in the world outside of the NBA — in scoring at 18.4 points per game.
The sharpshooting Karasev will find it difficult to get time at shooting guard behind seven-time All-Star Joe Johnson and proven back-up Alan Anderson, not to mention the time Jack will spend as a combo guard. At 6’7″ he’ll need to put some weight on his frame to play small forward, but he’ll find it hard to find playing time there either, behind countrymate & Karasev idol Andrei Kirilenko and rookie Eurostash Bojan Bogdanovic.
But getting Karasev wasn’t about this year. The Nets have always been high on the gangly foreigner, recently admitting they targeted him with the 22nd pick of the 2013 draft, which they ended up using to take Mason Plumlee. Despite his weight issues and defensive shortcomings, Karasev’s basketball IQ and shooting touch mean he has a chance to be a legit NBA swingman. Euro expert and former St. John’s Red Storm coach Fran Franschilla recently said that Karasev would have been a top five-to-seven pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.
The Nets will have the rights to Karasev, who is entering the second year of his rookie deal, for at least the next two years. The Gift, or Дар, was written between 1935 and 1937, but wasn’t published in English until 1952. Here’s hoping that Karasev’s game translates to the NBA a bit more expeditiously.