Russian big man Artem Klimenko participated in the Phoenix Suns’ first draft workout session on Tuesday and could be a potential second-round pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.
There’s a difference between mobile and athletic, and 7-foot-1 Russian center Artem Klimenko certainly can be described as the former. For a player with a fine standing reach and true 7-foot height, the big man who plays for Avtodor Saratov glides in the full court and is smooth enough to work his way in the post or chase after offensive boards, which is an impressive feat for someone his size. He has a 7-foot-4 wingspan and at 20 years old has the potential to add weight onto his frame and become a capable NBA center. Klimenko’s biggest strength other than moving well and having a good feel around the rim comes in his affinity to chase after offensive boards.
Klimenko isn’t a leaper, though his standing reach of 9-foot-4 makes up for that a great deal. He’s also still on the thin side, but such is why he would be selected as a project pick in the second round. The combination of Klimenko’s flaws in terms of his feel for the game and his current lack of post moves could hurt his value despite the appeal of a team adding a true 7-footer. That he doesn’t have any well-developed skills could make him a reach unless a team is hoping he can develop into a space-clogger in the middle.
There seems to be a mystery about how much Klimenko can develop. He could be a solid NBA player if he proves through workouts that he can be a better shot-blocker than projected. And if he learns a few low-post moves, the big man could also grow into a post threat with some added weight. His upside isn’t off the charts, but he could be seen as a relatively valuable Hasheem Thabeet type of utility player down the line.
How he would fit on the Suns
If Ryan McDonough and his scouts believe the youngster has the character and the room to develop, he could be seen as a potential asset down the road should either of Alex Len or Miles Plumlee be traded — either because they both develop and the Suns can’t pay them or if one hits a ceiling. Whatever the case, it would seem that Klimenko could be a draft-and-stash player in Phoenix or even a project that could develop in the D-League. Currently a player projected to go 37th overall, according to Draft Express, Klimenko’s current situation in Russia is a bit mysterious (the video below uses the term “shady”). That could hurt his chances of the Suns picking him with their 50th choice unless they indeed wanted to oversee his progress in the states.