April 2, 2011
Sasha Kaun (56th pick, 2008)
- Conversely, Kaun nearly joined the NBA in the summer, and is likely to do so one day. He has been playing for CSKA Moscow back in his native Russia since being drafted, and has improved year on year, rounding into one of the best players on one of Europe's best teams.
Unfortunately, things have imploded for both Kaun and CSKA this season. After an amazing eight straight Euroleague final fours, they didn't even make it out of the group stages this season, a completely unexpected implosion that resulted in newspaper ad apologies. They are also struggling in the Russian PBL; after eight consecutive titles, and winners of 17 out of the last 19, CSKA are currently second in the table this season behind Veremeenko's Unics Kazan. And a recent loss to third place Lokomotiv Kuban means the skid is far from over.
A large part of the reason for this comparative mare of a season has been injuries. After missing national team play in the summer due to an ankle injury, Viktor Khryapa - the team's best player and last year's Euroleague DPOY - played only 5 games in his return before reinjuring it in mid-December, not returning until mid-March. Matjaz Smodis is back after missing all of last season, but he's not been back to anywhere near his best, and has recently been diagnosed with a heart problem. Veteran Lithuanian guard Ramuntas Siskauskas missed some games due to a back injury, and he too has not played like he can do. The year began with news that point guard J.R. Holden had discovered a heart problem of his own during routine medicals; he has been playing, and playing fairly well, yet it set the tone early for how the season would pan out, and a later leg injury followed. And Kaun has missed more time than anyone; until his return in early February, he had missed the whole season to date, including the entire disaster of a Euroleague campaign.
When healthy, Kaun is a huge, fluid, talented scoring centre, a bigger and better one than Samardo Samuels. He averaged 10.4 points and 6.3 rebounds in 20 minutes per game at the summer World Championships, evidential of his talent level. Maybe it's best for him to stay at the highest echelons of European basketball, which lend themselves more kindly to the big slow centres more than the modern faster smaller NBA does. But if he wants to play in the NBA, he absolutely could. He probably will, too. Cleveland chased him hard last year.
Chances of making the NBA expressed as an arbitrary percentage: 60%
March 26, 2010
- Sasha Kaun
Kansas graduate Kaun is finally breaking out. Playing for CSKA Moscow, Kaun is averaging 12.9 points and 5.8 rebounds in 22 minutes per game in the Russian league, alongside 9.1/4.1 in the Euroleague and 9.7/4.0 in the VTB United League. Kaun's strong season has drawn the attention of the Cavaliers, who own his draft rights and are said to be looking to bring him over next season. Could he be worse than Shaq's remnants? Not really, no.