Shopping the free agent market for experienced top-shelf European-based players has been lucrative business for some NBA teams over the past few years, with players such as Jose Manuel Calderon, Anthony Parker, Andres Nocioni, Jorge Garbajosa and others having made nice impacts for the teams that signed them. The best player on B.C. Kyiv at the moment, Artur Drozdov, looks like someone who clearly could be an NBA rotation player, even if that ship might have sailed already considering how much money hes making here and what his value would be on the open European market.
When discussing Ukrainian prospects, the term late-bloomer seems to come up a lot. That has a lot to do with the lack of basketball infrastructure and adequate coaching that this country seems to be suffering from, a big reason why their national team has gone nowhere despite featuring a couple of fairly talented players. We labeled Slava Kravtsov as a late bloomer, and people did the same for Kyrylo Fesenko before he was drafted by the Jazz last year. Drozdov is another guy that fits the bill, although he seems to be blossoming at a much older age.
When Drozdov was 20 years old, his parents moved from the Ukraine to Pau, France, to open up a restaurant. He was a raw, skinny player back then with very limited knowledge of the game. The best thing Drozdov has going for him, though, is his work ethic. He kept getting better and better every single year, and by his fifth season with Pau Orthez, he managed to average double-digit points in the Euroleague. After his sixth season in Pau, and having received a French passport, Drozdov moved to Kyiv, where he is now in his second season. Playing on a stacked team that is deep at every position except at the guard spots, the 6-7 small forward is currently averaging 17 points and 7.2 rebounds in the ULEB Cup, shooting 59% from the field and 49% from behind the arc (17/35 in 7 games).
Its not hard to see what makes him such an intriguing player, regardless of his age. Drozdov is an outstanding athlete who simply does everything out on the floor. He has good quickness and strength, and is very explosive finishing at the basket. Any time he managed to get into the paint, he usually finished with a thunderous slam. He is a terrific shooter with his feet set, and he uses this threat to put the ball on the floor and make his way to the rim. He doesnt force the issue, though, being extremely team oriented and making some good passes, even if he isnt the most creative player. He also works very hard for his team, hitting the offensive glass extremely well, trying to post up when given the opportunity, and making some excellent moves in the process.
Drozdovs biggest weakness has always been considered his ball-handling skills, although he seems to play so well within his limitations that that doesnt become immediately evident until you really study him. He doesnt have a mid-range game, being limited to either hitting spot-up 3-pointers or driving to the basket, but never pulling up in-between. Hes not the most fluid, instinctive player in the world, which is somewhat expected considering how late he started playing organized basketball in a real competitive setting. Defensively, he gets lost from time to time, on pick and roll plays in particular. His ability to defend the perimeter is somewhat questionable at the small forward spot, as he was often used as a power forward earlier in his career and still doesnt have a great feel for staying in front of his man. In Europe, hes not a bad defender, though.
Drozdovs agent, Bouna Ndiaye, compares him to Sasha Pavlovic (which is not a bad comparison at all), but to me he looked like a shorter version of Walter Hermann with the energy and athleticism he brings to the floor. The truth is hes probably somewhere in between the two. Whats been really nice to see is that even though Drozdov is 27 years old, he has continued to get better each and every year. Drozdov is a free agent this summer and could very well get some looks from some NBA teams. The truth is, though, its going to be hard to keep him away from Kyiv and probably some of the smarter teams in Spain, who can probably pay him more than NBA teams will be willing to offer. The fact of the matter is that he can really play, though, so well have to see what ends up happening.