(If you have 20 minutes to spare, Fesenko’s pretty awesome.)
The Boston Celtics are currently scouring the garbage heap of free agent big men in hopes of unearthing someone, anyone, who will help the team during the season’s stretch run. Ryan Hollins is reportedly prepared to sign with the Celtics if and when he clears waivers, but the Celtics are expected to continue looking for help even if Hollins joins the team’s thin stable of bigs.
Keeping in mind that finding a good free agent big man at buyout time is normally akin to finding a brand new Maserati at the local used car lot, the Celtics will certainly explore the possibility of adding Kyrylo Fesenko.
It’s surprising that the 25-year old Ukrainian is still unsigned at this point. He initially agreed to join the Golden St. Warriors in December, but the two sides “mutually” decided to waive the deal because Fesenko needed “an additional week or two to get into game shape after September knee surgery.” Three months later, Fesenko remains unsigned.
If he’s alive, and if he’s well, Fesenko is the type of quality (-ish) backup center for which contending teams are desperate at this time of the season. He has his flaws: His PER has been in single digits during three of his four NBA seasons. He isn’t a great rebounder, especially for his (mammoth) size. He fouls at a Mikki Moore-ish rate, which is to say whistles follow him like a shadow.
But read what John Hollinger had to say about Fesenko’s defense, taken from Chris Forsberg’s Fesenko scouting report:
The best-kept secret in the NBA right now is Fesenko’s monstrous defensive stats. It’s not that one or two metrics point out his defensive value; it’s that all of them do, without any pointing to the contrary. Last season the Jazz were an eye-popping 11.91 points per 100 possessions better on defense with Fesenko on the floor, and this is not a new trend. The season before it was 8.67; in limited minutes his first two seasons he also had a strong differential. Synergy Stats, meanwhile, rated Fesenko as the second-best defender in the entire league among players who faced at least 150 opponent plays; the season before he was first. And according to 82games.com, opposing centers had a PER of just 10.4 against him; the season before it was 12.9. Despite his size, Fesenko doesn’t block a ton of shots or dominate the boards. He just uglies up the game for opponents with his sheer hugeness, especially since he moves his feet fairly well for his size. And he can still get better — he wasn’t always fully engaged in Utah and needs to step up his commitment.
I fully understand that offense, not defense, is Boston’s problem. But the Celtics have been getting killed on the interior all season, and plus, it isn’t like any other big plucked out of the garbage can is capable of pouring in 20 points per game, anyway. Fesenko is a young, physical defensive-minded center. If he’s reasonably healthy, he would make a lot of sense in Boston, especially considering that other “good” options include Boris Diaw.
Here’s what Diaw’s coach in Charlotte, Paul Silas, had to say about why he reduced the Frenchman’s minutes:
“I like a player who is really committed to not only the team but to himself and then doing the best he can as a player,” Silas said. “Some of the things that would go on, like not shooting the ball, passing all of the time, that doesn’t help us.
“I needed hoops and he could put the ball in the hoop. When that wouldn’t happen, it was very disturbing.”
Silas later added: “I think if he had played all out, the way he should have, it would have been a much, much better club.”
That’s certainly not as wringing an endorsement as, “The best-kept secret in the NBA right now is Fesenko’s monstrous defensive stats.”