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Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Should the C's consider Kyrylo Fesenko

By Chris Forsberg

Harry How/Getty ImagesKyrylo Fesenko could provide the big body the Celtics covet up front.
One of the more mysterious names in the Celtics' big-man search is former Utah center Kyrylo Fesenko. At 7-foot-1, 288 pounds, Fesenko is a monster of a big man and he's only 25 years old. But not only has he played sparingly in four NBA seasons with the Utah Jazz, the Ukraine import has sat out the entire 2011-12 season after undergoing offseason knee surgery in September. Should the Celtics consider him? Let's break it down:

* During our "Good in Green" summer series, we pegged Fesenko as an ideal backup big man for Boston, particularly because of his defensive prowess. From what we wrote then:
According to Synergy Sports, Fesenko allowed a mere .716 points per play last season, ranking him in the 96th percentile among all NBA players. Of all the hoopsters that had at least 100 defensive plays last season, Fesenko ranked fourth overall in points per play (Boston's Jermaine O'Neal was second at .675 points per play). Opponents shot a mere 34.2 percent against Fesenko and, while he's still susceptible to post-up situations, he excelled against the pick-and-roll and especially in spot-up situations where players must shoot over his long frame (Fesenko has a 9-foot-4 standing reach).

* But don't take our word on his defense. Here's an excerpt from John Hollinger's 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, 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.

* So now the downsides: Fesenko is rather atrocious offensively and has virtually no game outside of 3 feet from the basket (and he struggles at the charity stripe when teams make him earn his points). His defensive stats are phenomenal, but they don't reflect his propensity to foul, which has limited his ability to stay on the floor.

* Ultimately, it comes down to health. Fesenko seemed bound for the Golden State Warriors before the season, only to have the sides "mutually" agree to cancel a one-year deal in order to allow Fesenko time to get in game shape. The Dallas Mavericks appeared poised to swoop him up soon after, but that never materialized, either. Three months later, is Fesenko any closer to game shape? And why hasn't he been swooped up before this point?

Final thoughts: If the Celtics are looking for pure size, they won't do better than Fesenko. While the team would probably prefer a little bit more offense given the second-unit struggles to produce points at times this season, Fesenko's defense makes up for that as he'll prevent as many points as most backup bigs would generate. Fesenko has quality NBA experience, including some playoff time during the 2009-10 season. He rebounds better than some of the other available options on the open market and certainly deserves consideration if he's physically ready to contribute.