(Originally from CBS Sportsline)
'Siberian Shaq' might go No. 4 in NBA Draft
CHICAGO -- There he was, 7-foot-5 of long, strong proof that the legend of Pavel Podkolzine, the Siberian Shaq, the Ivan Drago of basketball, was, indeed, very much a reality.
In front of about 100 representatives from all 29 NBA teams, Podkolzine went through a private workout here at the Gold Coast Multiplex health club Friday. He showed he could handle the ball. He showed he could shoot the ball. He showed he could get up and down the court with stunning speed and ease.
And mainly he showed he is every bit the 7-5, 295 pounds of hoops prodigy that had the league buzzing with intrigue all year.
Darko Milicic, the 7-1 Serbian 17-year-old, may be the toast of the international players in the draft -- almost certain to go No. 2 to Detroit. But Podkolzine, an 18-year-old from remote Siberia, Russia, is gaining fast. After an impressive showing Friday, he may wind up as high as No. 4. Or who knows, maybe higher?
"He is big," said Toronto Raptors general manager Glen Grunwald, whose team just happens to pick fourth. "He showed pretty good athleticism and he is skilled. For 18-years-old, he obviously has a bright future. Just seeing him here, he can move pretty well, his feet are pretty good. It looked like he had decent hands.
"His size is," Grunwald smiled before pausing. "Well, you just can't really teach that."
This was truly something else. Watching Podkolzine go through a work out run by CBA coach Bill Bayno left mouths agape across the league. As these events are prone to be about, there was no competition and nothing was attempted that could put the big Russian in a bad light. But it was a sight to see nonetheless.
Before the workout Podkolzine was little more than a rumor to most NBA execs. "He was a 7-foot-5, 300 pound figment of imagination," said one Western Conference scout.
By the time he showed light feet, skilled hands and a decent jump shot -- not to mention Shaqesque size -- he had turned almost the entire draft on its ear.
If last year's was about the arrival of mammoth Yao Ming of China, then Russia, the other old communist empire of Asia, is poised to answer this time around.
"He reminds me of Yao because he combines skills with that size," Bayno said. "I think he is heavier and stronger than Yao although Yao is more skilled. He has a great lower body. He could be in shape at 350 down the road. And he can really run. He is faster than he knows."
One thing that is appealing to scouts is that Podkolzine is a true, massive man. Although he says Tracy McGrady is his favorite player, there is no would-be shooting guard trying to break out of his shell. This is a guy who is willing to bang Shaquille O'Neal on the blocks. In two years he could be a serious offensive force.
"A lot of European big guys like to stay on the perimeter, you can't move them into the post," said Bayno. "He likes it inside even though he likes to shoot the ball."
Podkolzine hails from the city of Novosibirsk, the capital of Siberia and home to about 1.5 million people. The teenager said through his translator that it was, yes, very cold there. It was a tough place to grow up and poverty is extreme in the harsh region of a depressed empire.
He played the past two years for Varese, an A1 team in the Italian Professional League, which is where he gained a cult following from scouts. But for a variety of reasons he often saw only limited playing time. So no one was completely certain about him.
Friday he became the talk of a draft that had been searching for a fourth pick after the lock top three of LeBron James, Milicic and Carmelo Anthony. Podkolzine could now be that guy. In one half-hour workout he blew American big men Chris Kaman and Chris Bosh out of the water.
"That is why he just made (the league execs) jobs tougher," said Bayno. "If you look at potential, I don't know how you can pass on him."
Despite all the fuss and pressure of Friday afternoon's workout, Podkolzine was relaxed and smiling. He doesn't speak much English but he obviously has personality. It's sort of like the likeable Yao.
"I was very surprised to see this much people (at the work out)," Podkolzine said through a translator. "I thought less people. All the famous players, the GMs in the history of the NBA. I am only a young prospect but I will work very hard to be a player. I hope one team signs me for this project."
Can you imagine the marketing possibilities here? Somebody get Sylvester Stallone out of mothballs and film a Rocky IV remake as a Sprite commercial.
At this point anything is possible. He has only seen minimal coaching and only played three years of competitive ball. His upside is immense. Which is why the top half of the lottery was reshuffled after one very simple workout on a rainy Chicago afternoon.
Big is always big in the NBA. And Podkolzine almost redefines the word big.
"He works hard, he is coachable," said his U.S.-based agent Justin Zanik. "The kid is a blank slate. He could go as high as top 10, top five. The sky is the limit."
Here is the insider. This guy sounds like he can play ball. Is there any way the nuggs would trade to get him?
(Originally ESPN Insider)
CHICAGO -- The giant is out of the bag.
Until last December, when Insider Chad Ford heard the tale of a mysterious big-man discovered in Siberia and stashed in Varese, Italy, to develop, few people in the NBA had even heard of Pavel Podkolzine.
But between Ford's story then and his visit to Italy for a first-hand look last month, Podkolzine went from anonymous to the top of the charts.
Dec. '02: Big men, tall tales
May '03: Meet goliath
Two hundred NBA scouts and GMs crammed into the Gold Coast Multiplex on Friday to watch 7-foot-4, 300 pound Siberian center Pavel Podkolzine.'s first workout. The obscure 18-year-old big man whom no one had heard of six months ago went from the ultimate sleeper to a top-10 lock in slightly more than 40 minutes.
"Holy sh--!" one NBA GM told Insider. "He's amazing."
"I don't believe what I just saw," another GM told Insider. "That's the most potent combination of size, strength and agility I've seen since Shaq."
"I was a skeptic when I read all the reports about him on Insider," another GM began. "I love the international kids, but I thought things were getting out of hand with Pavel. I'm converted now. That's one amazing prospect right there."
"What does Yao Ming do that he doesn't?" another GM said. "Yao's feel for the game at this point is much better, but from a physical standpoint, he's more explosive."
Podkolzine aced his first test in the NBA. He shot the ball extremely well, threw coach Billy Bayno around in the post like a rag doll and ran the floor like a guard.
Almost everyone in attendance quickly drew comparisons between Pavel and a young, agile Arvydas Sabonis.
"People in the NBA don't remember Sabonis when he was young," one international scout said. "They only remember the slow version. Pavel seems to have all of those same skills at the enormous size. If he develops a real feel for the game, you will see him dominate the NBA for 15 years."
For those of you still skeptical about the big fella's NBA potential consider this. Of the 20 or so team executives I talked to after the workout, none of them projected Podkolzine to last past No. 10.
" If I'm Carmelo Anthony, I'm sweating right now. Based on potential, he's right up there with LeBron and Darko. "
— An NBA GM, on Podkolzine
Some think he'll go much higher.
"He'll go anywhere from four to seven," one GM said.
"He won't get past six," said another.
One really went out on a limb. "If I'm Carmelo Anthony, I'm sweating right now. Based on potential, he's right up there with LeBron and Darko."
Indeed, after the workout, the Denver Nuggets were among the plethora of teams calling Pavel's agent, Justin Zanick, trying to schedule a private workout. Ironicaly, Carmelo met Podkolzine in the hotel lobby when Podkolzine checked in. Carmelo looked up (way up) and just said, "Damn!"
Zanick, a new NBA agent who used to work for super-agent Mark Bartelstien, also went from obscurity to one of the most powerful agents in this year's draft overnight. After the workout, he couldn't talk for two minutes without being interrupted by a team trying to arrange to see Podkolzine again.
Most won't get the chance. The buzz is so high on Podkolzine right now, Zanick is thinking of shutting down his workouts.
Podkolzine will take the NBA physical today, then begin a tour of lottery teams interested in him. Whether he actually works out during those visits remains to be seen.
He'll be in Memphis on Tuesday. Milwaukee the next day, New York on Thursday, Miami either Friday or next Saturday, and in L.A. to meet with the Clippers on June 15. The Nuggets, Raptors and Bulls also will get visits.
At 7-foot-4, Podkolzin has size and mobility, but he lacks game experience.
Of course, everyone is taking this workout with a grain of salt. It revealed nothing about court IQ, the ability to be physical with stronger, more athletic players, or game-time savvy. Podkolzine played a total of 120 minutes last year in Varese. That's three full games. In other words, everyone understands he's a project -- a guy a couple years away from having a big impact in the league. But with those type of physical skills, it appears teams are willing to take the risk.
With his buyout taken care of, and concerns about his ankle dispelled, Podkolzine has a great chance of being the second international player taken in the draft. With Darko Milicic, France's Mickael Pietrus (Bulls GM John Paxson just flew over to France to get a second look) and Poland's Maciej Lampe also generating a lot of buzz, it appears a record four international players will be selected in the lottery.
Podkolzine is surprised at all of the attention. "I can't believe how many people came to see me?" he said. "I thought, like, 10 people will be in this gym. I don't even play this year."
Pavel claims he got nervous when the stampede of NBA scouts flooded into the gym. It didn't show on the court. "I wanted to go and shake everyone's hand," he said. "But there is too many. Many, many people came. I just hope I was worth the time."
After the workout, Podkolzine's attention turnsed to food and shopping. He skipped his usual pizza for some more American-style fare. "I'm not Italian anymore," he says with a big grin. "Now I'm American."
After lunch, he was anxious to hit Niketown, hoping to find some Michael Jordan wear. It's impossible to find that stuff in Italy, and even the store manager isn't sure they make things big enough for a 7-foot-4 kid. After some serious searching, they finally find some gear big enough. Size? XXXXXL.
Everywhere he goes, people flock to him. He takes the time to stop and talk to each person. The smile didn't leave his face all day. Even off the court he seems shocked with all of the attention.
For all of his special qualities on the court, Pavel's best attributes may be off it. He's kind, warm and humble. He has no idea who he is or what he could become.
"He is a gift from God," adviser and former coach Gianni Chipparo said after the workout. "Pavel is a great kid. He works hard, and he just wants to get better. He has the chance to be very special on the court. Off the court? He's already arrived."
So, where will Podkolzine go?
Pavel Podkolzine isn't likely to bump LeBron James or Darko Milicic out of the top two spots in the draft, but after that it's almost a toss-up. Here's a breakdown of the teams considering drafting him:
3. Denver Nuggets: Carmelo who? GM Kiki Vandeweghe is intrigued. Would Denver swap the No. 3 pick with Toronto (who really wants 'Melo) for the No. 4 and a couple of future first-rounders?
As for Pavel, he has done a decent job. His team has outscored Real Madrid by 9 points with him on court. His presence has been felt mostly on the defensive end. It's really difficult to beat him one-on-one from the post, although he has problems rotating, especially when he's forced to leave the proximities of the rim. Other then that, his timing for blocks and rebounds needs some serious refining. His quickness and athleticism are quite good for a man his size, but he's clearly a notch below Yao. Offensively, his teammates still don't trust him and he has a world of work to do with his post up moves, as right now he prefers to shoot the jumper, but he moves decently without the ball and seems to have already been familiarized with the game. His attitude is good.
So, any conclusion? You probably guessed it: he's a very raw player. Potential? Yes, lots of it, but perhaps not as much as you might think. Not Yao-esque potential, that's for sure. But with the appropriate developement of his post up moves, enough playing time to improve his feel for the game and more maturity, he could be really dangerous in the League on both ends of the court. He's defitively worthy a lottery pick, although a top-3 might be just too much for him (but of course, this also depends on who is picking and the competition he faces in the draft).
If Kahn was a GM during the time Pavel was working out for the draft, he'd certainly draft him in a heartbeat...lol
whatever happened to this Russian behemoth?
Guess it was 6-7 years ago, and boy has my outlook on scouting and looking at basketball players changed. I figured he was mobile (uh oh), strong (yeah, that probably was what took away his mobility) and had a great skill set for a player his size. ESPN hyped the heck out of "the Siberian Bear", and I knew no better back than. When he did finally pull out of the draft, one in which he was originally slated to be a top 8 pick, I should have had warning signs buzzing off in my head. I am sure my outlook on Pavel changed slightly that next year, but I still felt he was a steal when Dallas traded for him. Well, I will chalk it up to not only bad judgement on my part, but listening to the wrong people. You can not always take everything a person says seriously, everyone makes logistical errors scouting a player, and people made a HUGE one when they were saying Pavel was the next Yao Ming.
Face it, when you get to a certain point in basketball, EVERYONE can dribble and knock down open jumpers when you are practicing and have not built up a sweat. When you are 7'5 and you are basically shadow boxing with a basketball, it looked like he had some skills. The problem is, when everyone has instincts and speed well beyond your capability, in the game situation that will have an effect on these abilities. Pavel was blown way out of proportion, and I learned a major lesson from that whole situation.
My Jazz Drafted this guy, then Sent him to Dallas.
I remember being intrigued by him, but always thought that the top ten talk was way off.
he was the Bismack Biyambo, of that draft!
Wow, crazy how wrong these folks were. Really amazing. I think the NBA has to realize that you can't really develop a kid by putting them on your bench. He has to play. And if he isn't playing for his second level Euro team, guess what, you aren't going to want to play him in the NBA. Mozgov is an example of a guy who has all the physical tools, but needs 20 minutes a game every night or else he is never going to get better.
By the way, reading this I think it is pretty close to pointless for scouts to watch these one on one workouts. No pressure, no speed, no need to deal with double teams or multiple defenders coming from odd angles means this has nothing to do with real NBA basketball.
In 2004 The Utah Jazz select with the #21 pick of the draft
Pavel Podkolzine, and then trade him to Dallas for a first-round pick in NBA Draft 2005.
That Pick (#27) was Packaged with the Jazz's Pick (#6) and a future pick to move up to select Deron Williams.
(2011) Williams is traded to New Jersey, for Favors, Harris, and 2 1st round picks,
(one this year that is -right now- #6, and could be #1 after the Lotto)
Podkolzine is still having a huge impact on the NBA Draft.
Could be considered the Catalyst (Godfather) of the modern Utah Jazz!
How is he doing now? Can he play?
Another guy that needs a shot is Hasheem Thabeet. Never got enough minutes on the Grizzlies. He is pretty much a 7'2 Bismack Biyombo. Thabeet tears up the D League when he goes. If the Rockets are patient he may turn into the center that they need.
I don't think teams do enough to develop talent. Many of these guys never had the proper coaching in high school and college.
You can draft a big man project but you have to wait on him. And sometimes you have to know if a guy is changing the game when he is in there, and not necessarily just putting up stats.
In this draft Enes Kanter is supposed to be a good big man. Projected starter and maybe a solid third or fourth option on offense. The rest of the big men look like role players at best. Biyombo looks like he can bet the best rebounder and shot blocker of the bunch. His ability to run the floor and dunk combined with his high basketball IQ give him another dimension as a player.
Not the best draft for big men, and if it is a choice between Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris, and Terrence Jones then I like the bigger guy who can rebound and block shots at a higher level. The Morris twins and Jones remind me of Jeff Green, who is a solid player but more of a 7th, 8th or 9th guy who can do some of everything but is more of a tweener. Jeff Green is a back up on the Celtics and plays behind Glen Davis who is their sixth man. Even though Jeff Green is more athletic and probably a little taller, Big Baby plays more minutes since he is a better banger and rebounder inside. He also takes up more space on defense and he can finish strong under the basket, even if he doesn't dunk it. The Celtics even play him at center based on his nice blend of size, strength, and basketball IQ. Biyombo is more likely to be a team's top shot-blocker and rebounder. I see him as more like a banger and rebounder such as a Big Baby or a Serge Ibaka with the potential to be like Ben Wallace.
He's probably performing in some Russian circus now...