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Under the Radar: Dmitry Kulagin

January 6th, 2011 · 2 Comments

There aren’t probably many 1992 born players that average double-digit points this season in one of the better European Leagues. One player, that we particularly liked the times we have seen him play before is in that case. 10.3ppg, 2.0rpg, 2.0apg and 1.4spg in just 19.1 minutes on the court, these are the numbers that the Russian combo-guard Dmitry Kulagin is producing the PBL. Certainly, his team is not the best but the numbers intrigued me and I had to check some game tape (that is freely available on the website of the PBL by the way) and get a better idea how Kulagin is doing against grown men.

If you stay with the numbers in the beginning of this post, you see that Kulagin had some major ups and downs in the season, especially with his playing time. There has been everything from 1 minute to 29 with the results in relation. But what you can see is that even when playing only limited minutes, Kulagin has possessions and uses them to either score or create something. The 1m95 tall combo-guard knows how to score the basketball and he has no fear to do it on the Senior Level.

The Moscow-native is doing an excellent job attacking the basket, especially in Pick-and-Roll situations where he is dangerous because of his long-distance shot. The defense needs to go out on him as he can go up quickly for the shot with the defense on him. He is not extremely fast but shows correct speed with the ball, especially on the fast-break. Kulagin seems to have a good understanding of the game as you see him using the principles of basketball like the give-and-go like a veteran. He recognizes well the lanes that his team mates run in order to find them open on the cut. When he attacks the basket, he remains vigilant to make the decisive dish even at the last moment and therefore surprises sometimes his team mates.

His shot is executed with a good quick release. He can take it as a set-shot but also out of the dribble, especially when he is going left. Kulagin likes to take the jumper out of the dribble but it is mostly some kind of running shot and not a straight jump-shot out of the dribble penetration. He shows also some creativity in order to find solutions either with the difficult finish or the pass to his team mate. For a player of his age, you see him talk a lot to his team mates, announcing the plays or consulting what to do next. He plays mainly on the SG position as he lacks the experience of being a PG but in my opinion, Kulagin should be able to move definitely to the 1 position in the future. He has the necessary presence on the court to do it. With his size, he can play the SG position but it would be a great height on the PG and it would help him especially on defense.

Kulagin in the PBL game against Krasnie Krilya in December 2010

Defense is currently not one of his major forces if you take out his good sense for the passing lanes and the associated steals. However, several players try to bring him down low on the post in order to play him with the back to the basket as Kulagin does not present a real physical presence on defense. He gets easily beaten and needs to improve his positioning and intensity on that end of the floor. He has quick hands though, likes to dive for the ball and should be able to do a good job but he needs to concentrate a bit more on the normal defensive duties, improve his lateral quickness and not just wait on the passing-lane steal opportunity.

Kulagin has good athletic abilities for European standards but he is not particularly explosive. As you can see in the integrated clip, he is able to come up with some dunks on the fastbreak when being open but he mainly goes for the secure score when attacking the basket with defense. The question is now: where is he heading next. Nizhny Novgorod is playing a poor season so far in the Russian PBL and it would not be a surprise if Kulagin moves this summer to a stronger squad. But first of all, he should use the minutes that he is getting on this level in order to work on his weaknesses and gain as much experience as he can.

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