Euroleague Power Rankings: Sasha Kaun, Better Than Ever

In four years as a Kansas Jayhawk, Sasha Kaun never averaged more than 5.6 shots a game.  He needed just six against Panathinaikos to rack up the Euroleague’s weekly MVP award.

The long-armed Kaun might have fallen short of statistical expectations in Lawrence, but part of that was due to his incredible efficiency (54, 56, 53 in his first three years from the field, respectively) and the adjoining hope that he may one day extrapolate those to a near-All-American level with more minutes. Kaun would go on to average just 17.7 minutes as a senior, but bumped his field goal percentage up to 62 percent as he came off the bench for Kansas’ 2008 National Championship team.

He was drafted by the SuperSonics in the second round that summer and then traded to Cleveland, but then made the trip to CSKA Moscow, where he has played ever since.

Between then and now, he has flashed in and out of Euroleague consciousness as injuries (the same bad knees that hobbled him at Kansas) have limited his availability, and that sporadic playing time has limited his opportunity to chisel out a consistent role on a club that famously employs a bevy of capable bigs at any given time for situations such as these. In fact, it was an injury to Viktor Khryapa that thrust Kaun into an expanded role in the first place, netting a season-high 34 minutes.

But now, Sasha Kaun appears healthy and is playing the best basketball of his career.

In his MVP week, Kaun didn’t exude efficiency; he defined it.  He scored 13 points by making all six of his shots and his only free throw while pulling down eight rebounds, blocking five shots, notching a pair of steals and a pair of assists and turning it over never.

Perhaps a monster was born in the third quarter of CSKA’s third quarter against Real Madrid last week, or perhaps this is the Kaun we would have seen now for years had he been at full strength for at least most of them.  He missed the entire 2010-11 Euroleague campaign with a knee injury, meaning this is really only his fourth official season as a Euroleaguer.  If Moscow, Russia is anything like Lawrence, Kansas (I’ve been to neither, but I imagine they’re about as different as Dorothy and Dr. Zhivago), that’s good news for CSKA’s title hopes.

To the rankings…

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