Let me get this out of the way: I'm really excited the Sixers have the first Iranian-born player to ever be drafted. Hamed Haddadi was the first NBA player from Iran, but he wasn't drafted, leaving Arsalan Kazemi as the trailblazer with that distinction. He's certainly an inspiring story with an entire nation supporting him, and I can't wait to learn more about this dude. He'll be a fan favorite within seconds of his first appearance.
Onto basketball! Kazemi can play. Watch one game of his and you'll be amazed at how often he gets his hands on the ball. He led the entire NCAA in rebounds over his four years as a college athlete -- Mike Muscala's 792 were second to his 912) -- and that's from both the offensive and defensive glass. His career 28.6 DREB% will translate to the NBA, as general scouting consensus agrees that rebounding is the skill most likely to maintain itself at the next level.
He's also pretty damn athletic (sick dunk reel) and if you watch that, you'll see that he flexes after he dunks sometimes, which will make me laugh all season long. He also plays strong defense against two, maybe three positions because of his 7'0 wingspan on his solid 6'7 frame. Most exciting is his ability to get in passing lanes and turn it into transition opportunities.
Kazemi rocked a 4.1% steal rate his last two years of college. The other Sixers draftees, Nerlens Noel (3.9%) and Michael Carter-Williams (4.7%) are also quite adept at forcing turnovers. Thaddeus Young led the 2012-13 Sixers with a steal rate of 2.7%. Think Sam Hinkie has identified what kind of defense he'd like to play?
Here's the terrifically named SBN Oregon blog Addicted to Quack on AK:
Show me another one-year transfer who reps their school as hard as Kazemi does. Great guy, great player, and I think he’ll carve out a space for himself in the Association.
In his one season at Oregon, Arsalan Kaezmi immediately became a fan favorite. He has a high basketball IQ. Defensively, he plays very fundamentally. This is not only true on the block, but also on the perimeter, where, despite his 6'7" frame, he was second in the Pac-12 in steals this past season, many of those coming on perimeter poke aways. His biggest strength is an uncanny knack for rebounding, where he often gets great position and has a nose for the ball. Kazemi's size for a power forward, at 6'7", may be a bit of a problem in the league, as he really cannot play any other position. His is very one-dimensional offensively. It's all dunks and put backs--I don't think he attempted a jumper in his season at Oregon. His absolute ceiling would be a Dennis Rodman type, who can affect a game with his defense and rebounding, both of which are superb and he works his tail off. However, he'll likely be an offensive liability in the league. If he can overcome the size issue, he has the potential to create a niche for himself as a solid backup big.
There's a reason he fell to 54. His offensive game is extremely limited. He has no jump shot. I find that extremely endearing. He's almost strictly a meat-and-potatoes guy. I love meat and I love potatoes, so I'm on board.
But Sam Hinkie has said again and again that with all the second round wheeling and dealing (turning the 35th selection into #54, a Brooklyn 2014 second rounder, and a Houston 2014 second rounder), he made sure he had a pick to draft Kazemi.
What will he become at the next level? Maybe a more athletic, less black holed Reggie Evans? Prime Eduardo Najera? His dominance on the college boards cannot be overstated. Kid was stellar. He will have a role and he won't try to do any more than what the Sixers ask him to do. I'm so looking forward it.
And here's a picture of him with his family. Somebody hold me.