- 26 years old, DOB: 7/1/1992.
- Moscow native.
- After just 1,024 minutes with CSKA Moscow the previous two seasons, logged 866 minutes in his first year with Lokomotiv Kuban.
- Key rotation player on the team that got to the Eurocup Finals and won 17 of 24 games in the VTB United League regular season (before getting swept by Khimki in the quarterfinals).
- Averaged 18.1 points per 40 minutes on 56.3% true shooting and compiled a 15.8 PER in 36 appearances last season.
- Six-foot-six point forward who ran a lot of offense: logged 24.4% usage rate and assisted on 26% of Lokomotiv Kuban’s scores when he was on the floor;
- Can grab-and-go to push the ball up the floor in transition, trigger motion offense in the half-court, post-up smaller matchups in a pinch and run middle high pick-and-roll against a set defense.
- Was relied on to defend different types of players and proved he offers quite a bit of versatility on the other end as well;
- Can credibly defend smaller players at the point of attack, stay in front of similarly sized wings, chase shooters around the second side of the floor and put up a fight against bigger players in the post or under the glass.
- Pretty good shot creator for others out of pick-and-roll: can make well-timed pocket passes against drop defense, hit the dive man over the top against hedges or traps, toss up lobs in traffic off deep dribble penetration and launch crosscourt passes to the opposite end against hard shows cutting him off from turning the corner.
- Turnover prone: attempts a lot of passes in traffic and is too aggressive trying to thread the needle in a few instances – giving up the ball on 19.9% of his possessions last season.
- Doesn’t have an explosive first step but is quite resourceful with the ball in his hands: can go left off the pick and has a hesitation move, an in-and-out dribble and the ability to go behind the back in a pinch to create forward momentum or separation one-on-one.
- Up-and-down finisher at the basket who can’t go up strong off one foot in traffic, rarely finishes through contact and attempts basic righty speed layups most of the time but who can also go to a shot fake off a jump-stop to get rim protectors in the air and a lefty finger-roll finish every once in a while;
- Put a good deal of pressure at the rim: averaged 7.1 foul shots per 40 minutes last season.
- Can post-up smaller matchups in a pinch: has a shot fake to get his man in the air to draw shooting fouls and can set a turnaround fade-away jumper but does best finding cutters and spot-up shooters out of working with his back to the basket.
- Capable but poor shot maker off the dribble. Can create enough separation for step-back fade-away jumpers in isolation and side-step one-dribble pull-ups off the pick-and-roll but the ball doesn’t go in a whole lot;
- Shot just 48.5% on 175 two-point attempts last season.
- Capable but poor floor-spacer on spot-ups;
- Bends his knees to get down in a stance and has several lateral slides to stay in front of similarly sized players in isolation, though doesn’t use his 211-pound frame to chest up and contain dribble penetration through contact.
- Puts in the effort to slide around off ball screens and chase shooters around the second side of the floor. Works hard to deny on dribble-handoffs.
- Gets caught ball watching and gives up backdoor cuts from time-to-time but generally can execute the scheme as a weak-side defender: attentive enough to switch on the fly, rotates in to pick up the roll man, positions himself to guard two opponents off ball, steps up to help protect the rim when he is positioned as the last line of defense;
- Good instincts and reactions to get into passing lanes: 1.6 steals per 40 minutes last season;
- Contributes some on the defensive glass: collected 12.6% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor.
- So-so at closeouts: sometimes flies by but there are also times when he is able to run the shooter off his shot and stay balanced.
- Can credibly pick up smaller players on switches: works to go over screens at the point of attack and hustles in pursuit to challenge shots or passes from behind.
- Can credibly pick up bigger players on switches: tenacious enough to front the post and box out whomever is close by.
Kulagin is a very interesting player: a wing who can run offense and create for others in volume due to the versatility of his passing, while also being able to credibly defend different types of players. Someone with that combination of skills can be very valuable these days, as a chess piece who can unlock lineups in both sides of the extremes in terms of size.
His inability to make a shot is what’s preventing him from being considered a potential impact player at higher levels, though. His true shooting percentage was only about average this past year because he got to the foul line in volume and hit 82.6% of his free throws but the team still scored more efficiently without him on the floor both in the Eurocup and the VTB United League.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara