The Milwaukee Bucks are reportedly among four NBA teams interested in signing unrestricted free agent center Kyrylo Fesenko, according to Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times. The other teams reportedly interested in signing Fesenko are the Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks and Chicago Bulls. This comes in the wake of news that Drew Gooden is out for Friday's game and is not with the team in Orlando due to wrist and knee injuries, with Jon Leuer taking his place in the starting lineup next to Ersan Ilyasova, who replaces Luc Mbah a Moute.
The 7'1" Ukrainian center played four seasons as a backup for the Utah Jazz, compiling the rather modest career averages of 2.3 points and 1.3 rebounds in just 8.3 minutes per game. Fesenko tore the meniscus in his left knee while playing for the Ukrainian national team in the Eurobasket Tournament during the fall, and has been rehabbing in Denver while trying to find a landing spot in the NBA.
According to Woelfel, the Bucks are trying to set up a meeting with the free agent big man for next week. Fesenko's agent, Stu Lash, has said his client is "fine now" and that "he's ready to go," and the Bucks certainly need big bodies now that Andrew Bogut and Drew Gooden are both out. At approximately 280 pounds, Fesenko brings significantly more bulk than Larry Sanders and Jon Leuer can offer, which would help with interior defense and rebounding while Gooden is out.
In fact, John Hollinger of ESPN suggests that a healthy Fesenko could provide a serious upgrade on the defensive end. Here is an excerpt from Hollinger's offseason player capsule for the Ukrainian big man:
The best-kept secret in the NBA right now is Fesenko's monstrous defensive stats. It's not that one or two metrics point out his defensive value; it's that all of them do, without any pointing to the contrary.
Last season the Jazz were an eye-popping 11.91 points per 100 possessions better on defense with Fesenko on the floor, and this is not a new trend. The season before it was 8.67; in limited minutes his first two seasons he also had a strong differential.
Synergy Stats, meanwhile, rated Fesenko as the second-best defender in the entire league among players who faced at least 150 opponent plays; the season before he was first. And according to 82games.com, opposing centers had a PER of just 10.4 against him; the season before it was 12.9.
As every Bucks fan knows, the team could certainly use an upgrade on the defensive end even when Drew Gooden gets back to full strength. Nobody from the NBA scrap heap could replace the value of Andrew Bogut when it comes to point prevention, but taking a low-risk investment on Fesenko to mitigate the damage might be the best option for the Bucks at the moment. Moreover, the Bucks' decision to waive Darington Hobson means they have an open roster spot that could be used on Fesenko or another big man.