Free Agency 2012: Andrei Kirilenko Chooses the Timberwolves over the Nets
This was not a difficult choice, almost anyone reading this would have done the same. Andrei Kirilenko was offered a deal worth $20 million, while Brooklyn could only give him the veteran's minimum. I'm sure that Brooklyn owner Mikhail Prokhorov would have gladly paid countryman Kirilenko, but rules restrict the spent-out Nets.
Money solves a lot of problems, but the CBA won't let you solve all of them. The onus shifted onto another team to make a questionable decision. The T-Wolves had the cap room to ink Kirilenko and they did just that, but it's surprising that they did it for so much.
The prediction here is that David Kahn will likely regret this deal—insofar as he can experience the human emotion of "regret." Andrei Kirilenko has been a splendid all-around player, but the operative word is "has been." AK-47's best season happened in 2003-2004, when he went off for 16.5 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 3.8 blocks. Great year, but this is another way of saying, "Andrei's peak occurred back during George W. Bush's first term, and it's been downhill ever since."
From that point, Kirilenko has suffered injury plagued year after injury plagued year. It wasn't just the injuries, though. In between the absences, he appeared dejected and defeated. He lost some bounce on the defensive end. He would go into protracted shooting slumps.
His last season with Utah was especially dreadful. As all combusted around Deron Williams and Jerry Sloan, AK faded away. He missed 18 games and notched a pedestrian 16.6 PER. Perhaps the 2010-2011 year wasn't regarded so terribly because Kirilenko had seen worse. In 2006-2007 his game completely fell apart, to the tune of a 14.3 PER, and subsequently mediocre playoffs.
Andrei comes and goes. He has a unique game that needs a very specific ecosystem to thrive in. Once Deron Williams started running the flex with Carlos Boozer, Kirilenko didn't quite fit. Since I've never seen him play for any other NBA team, it is difficult to know what his best situation is.
Perhaps his ideal landing spot is Europe. Last season, AK-47 played wonderfully for CSKA Moscow, claiming the 2012 Euroleague MVP. He had such success there that you almost wonder why he's coming back. What does Andrei have to prove? Did he get his groove back in Russia?
While allowing for the chance that Kirilenko had a moment of self discovery, I can't really agree with paying him two years, $20 million. You are far from guaranteed the CSK Moscow star and so much of what made AK-47 valuable has eroded.
The weak-side shotblocking has severely decreased and not because Andrei's using better positioning like Tyson Chandler or Kevin Garnett. Kirilenko used to block around three shots per 36 minutes in his prime. He didn't go above 1.5 in his three most recent NBA seasons. Considering that he's only 220 lbs and not incredibly mobile, he might not be giving Minnesota all that much on defense.
Players who age well tend to be big for their position and tend to shoot lights out. Andrei Kirilenko is a 6'9" (in shoes) power forward, and he's a career .312 three point shooter.
So, at age 31, AK-47 is a risk that I wouldn't take. David Kahn has done much worse than this, and the $10 million per year price tag is a bit offset by the brevity of a two-year contract. The signing might also be an admission that they aren't quite getting what they expected out of Derrick Williams.
The 2011 No. 2 draft pick is theoretically Minnesota's tweener forward of the future. Williams shot erratically for much of the year and and his name has floated in quite a few trade rumors.
Kirilenko might have been signed just because Kahn saw value, but you have to wonder if there's a plan going forward in Minny. Kahn has been known to desperately stack one position when he isn't entirely confident in the options (See: 2009 draft). I would love to be wrong on this, because a healthy, energized Andrei is a sight to behold.
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