'What, me worry?'
As reported by Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune, Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrei Kirilenko has opted-out of the final year of his contract, deciding to forgo the $10.2 million he was guaranteed for next season.
The 32-year-old wants a long-term deal in free agency, and while he probably won't get $10 million a year, he could make roughly double that over a three-year deal.
Fortunately for Kirilenko, he's coming off his finest season since 2005-06. After playing in Russia during the lockout season and helping guide his country to bronze in the Beijing Olympics, the golden-tressed NBA player looks well placed to land a multi-year contract.
How much money he commands will be the real question.
Last season, he averaged 12.4 points per game on a career-high 50.7 percent shooting. Though he grabbed only 5.7 boards a night, he also averaged a block and 1.5 steals per game. Kirilenko posted the 10th-best player efficiency rating (PER) among small forwards, better than stat-sheet stuffer Josh Smith or Most Improved Player of the Year-winner Paul George.
The one concern with Kirilenko is durability. He has had a track record of injuries over the past five years and missed 18 games last season with various ailments. Still, he offers experience and versatility as a big 3 or a small 4. He's good at finishing near the rim and has the court vision to make the necessary pass when the defense converges.
When healthy, he is a quality player, and some team who needs a free-agent forward is likely to bite.
Here are five teams that have the needs and means to provide Kirilenko with a comfy landing spot for the next few seasons.
Do I sense a hilarious buddy comedy in the works?
Kyle Korver and Zaza Pachulia will also be unrestricted free agents, so the big question in ATL is this:
Who will help Al Horford?
I'm not sure DeShawn Stevenson and Dahntay Jones are up to the task. Of course, if No. 16 pick Lucas Nogueira plays as good as his hair looks, Horford could have a potent young pivot to help him down low.
The Hawks have cap room to work with and a looming need in their frontcourt to address. Kirilenko provides a nice mix of everything—defense, toughness, perimeter shooting and veteran experience. He's not great at any one thing, but he's pretty good at many things.
There's not much of a defined plan in Atlanta at the moment, so Kirilenko could fit nicely in that undefined space.
Kyrie Irving looks ready to take the Cavs to new heights.
Anderson Varejao is set to return from injury for the Cleveland Cavalier and will supplant Tyler Zeller at starting center. That leaves Tristan Thompson and Alonzo Gee as the starting forwards.
While Thompson enjoyed a strong season at the small forward spot(11.7 points and 9.4 boards per game), Gee struggled to produce like a starting-caliber 3. He finished the year ranked 48th by ESPN in player efficiency rating among SFs, barely better than Richard Jefferson.
Reserve forwards Marreese Speights and Luke Walton are unrestricted free agents, so the frontcourt depth is a bit thin.
The Cavs made a surprise addition by drafting UNLV power forward Anthony Bennett first overall. The Runnin' Rebel is awkwardly sized, with a stout 240-pound frame but standing at just 6'8". He could step down to the 3 but may lack the quickness, and it remains to be seen if the Cavs will give him big minutes right away.
And that's where Kirilenko could step in and bridge the gap for the budding Cavaliers.
One of the things Cleveland lacks is veteran leadership. They have a stellar young backcourt with Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, so they just need to find the right mix of players up front.
Kirilenko would be a nice addition to the Cavs frontcourt, and they have the money to spend on him. A two-year contract could provide Cleveland with a veteran presence and someone to coach up the new rookies, including the this year's second first-round pick, Sergey Karasev.
Insert Kirilenko at right.
The New Orleans Pelicans need many things, but the roster is starting to round into shape.
They'll be hoping for a healthy season from last year's first overall pick, Anthony Davis, but they have questions at small forward—questions which Kirilenko could answer.
Al-Farouq Aminu is an unrestricted free agent, as is Lou Amundsen and NOLA has a team option for Jason Smith.
Davis and Robin Lopez will manage things down low, but with Aminu possibly heading elsewhere, the Pelicans will be short-handed at the 3. Ryan Anderson gives them a talented stretch-4, but at 6'10" and 240 pounds, Anderson is too slow to defend opposing small forwards.
Eric Gordon and assists leader Greivis Vasquez did a creditable job in the Hornets backcourt last season, and now the team has added All-Star Jrue Holiday through a draft-day trade.
Kirilenko could be a good fit for the young, developing team. New Orleans' most glaring need is at small forward, so it could be a perfect fit.
With so many talented pieces on the roster, netting a veteran in freeagency to address their biggest deficiency could take the Pelicans to new heights next year.
MKG was shocked to find out the only quality player Charlotte has is Kemba Walker.
The Charlotte Bobcats have a ton of decisions to make this offseason, and, not surprisingly, the franchise still appears almost completely rudderless.
The Bobcats have a slew of their own free agents to deal with, including Gerald Henderson (restricted) and DeSagana Diop, Josh McRoberts, Byron Mullens, Reggie Williams and Jannero Pargo (all unrestricted).
The franchise will look to build around talented youngsters Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, but they need help up and down the depth chart. The Bobcats are also hoping that fourth overall pick Cody Zeller can join that talented young duo to form a core for the future.
Because of MKG, Kirilenko would fit better at power forward. His veteran experience would be a valuable enough asset to compensate for having to play Kirilenko in something of a small-ball lineup.
Aside from their bevy of free agents, Charlotte has only one player currently over the age of 27 (Brendan Haywood)
The Bobcats lost 61 games last year,and there isn't much reason to think they'll do much better this season. The franchise is still something of a project, but if the young talent matures, the 'Cats could be looking sharp in a couple of seasons.
Kirilenko's toughness and leadership could help guide the way.
'Good luck, buddy.'
Kirilenko could in fact return to the Timberwolves, but the team seems unlikely to give him a multiple-year contract, as Minnesota doesn't have much cap space.
They also traded up in the draft to snag UCLA swingman Shabazz Muhammad at No. 14, so they may be looking toward the future instead of trying to retain a 32-year-old with injury issues over the past five seasons.
Minnesota's priority is to retain its unrestricted free agents: 27-year-old Montenegrin Nikola Pekovic and rangy reserve Chase Budinger.
It seems unlikely there will be resources necessary to keep Kirilenko, but he has a relationship with the franchise and played well in the team's system last season. Minnesota will take a long, hard look at the Russian before they allow him to slip away.
Plus, whom will Alexey Shved talk to?