Ranking Best NBA Fits for Andrei Kirilenko
Andrei Kirilenko has a right to look a bit uncertain, as the number of teams that can pay him a reasonable contract is dwindling by the day.
When AK-47 opted out of his $10 million contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves, he presumably did so with the knowledge that he'd be making less money per year while securing his financial future. Little did he know that he'd still be unsigned after the lifting of the moratorium, struggling to find a team that can offer him his desired deal.
The San Antonio Spurs were the latest team to go by the wayside in the pursuit of the Russian forward after the Timberwolves refused to help make a sign-and-trade work, according to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski.
Another team that has emerged as a suitor would be offering him significantly less money. The Brooklyn Nets, after failing to secure Bojan Bogdanovic, are hoping that Kirilenko will decide to accept the mini mid-level exception and sign a three-year contract for $10 million.
That would also mean that the veteran forward would have to back up Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in the Barclays Center, so you can pretty much scratch that option out.
Given the current depth charts and lack of teams with money to spend, Kirilenko has five legitimate options remaining if he wants to land a big contract. Even the team occupying the No. 5 spot in these rankings appears highly unlikely to acquire his services.
5. Sacramento Kings
After acquiring Luc Richard Mbah a Moute from the Milwaukee Bucks for just a couple of second-round draft picks, the Sacramento Kings don't have as much of a need for Andrei Kirilenko's services.
None of that points in the direction of the Kings acquiring Kirilenko, but the Russian forward would still be a great fit on the roster. Unless John Salmons was amnestied, Kirilenko would need to be brought on board through a sign-and-trade, something the Minnesota Timberwolves have been very hesitant to do. Sacramento has a number of expendable pieces in both the frontcourt and the backcourt.
Additionally, the depth at small forward isn't there, even after acquiring Mbah a Moute. Salmons is no longer the type of player you want to be using in a rotation, and Kirilenko's defensive skills would allow him to form a terrifying one-two punch with the former Buck.
This landing spot falls well behind the rest, though, simply because there isn't an obvious spot for Kirilenko to earn playing time. Although he's 32 years old, AK-47 is experiencing a career resurgence after returning from Russia.
He deserves major minutes.
Unless the Kings were willing to part with Jason Thompson in a potential sign-and-trade to acquire Kirilenko, he'd be competing with the aforementioned big man, Carl Landry and Mbah a Moute for minutes at either the 3 or 4. That's not what the Russian forward is looking for, but he might have no other choice in a dwindling market.
4. Dallas Mavericks
The Dallas Mavericks have cap space to play with, which gives them a spot in these rankings, but they already have a less effective version of Andrei Kirilenko.
Shawn Marion is another one of those versatile stat-sheet stuffers who excels on the defensive end of the court, thanks primarily to his underrated athleticism and ability to guard all types of players. But "The Matrix" is aging, and he's not doing it quite as gracefully as AK-47.
According to "82games.com," Marion allowed opposing small forwards and power forwards to post respective PERs of 15.6 and 15.2 against him. Compare that to Kirilenko, who struggled against power forwards (17.2) and excelled against small forwards (13.9).
Both are still fantastic defensive players, but Kirilenko's offense gives him the advantage. He may not be a stellar perimeter shooter, but he's a heady player who plays to his strengths. Using "82games.com" once more, AK-47 posted a PER of 18.4 at the 3 and 18.6 at the 4. Marion was fantastic at power forward, but he lagged well behind the Russian forward at small forward.
Basically, those numbers indicate that Marion is more effective at power forward at this stage of his career, while Kirilenko thrives at small forward. Even though they're similar players, they can play together.
Boasting the services of both stat-sheet stuffers would allow the Mavericks to compensate for a lack of size and play Dirk Nowitzki at center, solving the whole problem of finding a big man. If Andrew Bynum spurns them, the options are extremely limited at the 5, after all.
A Jose Calderon-Vince Carter-Kirilenko-Marion-Nowitzki lineup would be quite unorthodox, but that doesn't mean it wouldn't be effective.
3. Milwaukee Bucks
When the Milwaukee Bucks traded Luc Richard Mbah a Moute to the Sacramento Kings, the move was inexplicable for two reasons: The team didn't receive much value in return for one of the better wing defenders in the NBA, and the move left the Bucks completely devoid of talent at small forward.
The only natural small forward on the Bucks roster is Giannis Antetokounmpo, and he's more than just months away from being ready for NBA action. He's years away from being able to make quality contributions at the sport's highest level. Antetokounmpo was drafted because of his long-term potential, not because he'd compete for Rookie of the Year.
Meanwhile, the Bucks are just loaded in the frontcourt.
Ersan Ilyasova, John Henson, Gustavo Ayon and Drew Gooden are all part of the power forward rotation, while Larry Sanders, Zaza Pachulia and Ekpe Udoh each need minutes at center.
Right now, Ilyasova is inevitably going to shift over to the 3 out of necessity, and that's just not a good idea.
Kirilenko would immediately fill the void left by Mbah a Moute, and he'd give the Bucks an actual small forward.
It would be a great fit for AK-47, but it seems to fly in the face of Milwaukee's tanking strategy.
2. Atlanta Hawks
The Atlanta Hawks still have money to burn this offseason, especially if their pursuits of Monta Ellis and Andrew Bynum are fruitless.
Andrei Kirilenko would be a nice stopgap at small forward until the team has another chance to pursue a younger star, and he'd form a terrifying frontcourt trio alongside Paul Millsap and Al Horford.
I've never understood the claims that Horford has to play at power forward because he's a "natural power forward." Positions change, and the Florida product has been far more effective at center than anywhere else throughout his career.
Keeping Horford at center is a perfectly acceptable strategy for Atlanta, and signing Kirilenko would ensure that it happens. He'd be locked in at small forward, sharing some minutes with Kyle Korver, who could play at shooting guard the majority of the time. The sharpshooter thrives equally at the two positions.
That leaves Millsap at power forward—his best position—and Horford at the 5.
Atlanta doesn't need any perimeter shooting or floor spacing given the current makeup of its roster, so Kirilenko could focus on his biggest strengths.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cleveland Cavaliers are set at every position, save one.
At point guard, Dan Gilbert's team boasts one of the premier young floor generals in the game: Kyrie Irving. Plus Jarrett Jack is more than capable as a backup and should compete for the coveted Sixth Man of the Year trophy.
Dion Waiters holds down the fort at shooting guard, although the position's depth is a bit lacking. The second-year player out of Syracuse struggled during the early portion of his rookie season, but he looked to be putting the pieces together after the All-Star break.
At power forward, the Cavs lay claim to Tristan Thompson, a player who took major strides during his second year out of Texas, and Anthony Bennett, the reigning No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. Earl Clark will also help out here as well, though he shouldn't be more than an eighth or ninth man in the rotation.
Anderson Varejao and Tyler Zeller form a capable rotation at center, which leaves small forward as the weakest position. Sergey Karasev will be able to help as a rookie, and the Cavs might play Bennett some at the 3, but they need a potent veteran small forward in order to take the next step.
Kirilenko would do the trick for the team, especially as he'd be adding more defense to a team that desperately needs it. He's also been linked with the Cavs, as they remain one of two franchises that have shown interest in him without being shot down.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski, he's become a second option if Cleveland can't secure the services of Andrew Bynum:
Bynum, 25, left Cleveland to travel to Atlanta to meet with Hawks officials, and Cleveland has begun to engage free agents Andrei Kirilenko and Elton Brand on possible one-year deals that would preclude the Cavaliers from the ability to sign Bynum, league sources said.
Given the uncertainty surrounding Bynum's knees and the quality of the options already in the Cleveland frontcourt, the Cavs would be better suited signing Kirilenko. He fits the needs of the organization perfectly, and he's a much safer option who will inevitably sign for less money.
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