Andrei Kirilenko may have put forth one of the worst seasons of his NBA career in 2013-14, but he'll have an opportunity to turn things around next season after reportedly accepting his player option for the upcoming campaign with the Brooklyn Nets. The team announced the decision on Tuesday:
Andrei Kirilenko has exercised his option to remain with Brooklyn for the 2014-15 season. #Nets— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) June 24, 2014
David Aldridge of NBA.com was the first to report the news:
Andrei Kirilenko opts in with Brooklyn for next season at $3.3M, per source. Second year of two-year deal worth $6.5M.— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) June 23, 2014
After missing significant time with back ailments, Kirilenko posted career lows in minutes (19 per game) and points (five per game) and only shot 51.3 percent from the free-throw line. The statistical picture was even worse in the postseason, as he averaged 2.5 points per game in 14.4 minutes.
After one playoff game in particular when he did not see the floor, Kirilenko expressed some confusion about his usage, or lack thereof, via Mike Mazzeo of ESPNNewYork.com:
I was a little bit surprised. But to be honest, when I watched the game everybody played so well. I didn’t even see a position for me to fill-in because Terrence Ross obviously got two quick fouls, [DeMar] DeRozan didn’t have a great game and they played a small lineup with Kyle Lowry, [Greivis] Vasquez and even[Nando] de Colo at three and two big guys, so [there] wasn’t really a place for me on the floor, to be honest.
At 33 years old and coming off a disappointing and injury-plagued season, fans really shouldn’t expect Kirilenko to revert back anywhere near the player we saw in Utah. From 2003-04 through 2005-06, he averaged better than 15 points a night each year and was also a rebounding force and a double-double threat every time he stepped on the floor.
He can still be a productive player at this stage in his career, though, especially given the price tag.
On the defensive side, he is difficult to deal with because of his length at 6’9” and ability to dart into passing lanes and challenge jump shots against stretch forwards. He is also difficult to post up because of his physicality.
What’s more, as a veteran presence, he possesses a high basketball IQ, so he can help mentor younger players and find open lanes on the offensive end.
Interestingly enough, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News noted that Kirilenko was pondering playing overseas early in the offseason:
Andrei Kirilenko would not rule out a return overseas when I spoke to him recently. He has a $3 million player option with the Nets.— Stefan Bondy (@NYDNInterNets) May 29, 2014
It was difficult heading into the offseason to see Kirilenko receiving more than his $3.3 million player option given his relative struggles in 2013-14.
It remains to be seen whether he can improve on his disappointing season, but now that he has made his decision, he can at least begin the process of moving forward.