Andrei Kirilenko's New Role: Coming off the Bench for the Utah Jazz

Tyson CampCorrespondent IOctober 13, 2008

Is there any team in the NBA with a player coming off the bench who makes at least $15 million? What kind of bench player makes that kind of money? What team in its right mind would do such a thing?

I know what you’re thinking—the Knicks.

Well, you’re right. But it looks like the Utah Jazz will follow New York’s unconventional example this season by having its highest-paid player, Andrei Kirilenko, come off the bench.

Normally, I’d object to a decision like this. Why have a guy who makes that much sit on the pine rather than contribute on the floor? Make him earn that money!

That said, I could not love this decision more—that is, if Sloan decides to pull the trigger on this move, and if AK is truly happy with that role.

Most Jazz fans, myself included, have tinkered with the lineup in their heads, trying to figure out the best way to get the most out of this Jazz roster.

I never thought of this, though.

Coming off the bench in a 93-80 preseason victory at Portland, AK47 filled the stat sheet with 15 points, five assists, three rebounds, and two blocks.

Yes, it was preseason, so it’s foolish to read too much into a performance like this. But does anybody see this as a bad thing?

The drama surrounding AK the past couple of seasons has been directly attributed to the fact that he is not as involved in the offense as he would like to be. Coming off the bench with the likes of Korver, Millsap, and Knight/Price will give him the opportunity to be more involved. Instead of being the fourth or fifth option in the starting offense, he would be the first or second.

Plus, a role off the bench does not necessarily mean a decline in minutes. Jazz fans have seen Harpring log 25-30 minutes coming off the bench, and Korver finish out games as the two-guard.

AK would provide instant energy and offense. He made his first bucket just 14 seconds after he first checked into the game against Portland. According to Ross Siler’s account of the game, Kirilenko scored nine points in his first seven-and-a-half minutes.

AK told Siler that he would welcome this new role.

"You see how you can bring something to the game," Kirilenko said as he talked about analyzing from the bench how the game was being played.

Moving AK to the bench moves C.J. Miles to the starting three-spot. C.J. has struggled to find his shot so far this preseason, but his athleticism and improving ability tell me the Jazz would not lose much by having him there.

Plus, with D-Will, Boozer, Okur, and Brewer joining Miles in the starting five, he will be depended on less to be a scorer—just as AK was.

Having AK come off the bench with the second unit makes the Jazz that much more dangerous and balanced. Instead of having to fight for scoring opportunities among the starters, AK can have the offense come to him. He will have a little more freedom to run the show.

According to Siler, he’s already been talking to Korver about how the second team can come together, and he and Knight seem to be on the same page offensively.

The spark off the bench for the Jazz has been Matt Harpring. But with his bum knee, and now his ankle infection, it looks like his role will be diminished immensely.

Andrei is the perfect replacement. I just wish I had thought of it first.