Is Brooklyn Nets backup forward Andrei Kirilenko a breakout candidate? In looking at ten potential breakout stars this year, David Aldridge of NBA.com seems to think so. A snippet from yesterday’s Morning Tip:
Playing alongside the Nets’ menagerie of talents, Kirilenko will do what he does best — stuff the stat sheet, especially on defense, with a couple of blocks and few steals. If he’s healthy, he can still be utilized defensively on threes and fours. Plus, you don’t realize how long his arms are until you throw a casual skip pass in his direction. Brooklyn has some interesting defensive lineup options between Kevin Garnett, Kirilenko, All-Star Brook Lopez and the way-smart and still-long Shaun Livingston.
Most of Aldridge’s choices for breakout players are young stars with the opportunity to start, neither of which apply to the 32-year-old Kirilenko. He sat out Monday’s preseason game against the Philadelphia 76ers and will sit out again tonight against the Boston Celtics with neck spasms, but Kirilenko was a key cog in Brooklyn’s first two preseason games, defending all over the floor, tipping away passes and shots, and throwing passes on offense at angles that few other players could even envision.
Even though he’s a backup for the first time since 2009, the Nets will lean on Kirilenko this year. With aging forwards in their starting frontcourt and an injury-prone center, Kirilenko has a shot to play big minutes and produce at a high level while swinging between the small forward and power forward spots.
He and Deron Williams developed a particular two-man chemistry in their time together in Utah, and the Nets desperately lacked a high-energy, two-way player with Kirilenko’s length last season. Even though he’s two years past 30, I agree with Aldridge’s assertion that he’s a unique breakout candidate.