Andrei Kirilenko, one-to-five, the Russian Army Knife

Andrei Kirilenko

Andrei Kirilenko
Andrei Kirilenko (AP)
Number: 47

Position: SF/PF

Height: 6’9″

Weight: 235

Years Pro: 11

Hometown: Izhevsk, Russia

Prior to NBA: CSKA Moscow

Twitter: None

One to five.

That’s the phrase thrown out by multiple teammates — and the head coach — of Andrei Kirilenko to describe the 32-year-old forward. One to five. That’s not the hours Kirilenko puts in, that’s where he can play. Kirilenko can suit up anywhere from point guard to center without a significant ding in his effectiveness. He’s AK-47, the Russian Army Knife, the shape-shifter that can fit into whatever box you need.

Kirilenko isn’t just this team’s backup small forward, he’s their ticket into positionless basketball’s exclusive club. Need someone to defend LeBron James? Check. Need a backup point guard? Check. Need someone to bother a jump-shooting power forward? You got it. Give Kirilenko a task and he’ll probably show you video of him doing it three years ago while he does it while he helps sign up an elderly woman for the Affordable Care Act with a dead flip phone. The man can do it all: he rebounds well, passes well, scores inside, and defends “one to five.” He even once led the league in blocks per game, an unheard-of feat for a small forward.

In Utah, he developed a particular chemistry with former teammate and current Nets point guard Deron Williams. In four seasons together as full-time starters, the Jazz were significantly better with both of them on the floor, as opposed to just one or neither, putting up a better net rating per 100 possessions in all four years:

That may only look like four bars, but that’s over 5,500 minutes of Kirilenko and Williams together over four years. The Jazz, one of the Western Conference’s best teams at that time, played significantly better in each year with Williams and Kirilenko together as a unit.

It’s hard to list Kirilenko’s strengths outright because it’s hard to know when to stop. He just does so many things well. But if you were to find a starting point for Kirilenko’s all-around wizardry, it’s his court awareness on both ends. He’s able to defend and score easy baskets because of his spatial understanding, coupled with his ability to understand how the other nine players move around him on the court. He’s often a step or two ahead of the defense, finding quick cuts and spaces around the basket to score, and his length and quickness for a player his size allow him to match up with nearly anyone.

This is Kirilenko’s first season as a full-time backup since 2008-09, and he’s expected to play backup minutes behind Paul Pierce. However, he’s also been the first man off the bench spelling Kevin Garnett in preseason, playing a “big wing” flanking Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce. Barring health issues, he’ll probably spot start often for Pierce, and may start occasionally for Garnett should coach Jason Kidd want to go small. However, the mantra for Kirilenko is “one-to-five” — and should the Nets need him anywhere, that’s where he’ll go.

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Full List:

| Shaun Livingston | Deron Williams | Tyshawn Taylor | Alan Anderson | Joe Johnson | Jason Terry | Andrei Kirilenko | Paul Pierce | Tornike Shengelia | Reggie Evans | Kevin Garnett | Mirza Teletovic | Andray Blatche | Brook Lopez | Mason Plumlee |