Tampering Week: Andrei Kirilenko

Andrei Kirilenko LeBron James

After a 24-58 season, the New Jersey Nets will have to make some changes heading into 2012. This week, Nets are Scorching takes a closer look at some soon-to-be-available names.

Andrei Kirilenko, LeBron James

Stats: 64 G, 62 GS, 31.2 MPG, 11.7 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.3 SPG, 1.2 BPG, .467 FG%, .367 3P%, .770 FG%, 112 ORtg, 16.6 PER

Why Billy King Should Be Texting Him Right Now: The word “multitalented” doesn’t really do him justice. Andrei Kirilenko can do it all. He’s not the best at anything, or even close, but he can consistently do a lot of things that help a basketball team. He’s a long, capable defender who can pick off steals and block shots. He takes good angles on cuts to the basket and runs ahead in transition. He can score in isolation, in the post, and can spread the floor by spotting up from deep. He can snare rebounds on both sides of the floor and is a willing passer.

Kirilenko also has two ties to the New Jersey Nets franchise already: he has played with Deron Williams since Deron was drafted in 2005 (until, obviously, this February) and has had very good things to say about Russian Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, who he has dinner with in Russia during every offseason.

Though it seems like Kirilenko has been around since the dawn of time, he is still just 30 years old and certainly has a few years in the tank. Plus, a change of scenery could do wonders for him – Kirilenko had openly clashed with Jerry Sloan in Utah and his production, once outstanding, dovetailed into “above average” for the past five years. Much of that was a reduction in his role, but with a new coach, a new system, a familiar owner, and new scenery, we could see a revived Kirilenko, the same one that once led the league in blocks per game. (Seriously!)

Don’t Risk The Fine: Though he can spot up from beyond the arc, you don’t want him spotting up from anywhere else. According to Synergy Sports Technology, Kirilenko shot 37% on spot-up opportunities from 3 and only 36% from 2. Looking at the game tape, it’s usually just a matter of space – when you spot up from deep, there’s a good chance you’re more open than spotting up from closer to the basket.

He’s also not a particularly durable player. Like Kenyon Martin, Kirilenko has missed at least 10 games in every season since 2003-04, and his production has tailed off in the final months of the past three seasons. Kirilenko seems more fatigued in March games than December ones – he doesn’t run as fast, he doesn’t get the same lift on jumpers, he’s not as aggressive, and he gets much more of his movement stifled by defensive pressure.

Additionally, I ask the same question about Kirilenko that I do about every guy we’re looking at this week – if 20% of your starting lineup is this guy, can you win a championship? Truthfully, I don’t know. Maybe you can, but if you add Kirilenko, the Nets are starting to look an awful lot like Jazz 2.0 – maybe they become that team that wins 45-50 games every season, makes the playoffs, and gets smoked by a real contender in the first round. I’d take that fate over what the Nets have dealt with the past few years, but you have to consider his limited upside when compared to younger guys we’ve seen this week like Thaddeus Young and Wilson Chandler.

And The Winner Is… Tamper: Though I do think there are better options available, I’ve always been a big fan of Kirilenko’s game and he’s got some personal incentives to join the Nets. He’ll probably come at a decent price, though the standard caveat about an unknown CBA looms. While the Nets shouldn’t be stagnant with Kirilenko at the 3 – there are certainly upgrades to be found – if they do end up with him, he’s a very good complimentary piece with a fair amount of gas in the tank.

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