Sixth-man and insurance: Why Utah’s Andrei Kirilenko is now valuable
So they stayed put. Salt Lake City’s patience will soon get rewarded. The ‘Euro’ has shifted to the bench for pre-season, functioning as sixth-man. This is perfect. The Russian gets to play his preferred power forward spot, becomes the primary scorer with the second-unit, and can influence tempo with his energy …
When Utah signed Andrei Kirilenko to a six year, 86 million dollar ‘max’ contract in 2004, they expected a star. He was deemed ‘The Guy’, a player capable of stuffing the stat sheet, defending four positions, and leading in the post Stockton-to-Malone era.
The Jazz, still flush with cap space, also invested 110 million dollars in multi-year pacts for power forward Carlos Boozer and center Mehmet Okur. They also drafted Deron Williams, who quickly developed into an elite point guard and All-Star.
‘The Guy’ grew frustrated with fourth banana status, requesting trades, feuding with coach Jerry Sloan, and breaking into tears in front of reporters. Rumours had him breaking his lucrative NBA contract to join CSKA Moscow in his native Russia.
The club had few options. A trade was unlikely because Kirilenko’s stock had plummeted and opponents were only offering their expensive problems. A buyout, paying him to disappear while getting nothing back, wasn’t happening either.
So they stayed put. Salt Lake City’s patience will get rewarded. The ‘Euro’ has shifted to the bench for pre-season, functioning as sixth-man. This is perfect. The Russian gets to play his preferred power forward spot, becomes the primary scorer with the second-unit, and can influence tempo with his energy.
Everybody wins. Kirilenko feels loved. And Utah has someone to fill the Manu Ginobili role.
There is another angle. Boozer and Okur each hold player options for 2009-10 and could leave as free agents in July. Boozer has been linked to Miami, while Okur might get an offer he can’t refuse. Kirilenko is insurance, a 6-10 version of All-State until management figures out the four and five spots long-term.
‘AK-47’, even at 16 million dollars per season, has value. And his situation is worth watching in 2008-09.
Would Kirilenko work as first player off Utah’s bench? Should the Jazz hang onto him with the unknown future of their frontcourt? Get at us in the comment box with thoughts and return to HoopsVibe the Blog for more NBA tidbits. Photo courtesy of Kris247.