Saturday, August 18, 2012

Kirilenko's Worth It, But Complicates Deep Frontcourt

The Timberwolves are planning for more celebrating after a busy offseason. (Getty Images)

When I heard the Minnesota Timberwolves were signing Andrei Kirilenko to a contract worth $10 million per year, I couldn’t help but laugh. Kirilenko hasn’t played in the NBA for a year and wasn’t doing all that well before he left. Also, it’s my gut reaction to laugh at anything David Kahn does because at this point, I just assume it’s something silly. But it seems like now, just as I did when Ricky Rubio started playing, I might be going back on my words.

Let’s start with his work in Europe. He signed with CSKA Moscow during the lockout. Something about going to his home country must have rejuvenated him because he ended the season with both the Euroleague MVP and Defensive Player of the Year awards.

After Euroleague was over, he continued his multinational dominance by leading the Russian national team to a bronze medal in the Olympics.

He tallied 20 points and 8 rebounds in the bronze medal match against Argentina; he scored 19 points against Brazil; and got 19 points and 13 rebounds against Lithuania. The best part about Kirilenko's game was the way he looked. He was creating his own shot and not just settling on spot-up jumpers. He was playing the energetic and stifling defense that he originally became famous for, and best of all, he just looked confident.

Kirilenko is 31 now and while he may not be getting better physically, it looks like he’s back mentally. He should be a good fit next to Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio (when he returns). He will also be playing next to his Russian teammate Alexey Shved. The only downside to this move is the possible logjam it creates at the forward position. I’m not sure if Kahn knows that you need more than just forwards and point guards to win games. The team still has Kevin Love and Derrick Williams, they traded for Chase Budinger and drafted Robbie Hummel, a small forward out of Purdue. In addition to them, they also have Dante Cunningham and Anthony Tolliver on their roster.

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