Last season, forward Andrei Kirilenko experienced a major drop in minutes with the Brooklyn Nets. Things have sunk to an entirely new level this season for the former star and the end result could be a trade.
Playing only a handful of minutes per game this season, Kirilenko has left the team for what is being called ‘personal reasons.’ It’s not surprising, then, that his name is starting to pop up in trade rumors. ESPN New York’s Ohm Youngmisuk reports that the Nets and 76ers are in talks regarding Kirilenko and Sergey Karasev.
It’s not just Philadelphia that is reportedly interested, though. ESPN colleague Marc Stein adds that another team that may get in the mix is the Utah Jazz. Kirilenko spent the bulk of his career in Utah and Stein notes that Brooklyn may be interested in Toure’ Murry and/or Jeremy Evans in return. Both players are little-used – Evans has appeared in only a handful of games and Murry is currently playing in the NBDL.
The major motivator for a deal, obviously, is to move a player that is unhappy. However, Brooklyn would also gain a financial benefit by dealing Kirilenko as the guaranteed salaries of both Murry and Evans are over $1 million less than the veteran’s pay for this season. In exchange, Utah would get a player familiar the team’s environment and one that can provide some valuable experience to a young roster. Currently, 31-year-old Steve Novak is the oldest member of the Jazz and the veteran presence of Kirilenko could be helpful.
Kirilenko has seen his time cut significantly this year. Last season, he started only a handful of games but was still averaging close to 20 minutes per game. After playing a season-high ten minutes in Brooklyn’s opener against Boston, AK-47 has played even less in November. He left the team after not seeing the court at all and earning the dreaded DNP-CD label in several contests.
At 33, Kirilenko is obviously past his prime. However, his play in recent years suggests that he still possesses value and can be a contributor in the league. In 2012-13, the forward averaged 12.4 points per game in his final season in Utah. That is more than his career average of 11.8 points per game and was his highest average since 2005-06. His 5.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game that year were both slightly above his career averages as well. As his playing time has dipped, Kirilenko’s numbers have understandably gone down. Last season, however, he shot a career-high 51 percent from the field. Kirilenko is no longer the player he once was, but he is still capable of playing in the league.
One intriguing possibility would be Kirilenko having his pick of new destinations. If Philadelphia trades for him, Youngmisuk contends that they would likely release him (you know, going along with their whole desire to lose every game imaginable and whatnot). Kirilenko might welcome a return to the Jazz, but you’d have to think he’d like to be able to choose his new destination if at all possible. That would give him the best opportunity to play since he could find the team most willing to get him on the court.
No matter the destination, though, Kirilenko is a player that should be traded sooner rather than later.
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