Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The Importance of Andrei Kirilenko to the Nets

His production and athleticism have diminished and he is getting older which makes him more prone to injuries.  However,  the Brooklyn Nets need to make sure they bring back Andrei Kirilenko for next season.

Kirilenko has a player option for the 2014-15 season which will pay him $3.8 million.  That is the same amount he made this past season.  He recently said that he is not yet committed to the Nets for next season.

For the Nets it’s simple: do whatever convincing that needs to be done to get Kirilenko to stay for another season.

Throughout his career, his statistics have never really reflected his actual level of play.  Kirilenko has never put up huge numbers scoring, rebounding or dishing out assists.  His best statistical season was in 2003-04 when he averaged 16.5 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.8 blocks blocks while with the Utah Jazz.  He has not topped his scoring or rebounding outputs from that season.

This year, his first with the Nets, he averaged just 5.0 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 0.4 blocks in 19.0 minutes of action.  He was limited to just 45 games as he dealt with a series of nagging injuries.

So much of what Kirilenko brings to the table is not recorded by statistics.  He always seems to be altering a shot by an opponent, diving after loose balls, in the right place defensively, making the right pass on offense, making a cut to the basket or finding an open space under the basket so he could easily score when given the ball.  Quite simply, he is a very smart basketball player.

Another attribute of Kirilenko’s is his length.  He is not the biggest or strongest player on the court.  However, at 6’9″, his length mixed with his wingspan and athleticism creates problems for opponents on both sides of the court.

The biggest statistic comes with the Nets success.  In the 45 games that Kirilenko played in, the Nets went a healthy 30-15.  Without Kirilenko, the Nets were a dismal 14-23.

Whether the statistics show it or not, the Nets are undeniably a better team when Kirilenko plays.  His presence is undoubtedly necessary for a team filled with veteran players.

The Nets also have questions with other players.  Andray Blatche is going to opt out of his contract.  Paul Pierce and Shaun Livingston are both free agents.  Kevin Garnett is older and may decide to call it quits.  Plus, there’s a lot of uncertainty regarding the status of Deron Williams’ future with the team.

Convincing the Russian to stay may not be an easy task.  Coach Jason Kidd was unsure at times of how and when to use his versatile forward.  Kidd actually sat Kirilenko for two of the Nets playoff games this season.

At the end of the day, the very person that may have to do the most convincing when speaking with Kirilenko may have to be Kidd.  The coach could have to convince Kirilenko that he is a vital part to this team’s success and that he will have a greater role with the team next season.

This might not be easy, but the Nets need him to stay.


Tags: Andrei Kirilenko Brooklyn Nets

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