We might be saying goodbye to Andrei Kirilenko, as reports have him opting out of his contract with the Wolves.
The Wolves can still negotiate to bring him back on a longer term contract, and by using the non-Bird Exception they can pay him in excess of their available cap space. The question is whether there is any interest on the part of Flip Saunders in bringing him back, though I expect Rick Adelman wants him. On the one hand, he has the size on the wing that Flip covets, on the other, he is a poor three point shooter, something Saunders has harped on since becoming the POBO.
Andrei Kirilenko was a terrific player for the Wolves in 2012-2013. I admired him throughout his Jazz career, and getting to watch him every night in a Wolves uniform only increased that admiration. A guy who always appeared to be in the right place, Kirilenko was the "do a little of everything" player that really helped hold things together over a tough, injury plagued season.
He's a very smart player who understands timing and angles at both ends of the floor. His ability to cut to the basket at the right time earned many easy baskets, as did his excellent passing. Despite his age and physical deterioration, he still managed over a block and a steal per 36 minutes.
He was part of one of the signature moments of the season as well:
He was arguably the team's MVP, as he was second on the team in minutes and second in WS/48. He was 8th in the league in WP/48.
On the other hand, he has pretty consistently missed 20 or so games a season in recent years, and there is no reason to expect that to get better as he ages. He is also a poor three point shooter, an area where the team obviously needs improvement.
Overall, given the apparent alternatives, I would like the Wolves to try to re-sign him for something around $7M per year for 2 or 3 years. Whether that would get it done or not, I don't know. But he was a positive contributor to the Wolves, and has been a terrific player throughout his career. I think he can continue to help over the next couple of seasons, and it isn't as if there is an obviously better player available.
As for the cap implications, for this year at least it's pretty meaningless. Assuming they are going to bring Pekovic back for around $12M per year, the Wolves aren't going to have cap room with or without Kirilenko. I think this is a weaker team without him, and thus I want to see him back.
In truth, I don't think they will make much of an effort to retain him. The sense I get is that Flip wants to move on to other guys, presumably players who shoot better, regardless of their other limitations. Ultimately, I think they lose out by not having Kirilenko on the squad, but we'll see what happens.
Here's a highlight mix of his year with the Timberwolves:
If we've seen the last of Andrei Kirilenko in a Wolves uniform, I wish him luck and thank him for an excellent and entertaining year.