Get To Know: Andrei Kirilenko
Editor’s Note: Throughout August, Timberwolves.com will profile each of the new members of the Wolves’ roster. Part 5 takes a look at NBA veteran Andrei Kirilenko, who signed with the Timberwolves on July 27.
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Weight: 235 pounds
Drafted: 1999: First round, 24th pick by Utah
Experience: 10 years
Position: Small Forward
How Acquired: The Timberwolves signed Kirilenko as a free agent on July 27 after spending one year playing for CSKA Moscow in his native Russia.
Past Experience: Kirilenko spent 10 years with the Utah Jazz to begin his career, making six playoff appearances in that span including a trip to the Western Conference Finals in 2006-07. Kirilenko is a lifetime 47.0 percent shooter who is averaging 12.4 points and 5.6 rebounds for his NBA career. He also earned an All-Star selection in 2004, was selected NBA All-Defensive First Team in 2006 and was a two-time NBA All-Defensive Second Team selection in 2004 and 2005. During the lockout last season, Kirilenko opted to play for CSKA Moscow in Russia, where he earned 2012 Euroleague MVP, Russian League MVP and was the 2012 Euroleague Defensive Player of the Year. His best statistical NBA season was 2003-04 when he scored 16.5 points and added 8.1 rebounds per game, and last year in Russia he averaged 14.1 points and 7.5 rebounds per night.
What He’ll Bring To Minnesota: The Timberwolves’ offseason took a major step forward when they signed Kirilenko, an athletic veteran who can make an immediate impact on both ends of the floor next season. Kirilenko might not be as young as he was in Utah, but he still has a 6-foot-9 frame and 10 years of experience playing against NBA talent on the wing. He’ll give Minnesota a boost defending the small forward spot, a position that poses problems nightly thanks to the variety of athleticism playing the 3 across the league. Since Kirilenko did not play the condensed 66 game NBA schedule last year, instead playing the standard Russian and Euroleague schedules, he will come into the 2012-13 season having played fewer games in a more spread out time frame a year ago. That could bode well for his health as well as his energy level this season.
Where He’ll Fit In: Aside from his defensive presence, which helped him win Euroleague Defensive Player of the Year last season, Kirilenko is an athletic small forward who can make an impact on games in several different ways. In 2005-06 he became the fourth player in NBA history—and the first since 1993-94—to average 15+ points, 8+ rebounds, 4+ assists and 3+ blocks in a single season. While his numbers might not be that elevated at age 31, Kirilenko still shows the ability to defend and block shots while also being a factor on the offensive end. While playing for the Russian National Team this summer, Kirilenko was a constant offensive threat and drove his way to the basket with authority during international competition. He has a smooth jump shot and can cut to the basket, both of which should benefit from the type of ball movement coach Rick Adelman tries to implement. Combined with power forward Kevin Love, center Nikola Pekovic and point guard Ricky Rubio, Kirilenko poses another double-digit scoring threat that will help add another offensive option.
Wolves Connections: Kirilenko spent the 2011-12 season with CSKA Moscow as well as this summer on the Russian National Team with future Wolves teammate Alexey Shved. The duo helped Russia to the Bronze Medal, and both were important factors in Russia’s success. The two showed great chemistry together, particularly as Shved ran the fast break and found Kirilenko driving to the basket for transition baskets—some via flashy alley-oops. The two should bring that same connection to the Wolves.
Quotable: “[Kirilenko] hits all the boxes of what we were looking for in terms of the kind of player that we frankly felt we didn’t have on the roster. Someone who is capable of playing multiple positions, somebody who is capable of being efficient and able to score without plays being run for him. He’s a hard cutter, which we feel in our offense, will be a welcomed addition. And I think he has a lot of big game experience, not only at Utah but also overseas both with his national team and then last year with CSKA Moscow. We see someone who can help us in a number of ways, and the kind of person or player we didn’t yet have on our team.” — Wolves President of Basketball Operations David Kahn