Friday, December 20, 2013

Andrei Kirilenko's Impact and Possible Christmas Return

Photo by Joe Camporeale/USA Today Sports

With trade rumors abuzz in the NBA, the Brooklyn Nets have naturally been involved in a lot of these conversations. Some teams are trying to tank in hopes of winning a high draft pick, while others are looking to add key pieces that could push them over the top and set them up for a run at a championship. If you didn't see it already, take a look at our very own Ed Boulanger's awesome post on some potential Nets trades here. Seriously, check it out.

Whether or not Brooklyn does pull off a trade in the coming weeks, they will be guaranteed to get at least one very nice addition: Andrei Kirilenko. Kirilenko's been out since Nov. 9 with what he called the worst back spasms of his career, according to The Brooklyn Game's Devin Kharpertian.

Kirilenko would be a tremendous asset for the Nets and will contribute in the areas where the Nets need it the most. He's a terrific defender inside and out, he can run the floor (assuming his back fully heals), and he doesn't need the ball in his hands to be effective.

One of Brooklyn's greatest needs right now is to acquire a good perimeter defender. The Nets are dead last in terms of defending the three point shot. They allow opponents to shoot 40.8% from 25-29 feet and 42.2% on top of the break threes, both worst in the league. Kirilenko is known for his prowess as a defender, especially near the arc.

He could work terrificly in the starting lineup or off the bench. As a starter, AK47 would spell Brooklyn's group of talented scorers. With Brook Lopez and Deron Williams eventually drawing double teams on the high post, Kirilenko will find himself with a lot of open looks.

Off the bench, he and Paul Pierce would combine for a terrific one-two punch. Both are attackers on offense; opponents' defenses could be overwhelmed quickly by these two cutting and slashing forwards. Combine these two with Andray Blatche, Jason Terry, and Mirza Teletovic, and Brooklyn has itself one formidable second unit. They would finally have the depth that people murmured about since the summer.

Importantly, Kirilenko is a terrific rebounder, especially for a guy who plays so many of his minutes on the wing. As Alex Raskin of the Wall Street Journal points out, the Nets have struggled mightily with rebounding as of late. In Wednesday's 113-107 loss to the Washington Wizards, Brooklyn surrendered 19 offensive rebounds and were beaten overall on the glass 51-31. Brooklyn's bench was outrebounded 17 to 11 and the two best rebounders for the Nets in that game were Pierce and Joe Johnson, who had six and seven boards, respectively. Kirilenko, in his limited time, is third on the team in rebounding percentage, trailing only Kevin Garnett and Reggie Evans. He also leads the team in offensive rebounding percentage at 15.9%, which is also 11th best in the NBA and 2nd best among all combo forwards, behind only Detroit's Tony Mitchell.

Kirilenko is a jack-of-all trades type player who will help the Nets out in a number of different ways, especially where they need it the most. I know Nets fans will be ecstatic when he returns, and Newsday's Rod Boone says there are hints that we might find the 6'9" Russian in our stockings this year.

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