Free agent profile: Andrei Kirilenko
This is the 15th post in a series of profiles analyzing a free agent and how he might fit with the Lakers.
Utah Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko
Type of free agent: Unrestricted
Positives: The Lakers want to improve defensively, and Kirilenko's shot-blocking abilities and presence on the weak side would come in handy. WIth the Lakers likely going through a transition period, Kirilenko can be plugged in anywhere in the lineup. Kirilenko is a seasoned player who, at age 30, is still young enough to provide athleticism.
There's plenty of other examples that suggest Kirilenko could help the Lakers. His stint with CSKA Moscow (1998-2001) didn't coincide with Ettore Messina coaching the team (2006-2009), but that foundation should help elevate his European style. The Lakers value Lamar Odom'sversatility and team-first mentality, but should they ever trade him, Kirilenko would help the Lakers absorb Odom's absence. And even if Odom remains on the roster, Kirilenko would give the Lakers needed front-line depth in case Andrew Bynum suffers another injury.
Negatives: The reaction Kirilenko's name sparks among Jazz fans remind me of the way Lakers fans react toward Luke Walton. They're by no means comparable in terms of skill, but each were criticized for being injury prone while having long-term contracts. The Lakers and the Jazz aren't going to offer Kirilenko the $17.8 million he made last season. But Kirilenko's extensive injury history should give the Lakers pause. In the final two seasons, Kirilenko averaged 11.8 points and 4.8 rebounds, missed 42 regular-season games and participated in exactly zero playoff-game victories, leading some in the organization to question Kirilenko's toughness.
Verdict: Given that Spanish basketball team Real Madrid rejected Kirilenko's hope to play during the NBA lockout for $5.8 million, it's clear that his market value isn't what it once was. It's also clear the Jazz aren't going to sign him to another lucrative long-term max contract like they granted himin 2004 with a six-year, $86-million deal. But Utah isn't going to exactly let him walk either, and it's not going to allow the Lakers to pick up Kirilenko easily, either. Depending on how the new CBA looks, the Lakers should go after Kirilenko, but they must exercise caution. They shouldn't get in a bidding war because he's not worth an inflated contract, and they should be mindful he's not the player he once was.
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Photo: Lamar Odom drives to the basket against Andrei Kirilenko. Credit: Alexander Gallardo / LAT / Nov. 30, 2006