Friday, October 24, 2008

Things to look for this season: Andrei Kirilenko

It's seems like it's Andrei Kirilenko day here at:All That Jazz

. . . or at least it does if you read this rant (basically Part 1 of what to look for from Andrei this season).

All ball Masha! How could you? No Melo, I know you're on defense right now, but I'm not going to let you shoot the ball for our team
  Blocking Yao Ming Using hair Gel Looking to dime

Speaking of which . . . what are the three things should we look for from AK-47 this season:

  1. Role Play: Being the 4th or 5th option on offense with the starters and standing around watching other guys play with the ball didn't really work for Andrei. His stats suggest that he "can" be the same guy, but it's hard when he's playing only 24 mpg, and in the time he's playing he doesn't get to see the ball except on shots that he blocks. Being more involved with the ball as one of the major cogs on offense for the bench is going to help quite a bit. I saw this one move from this preseason that had me absolutely drooling. Millsap posted up on his man and got the ball from Knight. Andrei's man went over to help and Millsap picked up his dribble. Andrei cut from the perimeter towards the basket and Millsap found him. Andrei sucked in all the defenders as he had a clear path to the basket -- and instead of shooting it he kicked it out to the right corner where Korver was all alone. Naturally, Korver buried the three point shot. Last season our bench had two plays: the Harpring curl (sometimes used for Korver instead), and the turn over. Having Andrei play with the bench is going to make our bench so much more dynamic. If the starters can tread water on defense for long enough when Andrei sits then our team can be quite good -- especially with a 6th man who can basically play starter minutes, defend and give you 14.5/6/5/2/2 in that time.
  2. Be a glue guy off the bench: Andrei explained that when he gets to watch the game develop he can take note of things that are happening right on the floor, and stuff that isn't going so right as well. When he comes in he can try to help fill the gap of whatever was missing. (Most likely it's going to be defense, but hey, call me a cynic) Coming off the bench is going to be really good for him as the 2nd quarter usually starts off as a time for Harpring to have the green light to shoot. Andrei's points were down the last few seasons because he just plan stopped shooting the ball. The last five seasons have gone from 11.9 fga as an All-Star to 10.2 fga, 10.6 fga, then 6 fga and last season 7.6 fga. I don't think Andrei needs to be shooting over 10 times a game, but when he shot around 9 times a game he ends up scoring 14 points or so. Supplanting Harpring at this juncture may allow him to shoot if a bit more. However, my concept of glue guy doesn't mean shooting the ball all the time -- it's just that being on the floor with less talented offensive players may mean that coach calls his number a bit more often.  Knowing Andrei, if Sloan drew up a play for him to shoot, he'd probably find a way to pass off the shot to someone else anyway. Still -- Andrei's versatility may work to everyone's advantage as a glue guy, instead of a guy who is more talented than Battier being forced into playing a Battier like role with the starters.
  3. Expect the unexpected: This could mean a variety of things . . . I fully expect Andrei to throw some really crazy passes this season. Having him handle the ball more with the 2nd unit and pass to guys who he doesn't get to play with a lot is going to result in some really spectacular early season turn overs. This could also mean that Andrei -- him, and not the fans -- should expect the unexpected. Harpring is gingerly participating in shooting drills now, and as I mentioned previously, the main reason why AK is going to the bench is to replace the heady play of veteran shooter Matt Harpring. What happens when Harpring comes back? Jerry Sloan already talked about how Harpring doesn't need to participate in pre-season because he knows his role and what 'we' are trying to do here. What if the starting frontcourt gets clobbered on defense without AK watching their back? The whole AK as a super 6th man concept may end before the honeymoon period of having him anchor the 2nd unit does! We may see Andrei back in the starting line-up before we know it.

Personally I don't really care, after developing a massive migraine looking at over 250 games I can say that he just needs to play 35+ mpg to be awesome. The last two seasons he played 29 and 30 mpg. He also wasn't awesome. Three seasons ago he played 37 mpg, and got 15/8/4/3 and 1.5 steals per game. Five seasons ago he played 37 mpg and was an All-Star. Doesn't take a genius, or a 70 million year old coach, to figure it out.