T-Wolf Rank: #4 Andrei Kirilenko

This is the tenth post in a series here on Howlin’ T-Wolf ranking the Timberwolves roster player-by-player. Ideally, Derek, Tom or Jonah will post a new player every day for 13 days. As always, you can follow Jonah (@howlintwolf) Derek (@DerekJamesNBA) and Tom (@Tom_NBA) on Twitter as well.

What’s that AK? You give this post a thumbs up? Why, thank you!

Andrei Kirilenko needs the Timberwolves. And the Timberwolves need Andrei Kirilenko.

Kirilenko is one of several examples on the Timberwolves roster of a low-risk/high-reward signing. Much like fellow new additions Chase Budinger, Alexey Shved and Brandon Roy, Kirilenko’s play will determine just how far this Timberwolves team will go. He’s yet another wild card in David Kahn’s hand; which is preferential to the Joker cards he played last season. Kahn has also invested some $25 million on the three players above and is betting they’re the missing links to bring this team to the next level.

As for Kirilenko, he too has something to prove. To prove that he can stay healthy and be effective. To prove that, at the age of 31, he can still consistently contribute to a playoff team. And finally, to prove that the Andrei Kirilenko we see this NBA season will be the rejuvenated one we saw for CSKA Moscow and in the Olympics and not the Andrei Kirilenko plagued by injury and (perhaps coincidentally) consistency issues.

Kirilenko wanted to return to the NBA to win, and the Timberwolves need to prove that they can win.

The price tag shouldn’t concern you that much; he made $17 million in the final year of his last NBA contract. If he’s healthy, he’s easily worth $10 million. Besides, if he’s your guy and there isn’t such a proven commodity on the market with the potential to still be a factor, then why not? After all, if cap space won championships, the Kings would have had a dynasty after these past few seasons.

By now, we know what a healthy Kirilenko can bring. If he’s healthy, he’ll bring solid post defense and effective help defense, which were two things last year’s Timberwolves had a dearth of. We know that he is a willing passer who will work to get teammates good looks in and out of the post. Offensively, if he’s able to stay on the floor, we know that he’s probably better off getting his looks within the flow of the offense versus creating his own shot.

If he’s able to, the Timberwolves could make the playoffs, and Kirilenko has attained redemption (Weird word to use for a player who posted a 16.2 PER in his most recent NBA season, but those are the expectations for a former all-star). Likewise, if the Timberwolves make the playoffs, they give off the impression of a team that isn’t afraid to make a couple gambles in the name of being successful. However, if they fail, Kirilenko’s days being viewed as a valued contributor are likely over and the Timberwolves are just a lottery team that takes too many careless risks.

Who knew so much could be on the line for both parties?

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About Derek James

In addition to writing for Howlin' T-Wolf, Derek James writes about basketball Hardwood Paroxysm in the ESPN TrueHoop Network and covers the Charlotte Bobcats for SB Nation’s Rufus on Fire. Andray Blatche and Isaiah Rider follow him on Twitter.


I think AK will be the difference maker for the Wolves if they want to take away the Northwest Division from the OKC Thunder