Andrei Kirilenko is one of the most athletic players on the Jazz roster. He has the physical tools to get the job done, the one thing that has been holding him back for so long has been his skinny frame, which he bulked up last year. Ak47, was noticeably stronger last year, and he was able to put on the muscle without losing much of his speed and without affecting his shooting. He had an amazing stretch last year when for about 5-10 games Ak47 did everything for the Jazz, and the Jazz were killing teams with their precision offense, and defense; winning multiple games during that stretch by 15 pts. Further, Kirilenko, despite the years he has with the Jazz, is still young, at 29, and the question arises, is Kirilenko looking at his best bball years ahead of him, or are his best years already in the rear view mirror.
Kirilenko's best year came before the arrival of Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur. In 06-07, Kirilenko averaged 15 pts, 3 blcks, 4.5 rbs, 3 ass, and 1 steal a game. Subsequently, the Jazz gave him a huge contract, and basically watched him become less and less a part of the teams plans, being moved from the starting lineup to sixth man duty, and back to the starting lineup. Regardless, I'm sure the Jazz would've traded him last year, to rid themselves of his contract, but now that his deal is expiring, his value as a player is on the rise. IMO, Kirilenko fits the rugged small forward profile that many teams are having huge success with, and a rugged sf is one of the most valuable assets that a team can have, think lebron james, c.anthony, and p.peirce.
However, this raises the question of whether Kirilenko is rugged. Last year, AK47 missed 22 crucial games, by the time he returned to the lineup he could offer little help, and he was probably more of a distraction than a help, considering the Jazz had to readjust to his role, a role that he has been dissapointed with in the past, bringing him to tears in the playoffs after the first full year of him playing in a less featured role. Since then, the Jazz have done more to involve him, and he has had better numbers, but again, his increased role hasn't exactly translated to increased team success. Lebron James, Paul Pierce, and Carmelo Anthony have all had seasons where they've averaged the 30pt per game mark, Ak'47's best year, with the offense running through him, 15 pts a game.
Looking to the future of AK47, many question marks arise. Questions about his health, is he going to be injury prone, or will he have a long and healthy career? Is he a pwfoward, or sm forward? One things for certain, it's hard to imagine him averaging 30 pts a game, leaving him out of the ranks of the best small forwards. When healthy and inspired, Ak47 is an exciting player and fan favorite. While crying about a lesser role and sitting on the bench in a suit for extended periods leaves many wondering where he is going to fit. One could say the chemistry between AK47 and Dwill is not very good, but it's probably AK's fault. He is not a primary scoring option for the Jazz, and while AK47 probably wishes for the days the Jazz ran the offense through him, the coach and best players, ie, the people who know, opine differently.
Going forward, it's hard to assess what is the best situation for the Jazz and AK47. Certainly, an improved attitude with his role would be a huge bonus. The Jazz aren't going to run their offense through him, they might in short stretches, but it would never work for extended periods. If the Jazz are going to get the most of AK47, they're going to need an AK47 with a better understanding of himself. IE, he's not helping the Jazz by asking for larger roles, and pouting when he doesn't get it. If he was the man for the role of offensive initiator, he'd have to trust the of the coaches to pull it off, but his numbers show he really can't from sf, and he doesn't have the muscle to play pfwd. This leaves him in the role of filling out the places where the rotation is weak, a role he can do if he wants. This is what the Jazz desperately need from him, has Kirilenko approached earth close enough to realize who he is to this team yet? Jazz front office must hope so, a more realistic AK47 not only makes him more valuable to the Jazz, it makes him more valuable should the Jazz try to move him.