Wow. Ten years ago Andrei Kirilenko led a talent deficient Utah Jazz team to a surprising record and had an amazing season. It was also a contract year for the young player, and the 22 year old player had a great third season. He was rewarded with a crazy contract extension as the Jazz avoided having to deal with Kirilenko as a restricted free agent (RFA). As his career in Utah continued, and his role within the team changed, his contract looked worse and worse as the seasons went by. Now a decade later Gordon Hayward is leading a talent deficient (or maybe just experience deficient?) Utah Jazz team to a potentially surprising record. He's having an amazing season, and the 23 year old player's fourth season in the league looks great. The Jazz, perhaps trying to learn from past mistakes, did not reach an agreement with the forward. And after this season concludes, Hayward will be going on the market as a restricted free agent.
This is too important a topic to pass up.
And let's set things straight. These two guys are completely different players. It's just co-incidence that they are both 6'8+ small forwards who are white and play for Utah, who are sneaky athletic, and have good handles and receive questionable advice on what to do with their hair. I like both players very much. I don't compare the two in order to shame one or the other. But just as a measuring stick to see how big of a part of the team each was, and where they stand quantitatively. I can assure you that the Utah Jazz front office has already done the same. Jazz CEO / Owner / Land Rover enthusiast Greg Miller really hated Andrei's contract and couldn't wait to see him go. He's wary of repeating the same mistake. As a result, Hayward's price point isn't going to be fighting against his peers in the 2014 free agent class, but also the ghost of Andrei's ridiculously large contract extension.
In 2003-2004 Andrei was a huge part of that team that went 42-40. He played in 78 of a total possible 82 games that year. The 22 year old played in 2,895 minutes for Jerry Sloan and did amazing things on the floor in his 37.1 MPG. The former #24th pick in the draft made less than $1 million dollars that season and finished with averages of: 16.5 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 3.1 apg, 1.9 spg, and 2.8 bpg. Andrei made the All-Star team and finished the '03-04 year with a PER of 22.6 and 11.6 Win Shares. You could easily argue that it was the best year of his career.
This year, 2013-2014, Gordon is doing a lot of great things for us too. It remains to be seen what our final record will be, but whatever happens will be in no small part due to Hayward's brilliance this year. Gordon has played in 37 of a grand total of 42 games. If he plays in the remaining 40 games of the season he will finish with 77 games played. He has played 1,335 minutes so far in the first half of the Jazz' current campaign. If healthy I wouldn't imagine he would have any difficulty in surpassing that all-important 2k minutes mark. Under the gaze of Tyrone Corbin he is averaging 36.1 MPG. The former lotto pick is making nearly $3.5 million this year, and has averages of: 17.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 4.9 apg, 1.3 spg, and 0.7 bpg. I don't think Gordon is a threat to make the All-Star team, and with half the season over, he has earned a PER of 17.1, and accumulated 2.1 Win Shares.
If you put it in a table you get this:
|Andrei Kirilenko||2003 2004||3||22||78||37.1||16.5||8.1||3.1||2.8||1.13||1.9||2.8||44.3%||33.8%||79.0%||47.9%|
|Gordon Hayward||2013 2014||4||23||37||36.1||17.1||5.4||4.9||2.6||1.87||1.3||0.7||41.5%||31.7%||82.9%||45.7%|
|Difference:||AK - GH||-1||-1||41||1.0||-0.6||2.7||-1.8||0.2||-0.73||0.6||2.1||2.80%||2.10%||-3.90%||2.20%|
It really appears as though Andrei is a much more "All-Around" guy while Hayward is mainly a scorer / passer. They almost play the same minutes, so this is an easy comparison to make. They also basically play 36.0 MPG so there's no need to ALSO add a Per 36 table. Andrei isn't known as a shooter, but he shot better than Gordon is shooting this season.
|Andrei Kirilenko||2003 2004||3||22||78||37.1||22.6||21.9%||15.7%||15.8%||13.5%||111||97|
|Gordon Hayward||2013 2014||4||23||37||36.1||17.1||24.1%||23.5%||13.7%||8.5%||103||109|
|Difference:||AK - GH||-1||-1||41||1.0||5.5||-2.2%||-7.8%||2.1%||5.0%||8.0||-12.0|
Andrei really shows up big in the Advanced stats. He has a better PER value, and kills it in ORTG and DRTG. The difference when you add it all up is a 20 point swing between their respective ORTGs and DRTGs. Gordon is a better ball handler, and dimes way more often. Andrei beats him on the glass.
While the similarities in perceived skill set and athletic ability / size exist; I think the stats do paint a performance picture that's hard to pass up: Andrei is playing 4/3 back in 2003-2004; while, Gordon is playing 2/3 in 2013-2014. Both players meet in the middle as occasional small forwards, but they are on opposite spectrums of the class.
When all was said and done, Andrei had a monster year, was an All-Star, and the team was winning (42-40). He got paid a stupendous amount. Gordon is having a very good year too, but the team isn't winning, and I don't think Hayward is at the same level as Andrei was (who was a year younger and in an earlier season in his Rookie contract) as being able to command so much as one of 12 Western Conference All-Stars. It's funny though because if you add it up Andrei gets 32.4 BARPS (blocks, assists, rebounds, points, and steals) this season. Right now Hayward is at 29.4 BARPS. Their production has different distributions, but over all, both are huge parts of their teams. It's a +3.0 BARPS difference for AK-47, while playing +1.0 more MPG.
Gordon has 40 possible games to improve his asking price in Restricted Free Agency. The Jazz were pressured to extend Andrei as to avoid this situation they now have with Hayward. G-Time isn't an All-Star, but he can be a go-to player on offense and carry a scoring load. Andrei did back then, but he was, and always has been, defense first. It's going to be hard for Gordon to reach any of the milestones Andrei had in this season: no All-Star game, no 11 Win shares, no PER above 20. But there's one thing Gordon can beat him on if he plays his cards right -- he could be in line to make A LOT MORE MONEY. Andrei signed for $86,463,000 dollars over 6 years. That averages out to $14.41 million a year. The Indiana Pacers just extended Paul George for $90 million over 5, that's a cool $18 million per. First option wings can get paid in this NBA, regardless of the new Salary Cap rules.
While it's obvious Andrei was more accomplished, younger, and healthier -- Gordon has the potential to make more money. The big question for everyone is just how much can he improve his fortunes by, in 40 more games?
I don't have the answer for that, but I do have highlight videos so we can enjoy them both!