The All-Time NBA2K Team for the Utah Jazz was released and brought together all of the Utah Jazz greats on one team (except for Boozer, Okur, and Russell, but that’s a story for another day). One of the glaring sights was the fact that Kirilenko and Hayward shared the same highest rating: 88.
Now we have been on record many times in the past stanning for AK47—aka Wild Horse— and why he was the first playmaking four to join the league. Like many pioneers, he was shunned and forced to go to the Small Forward position instead of pushing the NBA 4 position to the where it is now. He was a better, longer, and better playmaking stretch 4 before Draymond Green opened up a high school textbook.
There is—for some ungodly reason—a few out there that believe Gordon Hayward was better than Andrei Kirilenko or on the same level as Andrei Kirilenko. For those who refuse to use google and instead rely on the deep recesses of their memory where they store the same memories of Crystal Pepsi and Parachute Pants, we’d like to remind you how good Andrei Kirilenko was.
Over their first 8 years in the league, Gordon Hayward was a slightly better offensive player. That’s where Gordon Hayward has an advantage and that’s where all comparisons should abruptly end.
Andrei Kirilenko, on the other hand, was not just elite defensively but played at a Hall of Fame level on that side of the ball. In Andrei Kirilenko’s 3rd season, he was leading the Karl Malone and John Stockton-less Utah Jazz to an unlikely finish as the 9th best team in the West only missing the playoffs by half a game. He was known as the PREMIER defender in the league. Check out this insanity. Gordon Hayward vs Andrei Kirilenko through their first 8 seasons.
His value over replacement player was 15.4! Had a PER of 20.4 in just his 3rd season in the league. Just your daily reminder that Andrei Kirilenko had MULTIPLE 5x5s in his career; that’s when you have at least 5 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 steals, and 5 blocks in a single game. Over his career he averaged better overall numbers that helped his team on the offensive and defensive side of the ball, was a better facilitator, better rebounder, could defend every position on the court, and play at every position on the court.
If you believe that Andrei Kirilenko was not better than Gordon Hayward you value points per game over stats that actually win you basketball games.
Compare Andrei Kirilenko’s legendary 3rd season vs Gordon Hayward’s best season which was in his 7th season. Forget the fact that Andrei Kirilenko was mismanaged as Jerry Sloan tried to put the Wild Horse into a typical Small Forward role after that.
Even in Gordon Hayward’s best season it doesn’t hold a candle up to Andrei Kirilenko’s brilliance. Kirilenko only had a usage rate of 21.9%. Don’t forget he was the focus point of every NBA team with a starting cast of Carlos Arroyo, Raja Bell, and the ghost of Greg Ostertag. Gordon Hayward got to shine on offense as George Hill and other great shooters like Hood and Ingles spread the floor for him. Hayward could take plays off on defense as Rudy Gobert was always covering his six. Andrei Kirilenko? He had limited options on offense. HE. WAS. THE. DEFENSE. He averaged 4.1 blocks per 100 possessions. That’s insanity.
Andrei Kirilenko also finished his career on the edge of the 4000/2000/1000/1000 Club. Notable names include Karl Malone, Truck Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Kevin Garnett, Julius Irving, and David Robinson. No big deal.
It takes some serious revisionist’s history to place Gordon Hayward on a higher plane than Andrei Kirilenko. Gordon Hayward will go down as one of the great offensive and all around players on the Utah Jazz. But he won’t go down as the best all around player on Utah because one of the best all around talents of all time played for the same franchise. Andrei Kirilenko was a unicorn before we knew what to call his breed and The Precious—Gordon Hayward— is no unicorn.