Before taking his basketball talents back to his home land during the NBA Lockout last year, Andrei Kirilenko was ranked #90 on ESPN’s top 500 NBA players today. This year, now signed and ready to play for the Minnesota Timberwolves, Kirilenko is ranked #79. Due to his outstanding performance in the 2012 London Olympics just last month, Kirilenko not only gave Timberwolves fans another reason to be excited for the upcoming NBA season, but he also gave himself a reason as to why he’s one of the better players in the NBA today still.
The 2012 London Olympics will give Kirilenko much more confidence returning to the basketball world’s brightest stage, the NBA. In the Olympics, the Russian forward averaged 17.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.9 steals, and 1.8 blocks per game. Kirilenko also shot 54% from the field.
Heading into the NBA season this year, Kirilenko now has our (Minnesota Timberwolves fans) hopes up. Most likely to start at the small forward position, Kirilenko will be the Wolves’ primary defenders against the NBA’s best scorers such as Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, and of course, the reigning 3-time league MVP, LeBron James. Last season, the Timberwolves didn’t really have that one defender that could not only defend their guy one-on-one throughout an entire game but also one who could defend multiple positions. Kirilenko is known to be one of the most versatile defenders in the game as he shows in his stats from his steals to blocks, they’re pretty much the same thing which shows that size or speed can certainly be matched by Andrei.
Scoring is probably the least important thing we’re asking from Kirilenko, we know he can score from time to time as he showed in the 2012 London Olympics and also in his time as a player for the Utah Jazz, but with Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, and Brandon Roy taking the offense in to their own hands Kirilenko will have to be that sniper. Not necessarily three point shooting sniper, but that scorer who strikes when the opponents are caught off guard. With the second-year forward Derrick Williams coming off the bench for Kirilenko, the Wolves are in great shape at this point with that position. Williams being only a young forward can learn a lot from Kirilenko who has been playing professional basketball around the world for 15 years.