Words can't necessarily describe Andrei Kirilenko. Even though his stats this season are below his career mean, there is something about him that makes me giddy when he is on the floor. He really is the ultimate "glue guy."
Kirilenko is playing under 18 minutes per game, has been battling back spasms all season long and isn't even scoring six points per night. So, how does a guy who seems so ineffective on offense, and on paper, create so many opportunities for the Nets?
The Nets are not a fast paced team, they rank 27 in Pace this season, averaging 93.5 possessions per game. However, Kirilenko is great at sprinting down the floor and leaking out. This play is a great example of Kirilenko using his fine instincts and hustle to get down the floor.
Even though the Nets push the ball up the floor, putting the Magic in poor defensive position, they still aren't really in transition, and not looking for an easy basket. Off the miss, though, Kirilenko still runs the floor as if the Nets are trying to get an easy transition bucket. And look at what happens, Kirilenko continues to run through the paint, and the Nets end up getting an easy, uncontested layup.
Had Kirilenko not run the floor, sure the Nets could have scored, but not in a way that easy and that quickly. A problem with the Nets is that they try to settle too much and not force defenses into mismatches. Even though the Nets are a team filled with aged veterans, they can push the ball into the frontcourt and create numbers.
This next clip is Kirilenko doing a lot of Kirilenko-like things.
Kirilenko closes out perfectly on Reggie Jackson, using his wingspan to react to Jackson's shot and make it a tough three. After that, he continues his path down the court as he recognizes that the other four Nets are in the paint ready to contest the rebound.
Even though it is a tough rebound to grasp, Reggie Evans comes up with it and immediately looks down the floor to find Kirilenko standing by himself waiting to put the ball in the hoop.
This play is another example of Kirilenko's instincts on the defensive end and to create an easy opportunity for the Nets. Of note, this was in the midst of the Nets double-digit comeback in Oklahoma City on January 2. This play cut the Thunder lead to seven and forced a Thunder timeout. Like many broken plays, this particular one put the Nets well on their way to their signature win of the season. Plays like these are the norm for Kirilenko, for he is constantly causing havoc on the floor which lead to easy buckets.
The other way that Kirilenko gives the Nets a shot of life off the bench is the way he moves off the ball. Really, this guy picks so many holes into the defense, getting easy opportunities in the process, that it is uncanny. Per Synergy, Kirilenko cuts on nearly 27% of his possessions, scoring on nearly 61% of those opportunities.
This particular cut from the Nets win against the Celtics Sunday night depicts Kirilenko's eye for the basket.
Even though rookie big man Kelly Olynyk does a fine job of helping Phil Pressey on stopping a Deron Williams drive, he stands no chance at stopping Kirilenko once he sees the lane and picks up a full head of steam.
This last video is another example of multiple facets of Kirilenko's game that go unnoticed.
The key here is that Kirilenko keeps the Nets' possession alive with tipping the ball out to Anderson off the rim. After that Kirilenko watches DeMar DeRozan commit to far into the paint, giving Kirilenko a lane right behind him.
Once Terry turns the corner and gets by the Raptors horrific pick-and-roll defense, DeRozan must step in, ending any shot of him stopping Kirilenko from the easy finish.
The Nets are in the middle of an offensive renaissance. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are turning back the clock to 2008, Andray Blatche is converting in ways unheard of by a center, and Deron Williams seems to be regaining his lost step. However, Andrei Kirilenko is the one who has not been receiving enough credit for opening up parts of the Nets' offense that has not been used often enough this season.
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