NBA Free Agency: Cavaliers should pursue Andrei Kirilenko

Greg Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Cavaliers selected Sergey Karasev in the 2013 NBA Draft. Could another Russian join the team in free agency?

Conrad provided an excellent rundown of available free agents. One free agent that I find really appealing is Andrei Kirilenko. Below, I have analyzed his fit and what it might take to get him to Cleveland.

The Alonzo Gee factor

I have written about Alonzo Gee at length. Hopefully getting a better defensive system in place will take some of the pressure off of Gee and lead to greater efficiency offensively. Lessening the amount of minutes he gets would help as well. Gee had a true shooting percentage of 50.5% last year and a player efficiency rating of 10.5 His passing is quite bad, and he struggles in transition. Kirilenko has better length, had a true shooting percentage of 59%, doubled Gee's assist rate, is a better rebounder, and did this with a higher usage rate. His player efficency rating was 17.6. This isn't earth shattering, but it is a huge upgrade. Kirilenko is 32 years old, but if the Cavs signed him to a three year deal, he is likely to be a solid starter for at least two years before sliding into a jack of all trades bench role.

Again, you don't need to replace bad players with superstars, just average or good ones. Kirilenko is good. Having Gee come off the bench puts him in the best possible chance to succeed. Just as Tyler Zeller was thrust into a situation he wasn't ready for last season, Alonzo Gee was thrust into a situation he simply can't handle. If he has a future in the NBA it is a defensive specialist off the bench. Kirilenko lets him try and get there.

The Anthony Bennett factor

We have had many discussions on the site about the importance of adding a "3 and D" guy for the Cavaliers. The problem is that these players don't grow on trees. There are a lot of players that excel at shooting, but can't defend, and vice versa. Before the Cavaliers drafted Anthony Bennett, I would have prioritized shooting over defense. You would hope to find a solid balance, but the Cavaliers dearth of three point shooting options would have meant I would have sacrificed some defense to get shooting. Now that Bennett has entered the fold, potentially moving Tristan Thompson to either the bench or center position for periods of time, shooting is less of a need. You always want shooters, but it projects to be one of Bennet's strengths. Conversely, it will probably take time before Bennett defends at a competent level. Adding a versatile defender at small forward makes more sense.

Enter Andrei Kirilenko. The man is a very solid defender who can guard both 3's and 4's. He is also a career 31% three point shooter. While ideally you would want more shooting, Kirilenko still put together a great true shooting percentage last year, even with the poor numbers from distance. He is also a willing and good passer. Bennett would be able to accomplish a lot of the floor spacing you would normally expect from a traditional small forward. If the Cavs are really going towards more fluidity and less rigidity of positions, you could have Kirilenko guard whoever the other team's best scoring option is at either forward position. Kirilenko could operate passing out of high post or cutting off pick and rolls. You would still have solid shooting from Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, and Bennett. In short, you can still have an effective offense while adding in a good and versatile defender.

The Sergey Karasev factor

The Cavs just selected 19 year old shooting guard/small forward Sergey Karasev out of Russia. Hometown: St. Petersburg, Russia. Where is Kirilenko from? St. Petersburg, Russia. Kirilenko is 32 and has spent over a decade in the NBA. Karasev is brand new. Karasev can learn about navigating the NBA and United States and being away from home, while also learning a bit about defense from his fellow countryman. Karasev may or may not be an NBA starter. If he is, it likely won't happen for a few years. The same reasons why Bennettt makes bringing in Kirilenko more palatable also apply to Karasev, in that he also helps with floor spacing. Regardless of what you think of Karasev (and I am clearly pretty high on him) I think it would be unfair to ask him to start in year one, and probably in year two. Kirilenko can help make life in the NBA easier for him and perhaps groom him to step into a starting role.

The bottom line

I have no idea what Kirilenko wants on the open market. He may value winning and competing for a title. I actually think that if the Cavs gave him a three year deal the team would be very competitive in years two and three of his contract. He turned down an option that would have paid him $10 million in Minnesota this season. If I were Chris Grant, I would offer Kirilenko an absolute maximum of $24 million over 3 years. Adding the deal to the Cavs long term record books wouldn't close off the potential of adding a max deal next summer, provided the team got creative with some of their contracts and obligations. Maybe you could get Kirilenko for less, maybe that isn't enough. As I said above, he is 32 years old, but appears to have at least two more years of solid play left. In the comments, let me know if I am crazy or what you think.

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