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How do you summarize Andrei Kirilenko’s Utah Jazz legacy?

How can you summarize the career of a player who by his own admission never lived up to an $86-million contract extension yet finished his Jazz career 2nd in blocks, 4th in steals, 5th in assists, 7th in rebounds, 6th in scoring and perhaps most impressively 3rd in value over replacement player (behind Karl Malone and John Stockton).

How do you summarize the character of a professional athlete who made over $100 million in his NBA career yet also literally cried to the media during a playoff series because he cared so much about his lack of contribution?

How can you summarize the accomplishments of a player who made an All-Star game just once – but did so as a 22-year old leading one of the most popular Jazz teams ever (a cast of rag-tag journeyman and afterthoughts) to a shocking 42-40 record?

How can you summarize the statistical legacy of a player who only scored 30-points twice in his NBA career yet also posted three “5×5” games – a feat accomplished just 4 other times (by 4 different players) in the past 20 years?

How can you summarize the historical legacy of a player with a skillset that probably came along 6 years too early (or 6 years too late) and yet is the only Jazz player to play with Stockton&Malone, with Dwill&Boozer, and with Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors?

How do you summarize 10 years of highlights, injuries, expectations and box-scores into one simple cut-and-dry article telling everyone how they should feel and regard Andrie Kirilenko’s 10-year career as a Jazzman?

You can’t.

On draft night AK47 was introduced to the Jazz and the NBA without a picture and without any solid scouting report aside from the late Rick Majerus’ tidbit that he was “nicknamed the white Dr. J.” Although Andrei Kirilenko came to the Jazz without much fanfare and departed from Utah (and later the NBA) just as quietly, perhaps no player in Jazz history ever had the level of extremes AK47 did in his 10 years in Utah.

As a result, Andrei Kirilenko’s final impression will be different for each Jazz fan who experienced, received and accepted each moment throughout his career differently. Some reflections will be rooted in emotions from the way he brought fans out of their seat with above-the-rim play that was at the time a Jazz rarity. Others will be from the emotional frustrations to injuries that seemed to occur everytime the Jazz appeared ready to take that next step. More from data-mining his statistical impact in so many different areas. And hopefully others will be based in the refreshing genuineness of a talented professional who grew up in front of our eyes from a 19-year old with little exposure to American culture to a family man balancing cultural acclimation while remaining true to his native country and his own unique self.

Sloan and Kirilenko

Maybe Kirilenko should have spent more time developing his three-point shooting but I think it’s no coincidence the Jazz’s two best offensive seasons of the DWill/Boozer era came during Andrei’s best 3pt-shooting seasons. Maybe he played out of position but much of that is based in myth that he primarily played PF during his all-star season (he didn’t) and fails to account for the style and personnel of NBA frontcourts during those years. Maybe he should’ve played more games but how can you truly judge someone who at 6-9 could do things maybe 15-20 other athletes in the world could do for having their body hold up differently than you would have hoped?

When I think back to Andrei Kirilenko – I think of the plethora of positives and the myriad of highlights. I think of the way he fought back after his breakdown in the 2007 Playoffs to be a major contributor posting Pts/Reb/Ast/Blk/Stl playoff lines of 14/5/4/5/3, 13/7/4/7/1, 20/9/5/6/1, 15/5/5/3/0, and 21/15/1/0/3 while filling in at times at PG to help the Jazz advance to the Western Conference Finals. The gifted passer, the defensive roamer who Hot Rod nicknamed “The Cat” for his quickness and Danny Ainge called “Inspector Gadget” for his arms, and the swiss-army knife who could make any play at either end of the court.

Andrei Kirilenko and his Jazz teams never reached the pinnacle of what fans expected – which also servers as another reminder to what John Stockton taught us all in his final postgame press conference: “A lot of it’s about the journey…”

Through all the extremes, I view the journey and Andrei Kirilenko’s Utah Jazz legacy as extremely positive.

andrei-kirilenko-08

 

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Enes Kanter Jump Shot

One of the bright spots from Utah’s 99-92 preseason loss to Portland Wednesday was the offensive display by Enes Kanter. Kanter scored on an array of post-ups, putbacks, face-up jumpers, pick&roll opportunities and even out in transition.

While he did most of his damage in the paint – he also showed impressive range shooting 2-4 on mid-range jump shots.

Enes Kanter Shot Chart vs Portland 10-16-13

While Kanter has definitely shown more confidence in his shot this preseason – those who have watched him closely knew he already displayed the range and touch to be an effective mid-range jumpshooting big.

Last year – while an overwhelming majority of his shots came from the paint (75.5% of his FG Att came in the paint) he also shot a respectable 39.1% from the mid-range area.

Kanter Shot Chart 2012-13

To put that “39.1%” in perspective, let’s compare Kanter’s mid-range shooting percentage to those of some of the league’s best centers:

  Mid-Range FG%
Player  Season FG Att FG%
Tiago Splitter 2010-13 7 44 15.9%
DeAndre Jordan 2012-13 3 17 17.6%
Dwight Howard 2012-13 8 38 21.1%
JaVale McGee 2012-13 14 55 25.5%
Greg Monroe 2012-13 61 199 30.7%
Nene 2012-13 66 213 31.0%
Andrew Bogut 2010-13 35 113 31.0%
Larry Sanders 2012-13 35 111 31.5%
DeMarcus Cousins 2012-13 107 330 32.4%
Pau Gasol 2012-13 83 224 37.1%
Brook Lopez 2012-13 124 319 38.9%
Joakim Noah 2012-13 59 151 39.1%
Enes Kanter 2012-13 36 92 39.1%
Roy Hibbert 2012-13 77 196 39.3%
Al Jefferson 2012-13 216 542 39.9%
Jonas Valanciunas 2012-13 30 73 41.1%
Tim Duncan 2012-13 190 444 42.8%
Al Horford 2012-13 197 451 43.7%
Marc Gasol 2012-13 155 325 47.7%
Tyson Chandler 2012-13 7 14

50.0%

As you can see Kanter’s 39.1% already puts him near the top of the charts among NBA centers.
While many of the top PF’s (Love, Aldrige, Garnett, West, Nowitzki, Bosh, Lee, Ibaka) all shot between 41-51% from mid-range – notable 4’s such as Blake Griffin (35.1%), Zach Randolph (35.2%), Carlos Boozer (38.6%) and even Paul Millsap (37.3%) all shot poorer from mid-range than Kanter last season.

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With teams forcing the pick&roll baseline more than ever, Kanter’s ability to pop out and consistently hit that 16-footer will be a valuable weapon for the Jazz this season. Additionally, his ability to step off the block and face his man up will give defenders another look to go with his already (at times) punishing low-post game.

Halfway through preseason, it’s clear Kanter is already Utah’s most offensively polished bigman and teams must respect his perimeter shot – something they also needed to do last season.

 

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