It’s not quite clear if Andrei Kirilenko opted out of his contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves to try and get more money or to play for a team that might be able to contend for something. While they will be trying to bring him back, the San Antonio Spurs lurking will make it very difficult.
According to Marc Stein, the Spurs aren’t quite sure of Manu Ginobili’s future with the team. Not just his retirement, but as he hits free agency after making $14 million last season and a very disappointing finals series (especially during the important minutes), it’s not a guarantee that he’ll remain on the team for another season.
While Kirilenko doesn’t automatically fill the role Ginobili does, it might cause for shifts in the lineup for the Spurs, who also have to think about Tiago Splitter, a restricted free agent with some suitors, including the Portland Trail Blazers, and possibly filling that position. Kirilenko is one of the more versatile players in the NBA, especially when it comes to defense, and putting him on the team might push Danny Green into Ginobili’s sixth-man role as a source of offense off the bench.
In terms of quality, Krilienko is a definite impressive addition, averaging 12.4 points and 5.7 rebounds as a small forward for the Timberwolves last season, making his return to the NBA after a year in Russia. But how does he fit? It’s hard to say, and he might not be too keen on joining a team that might plan using him off the bench, being a starter in the NBA for most of his career.
Right now, the Spurs have around $16 million cap space to use on free agents, but if they retain both Splitter and Ginobili not a lot of it is going to be left. They’ll also only be able to offer the $3 million per season mid-level exception, which might be too low for Kirilenko, who made $9.8 million last season and opted out of a similar deal.
However, convincing him that he might be the piece missing from bringing the Spurs back into the finals, who were a good fourth quarter short of winning the NBA title last month, might be enough to make him forget about money for a season or two, as he has made over $100 million in his NBA career.