AK still wants out!
Posted by Erik on September 22, 2007
Well my life in the blogosphere has been up and running for about 3 weeks now and I must say I’ve been having a blast! It’s taken some hard work, but I’m happy to say that writing about Fantasy Basketball has been a good training camp for my writing and hopefully soon, my Fantasy Basketball career as well. At this point, I’d like to thank my wife, Annie, for patiently contributing some of her time to help edit my posts! In the process of blog networking, I’ve been invited to be a contributor in the HoopStar BLOG, where I will be posting my thoughts on Fantasy Basketball every other week or so. Anyway on to the post . . .
It all started with Andrei Kirilenko posting in a Russian blog that he was not too happy to be returning to play for the Utah Jazz this year. When the dust of this initial rumor settled down and revealed a true sentiment held by the Russian Superstar, the Jazz front desk quickly came out and expressed interest in working things out and keeping their “best” defensive player (read more from ESPN). The latest update in this ongoing situation is that AK is intent on leaving the Jazz, citing how he feels he will be returning to another unhappy season. I think it speaks volumes that he’s willing to forsake the remaining $63M of his contract just to find a different place to play basketball. He wants a fresh start to rekindle his love for the game which was already sparked by his inspired performance at the EURO Basketball Championships, where he led his Mother Russia all the way to the top of the podium. He says he’s even ready to play in Europe, if that’s what it takes to get away from playing in Utah. Frankly I don’t see this happening because if the Utah management decides to acquiesce and let go of AK, there are a lot of NBA teams that I feel should jump at the opportunity to snag this defensive workhorse! In spite of Jerry Sloan‘s preference to to keep AK in Utah, the franchise does have some options open to it (read TrueHoop). The trade scenario that I’d most like to see come to fruition is the Phoenix Suns deal where we can potentially see AK and Jarron Collins or perhaps Paul Millsap go to the Suns for Shawn Marion. Now that would be an interesting change for both teams concerned. I feel that the passion by which AK is expressing his disappointment leaves the Jazz with only 2 clear choices. Either let him go (trade, buy-out, or whatever) or let Jerry Sloan, who seems to be at the root of AK’s unhappiness, go. I’m not holding my breath to see the latter happen because Jerry’s practically a Jazz institution, coaching the team since he inherited the head coaching job from Frank Layden in 1988. It’s not all too rare to see a star player and a team’s coach not get along. If both of these guys were getting a divorce, the documents would have a check mark on the box that cited irreconcilable differences. . . It happens.
The irony of the situation is that just 3 years ago the Jazz wanted to build their franchise around this defensive beast, inking out an $86 million deal that lets them keep their star player all the way through 2011. This seems like it’s part of some hazy past that has been overshadowed by Utah’s recent success due to the “magical” pairing of guard Deron Williams and forward Carlos Boozer. The powers that be must now think of what’s best for Andrei and of course, the franchise.
With AK‘s status still remaining uncertain, I’ve held off signing up for public leagues for now. I want to wait and see where he’ll eventually end up. As of now he’s O-Ranked in the Yahoo! rankings at 67th in the standard 9-category set-up (PTS, 3PTM, FG%, FT%, REBS, BLKs, STLs, ASTs, TOs). This ranking puts him at a distinct sleeper position if ever I drafted today. He finds his way to any other team and I’d say he will DEFINITELY improve on last season’s statistical performance of 8.3 PTS, 4.7 REBS, 2.1 BLKS, 1.1 STLS, and 2.9 ASTS per game. He has so much added Fantasy value as he can provide massive defensive stats from the small forward position. Forwards of his defensive caliber are few and far between. For people who can’t wait for the “AK situation” to pan out and want to draft soon and still desire good defensive stats from the F slot, there are a few options they might like to consider or explore. If Michael Jordan had his “heirs” purportedly in the likes of Vince Carter, Kobe Bryant, even LeBron James; AK has the likes of Josh Smith and Gerald Wallace who are relatively worthy candidates to be the “next big thing” in terms of defensive forwards.
Josh Smith is an uber-athletic high flyer whose leaping ability has allowed him to either sky to the rim for slams or “jackrabbit-quickly” elevate for the shot block. This starting small forward for the Atlanta Hawks, at age 21, hasn’t even reached his full potential (at least in my book). Last season we saw his stats improve pretty much across the board as he posted 16.4 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 2.9 BPG, 1.4 SPG and 3.3 APG. His only drawbacks are his FG and FT percentages which were at 42.6% and 69.3%, respectively.
Gerald Wallace of the Charlotte Bobcats, is another player who has the capability to make the most of his athleticism to wreak havoc on opposing teams’ offense through his ability to steal the ball and block shots. His best defensive year was during the ’05-’06 season where he averaged 2.1 BLKS and 2.5 STLS! Unfortunately, it was also a season where he managed to play in only 55 games due to various injuries that plagued him. Last year, we saw his defensive numbers take a dip as he had the burden of anchoring Charlotte’s offense. This year is potentially a different story altogether as the Bobcats traded for 3-pt scoring swingman Jason Richardson. This frees Gerald of a lot of his scoring responsibilities and will hopefully allow him to focus more on defense (where I feel he’s most punishing against his opponents).
In spite of my “advertising” these two young stars, my take is that the original AK-47 will still end up providing more defensive firepower for any Fantasy team, as long as he is traded to an NBA team that can really maximize his defensive potential and he can stay healthy.