AK-47 Can't Work (Financially) In Washington
Now that Andrei Kirilenko has made his displeasure with the Utah Jazz apparent on one of the most heartfelt trade demands that I've ever heard or read, then repeated it to his hometown paper in Russia, I figured it would fuel speculation that he should be wearing a Wizards jersey sooner than later.
Is it feasible? Yes. Will it happen? No.
Why not? While the prospect of giving this town another Russian superstar to pair with the Capitals' Alexander Ovechkin is quite intriguing, for the Wizards to even consider such a move, they would have to part ways with Antawn Jamison - and convince Gilbert Arenas to accept less than the maximum amount of money he can be paid next summer to stay under the luxury tax threshold. Highly unlikely.
Dealing Kirilenko for Jamison might seem attractive for the Jazz since Jamison's contract comes off the books next summer, when Utah is going to have break open the vault to give Deron Williams an extension. But from a financial perspective, I don't see how it would really help the Wizards.
Abe Pollin refuses to pay the luxury tax, which really hamstrings Ernie Grunfeld's ability to make the team much better than it already is. And, the Wizards are flirting with the tax threshold (which is about $67.9 million) this season - when Arenas is making just under $12 million.
Kirilenko is owed $63 million over the next four years. But while he is an exciting player, has a tremendous skill set and would certainly provide the Wizards with a solid (much needed) defensive presence, is he really worth that much money? You already know the answer.
I love Kirilenko. I'm amazed by his energy and reckless playing style. He was phenomenal in Madrid this month as he led Russia to the European Championships and was named MVP. I think he was grossly underutilized in Utah but you know what? The Jazz still advanced to the Western Conference Finals without him playing at an all-star level.
And, the fact remains that Kirilenko averaged just 8.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.1 blocks last season, his worst in the NBA. He even wept during the playoffs because of his limited role. Love the passion, but there's no crying in basketball. That being said, I think from a basketball perspective, he would fit well here. He can play off the ball and his game seems suited for the Princeton offense. However. . .
Arenas and Jamison will both be free agents next summer, meaning that the Wizards have about $43 million committed to 10 players before they even think about negotiating new deals for two of the Big Three. Arenas is looking for a deal that starts somewhere around $16 million next season.
Kirilenko is set to make $15 million next season. So if the Wizards swapped Jamison for Kirilenko, they will be paying about $75 million in 2008-09 for a team that will . . . do what exactly? Win the NBA championship? Doubt it. The East? Maybe. But isn't that where they stand already? Or at least, where the team thinks it stands.
Say what you will about Jamison's defensive deficiencies and age (31); he won't cost the Wizards $15 million next season (and if he asks for that much, good luck finding a taker) or almost $18 million in Kirilenko's final year of the deal in 2010-11. Jamison certainly won't be caught crying publicly about his role anywhere.
Look, the Wizards have the next four seasons mapped out pretty well financially - and they are under strict orders to be fiscally responsible. They intend on giving Arenas a max deal, trying to sign Jamison to reasonable number, and then surrounding them with the necessary side dishes to be relevant for years to come. Bringing in Kirilenko would mean they have essentially settled on this group, with little or no wiggle room to improve.
So relax. AK-47 isn't coming. At least not any time soon.
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