Trade Candidate: Andrei Kirilenko

January 5 2013 at 8:21pm CST By Michael Pina

When the Minnesota Timberwolves signed Andrei Kirilenko to a two-year, $20MM contract last summer, they figured they would be adding him as a complimentary sidekick for Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio (upon his return from a knee injury).  

Instead, Kirilenko has emerged as perhaps the team's best overall player, defending the opposition's best perimeter threat on a nightly basis while facilitating Rick Adelman's cut-and-move happy offense with fortuitous passing and a masterful understanding of angles and spacing. 

He's averaging 13.1PPG (his most since 2005/06) on a career best 51.5% shooting from the floor, and his blocks, steals, and assists are all around his career averages. 

But even though he's playing so well, Kirilenko is 31 years old with a $10.2MM player option on his contract next season. It's probable he seeks a long term deal, and it wouldn't surprise anyone to see him opt out of his current contract and force the Timberwolves to either sign him to a multiple year deal (not likely) or lose him for nothing. 

Kirilenko wouldn't be on the hypothetical trading block if it weren't for the recent news that Love broke his right hand for the second time this season. With Minnesota's All-Star out of the lineup for who knows how long (Love will see a hand doctor in New York City next week to determine if surgery is necessary) the Timberwolves could seriously struggle.

It could potentially turn them from a buyer into a seller, as they fall from the playoff picture (as of January 5, the Lakers, Jazz, and Mavericks all trail Minnesota in the Western Conference standings).

One possible suitor might be the Oklahoma City Thunder, who could dangle Toronto's top three protected lottery pick in Minnesota general manager David Kahn's face. It would allow the Timberwolves to get a high draft pick and give them more flexibility moving forward. Kirilenko is playing some of the best basketball of his career right now, but moving him when his value is high might be the smartest options the Timberwolves have. 

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