Friday, March 25, 2005

Friday's Foreigners

It’s Friday, time to check in on some foreigners. So let’s go.

The big news last night was Andrei Kirilenko goingdown with a broken wrist. I saw it happen, he tried to break his fall after going in for a layup, and itwasn’t pretty. AK47’s season comes to an end with himappearing in just 41 games. Needless to say, owners who drafted him in the first round weren’t too happy with their returns. Although it was a lost season forKirilenko, that doesn’t mean next season will be as well. His wrist injury should heal, it’s his kneeinjury from earlier in the season that’s a biggerconcern long-term. But the way he played in March showed that he’s still one of the best around when he’s on the court. His March numbers were 17.6/6.6/3.3 with 1.9 steals, 3.3 blocks, 0.8 3s on 51% shooting. That’s absolutely dominant production (he checks in at#5 on the 30DR), and if his injury-filled year lets him slip to the second round of drafts next year … well, don’t think twice about grabbing him. He’s still just 24 and should be entering his peak years. His team also can’t possibly be any worse. We’ll talk about him more in the offseason, but certainly don’t dismiss him based on this fluke injury.

Another foreigner should benefit from AK’s absence,though, and that’s Mehmet Okur. While he hasn’t justified the huge contract Utah gave him, Okur has been a solid performer, and if Jerry Sloan was more willing to start him instead of stiffs like Curtis Borchardt or Jarron Collins his numbers would look a lot better. As is, his 12.3/7.2/1.9 on 47% shooting is very serviceable for a center, although you’d like to see more than 0.8 bpg. He’s upped that to 1.2 in March, and with Kirilenko and Carlos Boozer out, you’d have to think that Okur will see closer to 35 mpg Than the 27 he's been averaging. Because Utah is a generally ignored team (for good reason), Okur may be sitting on your waiver wire right now. Typically, center is a position where people have the most games to make up. There is a lack of quality centers, so it’s likely you’ve gone with the minimum required so far, so when you missed a game or two, it probably wasn’t made up. Okur is as good an option as you’ll find out there right now. December – the month Kirilenko missed – was Okur’s best month of the year,as he saw his most playing time and was good for 14 and 8.5.

Nenad Krstic is making some noise for the resurgent Nets. They suffered a disappointing loss at home to Memphis last night to drop them three games behind the 76ers in the loss column, but it wasn’t Krstic’s fault. He seems to slowly but surely getting over his foul troubles and has decided to inflict those troubles on opposing teams. In January, Krstic averaged 32.5 mpg and attempted 3.2 free throws pergame. In February, he averaged 28.4 mpg and got to theline 2.9 times per game. In March, he’s down to 27.6mpg, but his free throws attempted have shot up to 5.4 per game, including a season-high 17 last night. This is a great sign, showing Krstic becoming more aggressive, and it doesn’t hurt that he makes 73% ofhis attempts, very decent for a big man. If New Jersey does indeed fall out of the playoff race, he is one ofthe players whose PT probably wouldn’t be affected. The Nets will want to see him continue to develop, sothey can know if they have a big man to rely upon nextseason. I would slightly favor Okur over Krstic rightnow, but they should both be scooped up.

We’ll end by talking about a couple of Brazilians. Ifyou’re a regular reader (and if you aren’t, may I askwhy?) you’ll know that I’m quite fond of Nene. Any bigman that gets steals like a point guard can have a space on my team. Problem is he has trouble staying healthy. He began the season banged up, slowly worked his way into shape, had one huge game, got banged up again, came back for a decent stretch, got suspended,came back and was decent, then got hurt again. He’s been back for three games now, and though he hasn’tmade much of an impact, that could change soon. His minutes have increased from 7 to 13 to 21, and heflashed his all-around game last night by going for7/6/2 with 3 steals and a block in those 21 minutes.The entire Denver frontline is banged up, and if Nene can handle it, he might see very healthy minutes from here on out. It might be unrealistic to expect much more than 30 mpg for the time being, but he can give you rebounds and steals that you can use.

Our other Brazilian, Anderson Varejao, can only give you rebounds, and that’s only if your desperate. Like Nene, he is capable of putting up some nice stealsnumbers if given the minutes (he’s averaging 0.8 injust 14.4 mpg this year), but he’s yet to surpass 26 minutes in a game this year. That’s still been enough time to him to put up six double-digit rebound games, although all of those came in January, before he was injured. He’s only for the rebound-desperate right now.

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