The 14-13 Minnesota Timberwolves have played 11 games without their do-everything All-Star Kevin Love. And Ricky Rubio, the exciting sophomore PG who finished second in last year’s ROY voting, has missed all but five of the Wolves’ contests so far this season.
First-year Timberwolf Andrei Kirilenko has stepped up nicely for coach Rick Adelman to help keep the Minnesota squad competitive even with their roster injuries.
After spending his first 10 seasons with the Utah Jazz, the one time NBA All-Star (2004) and First Team All-Defensive member (2006) returned to his native Russia last year to play for his former European team CSKA Moscow. At the end of the season, Kirilenko was named the 2011-2012 Euroleague MVP.
This past summer the 6’9 combo forward signed with the Timberwolves. Many fantasy GMs were skeptical of how much Kirilenko had left in his NBA basketball tank. Prior to this season, his average fantasy draft position was somewhere near 110 overall. After starting and playing effectively in 23 of the Wolves first 27 contests, his fantasy ranking has soared.
Kirilenko is averaging 35.1 mpg, 13.3 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.7 spg and 1.4 bpg while shooting 52% from the floor. He has season highs of 26 points, 12 boards (2X), 6 dimes (4X), 4 steals (2X) and 4 blocks (2X). Bottom line: This savvy veteran can fill up a stat sheet and is capable in stretches of leading the team at both ends of the floor.
As the long season progresses and he becomes more familiar with his coach and new teammates, look for Kirilenko’s numbers to rise in all categories. He is a value fantasy pick-up right now.