Posted: 11:57 AM- Question: Please forgive me for being blunt, but is there any way the Jazz could trade Andrei [Kirilenko] and get out from under his contract? Andrei still seems discontented with his role - he wants to be more involved in the offense rather and yet there are much better players ahead as far as offensive options. What about a trade - at least money would be available for [Carlos] Boozer and Memo [Okur]? Any thoughts?
- Ginger B.
Answer: I have been on vacation the last two weeks. After returning to work Monday morning and checking my e-mails, I can assure you that questions involving Andre Kirilenko's future in Utah is the No. 1 topic among Jazz fans. I'd estimate that 75 percent of the questions I am getting these days relate to Kirilenko, possible trade scenarios involving Andrei and how the Jazz can possibly keep Carlos Boozer and Memo Okur if they don't rid themselves of his contract.
Kirilenko has three years and $49.35 million remaining on his contract with the Jazz. He is scheduled to make $15.08 million next season, $16.45 million in 2009-10 and $17.82 million in 2010-11.
By themselves, those numbers should tell you one thing: Kirilenko will be difficult to trade. Not because of his talent or all-around game, which can be spectacular, but because of the financial commitment any team acquiring him must be willing to make.
Meanwhile, Boozer and Okur can both opt out of their contracts next year. Carlos would have to walk away from $12.66 million. Okur would have to turn his back on $9 million.
I think Boozer will opt-out, not necessarily because he wants to leave Utah, but to get a long-term deal with the Jazz (or some other team). Okur could do the same thing, given the going rate for a starting center in the NBA is more than $9 million a year.
That brings us back to the original question.
Can the Jazz re-sign Boozer and Okur and, combined with Deron Williams, keep their core together for the long haul without moving Kirilenko?
I don't think so.
With the Jazz still leery about exceeding the luxury tax threshold, it seems logical that either Boozer, Okur or Kirilenko must go. And Andrei is probably the Jazz's preferred choice, although nobody within the organization will admit it.
I thought coach Jerry Sloan and Kirilenko did a good job of putting aside their differences last season (although you have to wonder what would have happened if Utah hadn't been winning so many games).
Still, as many of you pointed out, Kirilenko no longer looks like the happy-to-be-here player of the past. It's obvious he doesn't like his role in the offense. He clearly prefers the unstructured style he has been allowed to play the last two summers as the star of the Russian national team.
That said, I don't believe the Jazz are in a hurry to trade Kirilenko.
By the end of last season, Utah was one of the top four teams in the NBA, in my opinion. The Jazz will probably want to see how far this core group can go, meaning a breakup at this point is unlikely.
Watch out next summer, however.
If the Jazz commit to keeping Boozer and Okur, something has to give, especially if management thinks the young threesome of Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver and C.J. Miles are the long-term answer to their shooting guard/small forward positions.
Sometime next summer, Kirilenko could be the odd-man-out, especially since there will only be two years remaining on his cumbersome contract. Potential takers will find that much more attractive than they do today.