Andrei Kirilenko leads his Russian team in minutes, points, rebounds and blocks. His 58.7% shooting mark ranks third on the team. He may not be the best player in the tournament but he is definitely the most important.
Russia’s defensive proficiency stems from his versatility and size. Their offense is buoyed by his efficiency and shot creating ability; even his unsuccessful jaunts to the rim are beneficial because they generally lead to free throw attempts. He’s averaging 7.5 free throw attempts through six games, besting every player in London.
The risks of Russia’s top heavy attack, though, entails a ton of volatility. If Kirlenko struggles, and Alexey Shved to a lesser extent, the Russians are unlikely to defeat anyone by sheer attrition. Russian head coach David Platt reiterated the importance of Kirilenko.
“Andrei is the greatest player in the history of Russian basketball,” Platt said. “We are here of his own volition, guides us with his heart. In Russia, he is like Michael Jordan for us. He is our best player, our greatest and our hard working leader. And with it all comes from his heart.”
Russia will need Kirilenko to sustain his dominance — his presence isn’t merely limited to scoring as rebounding, blocking shots and putting the opposition into foul trouble are also prevalent in his game. That’s a lot to ask but the role isn’t too demanding for Kirilenko.
His country needs that from him after all.