MINNEAPOLIS — Unless he intends to re-sign for less money in the short term, Andrei Kirilenko’s stint in Minneapolis is over after one year.
The 32-year-old Timberwolves forward decided Saturday to opt out of the final year of his contract, worth $10.2 million, and test an expansive 2013 free-agent market, his agent confirmed to FOX Sports North. He could still work a new deal with Minnesota, but unlikely for as much cash annually as he would’ve received next season.
The Timberwolves just drafted a small forward in Shabazz Muhammad, plan to re-sign unrestricted free agent Chase Budinger, and are in desperate need of a shooting guard that can shoot 3-pointers, especially after failing to obtain one in Thursday’s NBA Draft.
Made on the day of the deadline stipulated in his contract, Kirilenko’s decision frees up some real estate under the league’s salary cap, projected to be $58.5 million this upcoming season.
The former Utah Jazz veteran set himself up well to land a longer-term contract, if that’s indeed his desire before retiring, in his first year in the Twin Cities. An 11-year veteran, Kirilenko averaged 31.8 minutes and 12.4 points per game — his best scoring total since 2005-06, though that’s partially a product of more scoring opportunities with Budinger, Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic sidelined at different junctures.
But with a healthy Love back to play power forward, the desire to retain Budinger (president of basketball operations Flip Saunders is expected to meet with him early next week) and a guaranteed contract with Muhammad pending, there’s a good chance the Timberwolves will use some of the space cleared by Kirilenko on a shooting guard.
“We addressed our defense inside, and we addressed our ability to score,” Saunders said after the draft. “We have not addressed our ability to make perimeter shots, so that’s something we’re going to have to address through trades and have to address through free agency.”
J.J. Redick and O.J. Mayo top the list of options in Minnesota’s price range.
Free agent negotiations begin at 11:01 p.m. Minneapolis time Sunday, and Saunders said Friday he’d be travelling to meet with prospective signees.
That list includes restricted free-agent center Nikola Pekovic, a priority on the same level as landing an effective two-guard.