HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – You can finally close the door on the free agent summer of 2013 now that restricted free agent big man Nikola Pekovic has agreed to a five-year, $60 million deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves (as first reported by Marc Stein of ESPN.com and confirmed by Wolves boss Flip Saunders).
Pekovic was the last big name on the marquee without a deal this summer, a group headlined by now Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard and Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul.
By locking up Pekovic long-term the Timberwolves are now set with a core of All-Star power forward Kevin Love, Pekovic in the middle and point guard Ricky Rubio as the headliner in the backcourt. That’s an excellent place for Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman to start with his playoff plan for the 2013-14 season, provided all of his major players stay healthy. Love missed all but 18 games last season with injuries and Rubio played in 57 games as he returned from knee surgery of his own.
Pekovic emerged as a low-post force for the Timberwolves last season, averaging 16.3 ppg and 8.8 rpg while starting in all 62 games he played in last season. A skilled, 6-foot-11, 290-pounder, Pekovic is the ideal counterpart to pair with Love, whose range extends beyond the 3-point line. They’ll form a dynamic inside-out big man duo for a Timberwolves team that has legitimate playoff aspirations next season.
Signing Pekovic was work Saunders needed to get done as well. After a busy summer that saw them add quality veterans like Corey Brewer, Chase Budinger, Kevin Martin and Ronny Turiaf, keeping Pekovic from unrestricted free agency next summer was an absolute must. Even more important, a deal with Pekovic gives the Timberwolves some much-needed security at the center position going forward.