This offseason Nikola Pekovic signed signed a big, long-term contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves, earning him $60 million over the next five years. With this deal, the Timberwolves made it clear that Pekovic is and will be their their franchise big man. Pekovic earned his contract with his play last year, but he still has plenty of room to improve and become one of the NBA’s elite big men. The Timberwolves are betting $60 million on that happening, and if it does, they will be set up for long-term success.
Pekovic is big. The Timberwolves list him at 290-pounds, making him one of the heaviest players in the league. Pekovic’s size is a big reason for his success as it makes him virtually immovable in the post. With such size often comes limitations, but Pekovic has avoided one common drawback to really big bigs in that he is actually fairly quick and nimble on his feet. He has, however, been hindered by another stereotypical big man problem — he gets injured. Pekovic missed 20 games last year and 19 games the year before, but he has never had a serious injury.
Injuries are always a big risk when signing a center to a long-term deal, but even if Pekovic continues to play around 60 games per season, he should be worth the money. After averaging 16.3 points per game last season, Pekovic established himself as one of the league’s best scoring centers. It will be interesting to see if Pekovic’s stats take a hit when Kevin Love starts grabbing 10+ rebounds and 20+ points points per game, but the two should combine to form one of the best offensive front courts in the league.
Luckily for the Wolves, Pekovic is a good defensive center. Though he doesn’t block many shots and has some trouble with extremely quick athletic centers, Pekovic plays defense with effort and is decent with help defense and positioning, so he’s still a plus defender. He won’t be enough to make up for Love’s poor defense, but the two of them should wear out their match-ups on the other end.
A Pekovic, Love, and Ricky Rubio trio will be one of the most entertaining groups to watch, with the potential to be one of the most effective offensive combos in the NBA. Like with Love and Rubio, one of the biggest concerns about Pekovic is his ability to stay healthy. Although Pekovic’s game isn’t as attractive or marketable as Love or Rubio’s, his play is just as important to the Wolves’ playoff hopes this season and for the foreseeable future.