The Minnesota Timberwolves won nine more games this year than in 2012-2013, and came close to the .500 mark at 40-42, but they missed the playoffs for the 10th straight season. Now the status of head coach Rick Adelman will be the main talking point until that is resolved, and after that president of basketball operations Flip Saunders will be looking to add some talent to the roster.
Speculation surrounding the future of Kevin Love is likely to be prominent all summer, but will trade rumors also surround another of the Timberwolves’ front court players?
After he set career-highs in points (16.3) and rebounds (8.8) per game in 2012-2013, and despite any concerns about his durability after he missed 20 games, the Timberwolves signed center Nikola Pekovic to a five-year, $60 million deal last offseason to keep him in the fold. He started this season healthy and productive (18.0 points and 9.1 rebounds per game over the first 44 games), but a right ankle injury against the Chicago Bulls on Jan. 27 derailed that and Pekovic only played in 10 of Minnesota’s final 38 games.
Rookie Gorgui Dieng got more playing time with Pekovic out, and he averaged 12.0 points, 11.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game over the final 18 games of the season (15 starts) with nine double-doubles over that span. Dieng’s emergence was surely unexpected, but also pointed to Adelman’s stubborn unwillingness to rely on young players. Dieng brings a defensive presence that the Timberwolves have sorely needed, and Pekovic’s startling lack of prowess on the defensive end (0.6 blocked shots per game for his career) is not a great fit next to Love.
It’s unclear if the Timberwolves will actively look to trade Pekovic, and the money left on his contract ($47.9 million over the next four years) will limit the number of teams that have interest even without concerns about his durability. But I expect Saunders to recognize the shortcomings on the roster as it’s currently constructed, and if a small forward or shooting guard that is capable on both ends of the floor can be obtained for Pekovic a trade may come.