|Pekovic has become a key piece for Minny. (Getty Images)|
The Timberwolves have quietly assembled a pretty nice-looking roster with a couple of quality pieces. The next step -- other than actually winning games, of course -- is to keep them all in place for the long term.
Kevin Love signed a four-year extension last season, but with an opt-out after three. Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams are still on rookie deals, but emerging big man Nikola Pekovic will become a restricted free agent next summer.
Pekovic though, wants to stay with the team. Via the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
"I would like to stay here because of everything," he said. "I just like everything. I like the area. I like the team. I like all the stuff. Now I got some friends here. Now it's real easy. It's just nice, nice people, nice town. I would like to be here."
You might be thinking, "So what about Nikola Pekovic?" Consider this: In 47 games last season Pekovic, 26, averaged 13.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game with a PER of 21.47. He battled some injuries, but in games he played in January and February, he averaged close to 17 points and 9.5 rebounds. In all reality, he's one of the better Western centers in the league.
He's so good, he made Darko Milicic expendable. (Yes, that's a joke.)
The Wolves salary situation is growing more and more complicated, though, with Love on a max-ish deal, Rubio likely headed for a big extension and big money tied up in J.J. Barea and Andrei Kirilenko. So if Pekovic is looking to get paid, the Wolves might have challenges with that. With him still being a bit of an unknown, the Wolves might be better served not offering an extension and letting the market determine his value next summer and decide whether or not to match then.
But Pekovic is probably a piece worth keeping. He's an extremely solid big that can score and rebound, and he is rapidly improving. He's evidently working on expanding his range to make him a pick-and-pop player, as well as cutting some weight.
"He's slimmed down, but he's stronger," Rick Adelman told the Star Tribune. "You just watch him. Guys in the scrimmages just want out of there. They don't want to go against him. He's going to be crucial for us. If we have a guy who has to be our Iron Man, it's Pek. When we have him out there, he's such a force around the basket. It makes everybody else better."
The Wolves are an interesting team to keep an eye on. They appear to be blossoming with talented players developing all over. Yet they haven't really proven anything yet, and they have some long-term questions. In other words, they're still the Wolves.