Kevin Love's Broken Hand Opens Door for Nikola Pekovic to Become Elite Center
The past calendar year has been none too kind to the superstars of the NBA.
Even Blake Griffin was forced to miss the Olympics after tearing his meniscus (via ESPN.com), an injury that the dunk master suffered after the NBA season had concluded.
As the 2012-13 NBA regular season approaches, the injuries continue to strike. The latest victim just so happens to be yet another top-tier talent.
Kevin Love broke his hand working out before this morning's practice, is out 6-8 weeks— Jerry Zgoda(@JerryZgoda) October 17, 2012
Keep in mind that is at least one month without Love in the rotation during the regular season. This injury could derail the Timberwolves' postseason aspirations if they are unable to win in his absence.
As for how it happened, the reason behind the injury may not be what one would like to hear. In fact, it may cause you to experience a serious dip in terms of your sorrow and pity.
Love broke his hand doing knuckle push-ups with personal trainer Rob McClanaghan. No surgery will be needed— Jerry Zgoda(@JerryZgoda) October 18, 2012
Quite the disappointing turn of events.
There is a silver lining through all of these injuries that have transpired, as opportunities have been created for each of the star's respective teammates. In this case, the man who will benefit most is Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic.
So much so that he will become an elite NBA big man.
The Process has Begun
For those unfamiliar with Nikola Pekovic, you might be inclined to believe that Love's absence will be the first time he will be able to approach elite. The truth of the matter is, Pekovic has been flirting with a such a distinction since January 27, 2012.
That day he posted his first double-double of the season with 14 points and 10 rebounds against Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs.
In the 38 games Pekovic played from that point on, he averaged 13.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. Considering those numbers came on an inconsistent 26.9 minutes a night, it's clear that Pek made serious strides towards stardom.
With the offense likely to flow through him early, there is a great deal of optimism surrounding his potential to take further strides in 2012-13.
Heavier Burden, Greater Opportunity
As it stands, the T-Wolves will be forced to choose between Derrick Williams and Dante Cunningham to step up as the starting power forward in Kevin Love's absence. With both players relatively unproven, expect head coach Rick Adelman to turn up the pressure on Pekovic.
Whether as a back-to-the-basket scorer or a pick-and-role finisher, the offense will run through the bruiser from Montenegro.
With Brandon Roy and Andrei Kirilenko both having spent a full year out of the NBA, there is no guarantee that they will return to form. J.J. Barea and Luke Ridnour are both quality players who complement the roster, but neither has proven capable of breaking out as scorers.
With both Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love sidelined, Pekovic becomes the most reliable option on this offense. In turn, his opportunities will rise and numbers will skyrocket.
This Team Can Still Win
The key for Pekovic's rise to stardom will be the amount of wins that he can lead the Timberwolves to in Love's absence. If he's able to keep them at .500 or above, that first month of the season may be enough to find widespread recognition.
More importantly, it will offer a platform for Pekovic to prove his worth as a center. If he can consistently flirt with 20 points and 10 rebounds, reaching the level of "elite" becomes a legitimate possibility.
It also nullifies whatever hit Love's return takes on his numbers.
Pekovic has the chance to separate himself from Love's shadow in the 15-to-20 games that he will be absent from. Upon doing so, the world will take notice of his individual abilities and a reputable frontcourt will be born.
Pekovic's quality of play is already at elite with a Player Efficiency Rating of 21.47. That ranked 24th amongst all players and sixth amongst centers.
With Kevin Love sidelined by a broken hand, it is time for Nikola Pekovic to make his brilliance known to the NBA world.
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