Teams Who Should Make Free Agency Run at Minnesota Timberwolves' Nikola Pekovic
The pool of NBA free agent centers is quickly drying up, leaving teams with few quality options left in the post.
Pekovic is a restricted free agent who averaged 16.3 points and 8.8 rebounds while shooting 52.0 percent from the field last season.
While Minnesota has the right to match any deal Pekovic receives, it will largely depend on what other teams are willing to offer. Pekovic is widely considered a better center than Tiago Splitter of the San Antonio Spurs, who just signed a four-year deal that will pay him $9 million annually.
This should mean a big pay day for Pekovic, and here are five teams that could sign him to a lucrative deal.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Dallas is still technically in the running for Dwight Howard, even though they're believed to be at the bottom of his list.
Pekovic would be a fine consolation prize, however. The Mavericks won the NBA title in 2011 when they had Tyson Chandler at center, and once again need another dominant big man to put next to Dirk Nowitzki.
While Pekovic isn't much of a shot-blocker (0.8 a game last season), he is a bruiser that makes teams think twice about coming into the paint. Dallas was 27th in points allowed last season, and could definitely use someone like Pekovic defending the rim.
Another area in which the Mavericks struggled was rebounding, finishing just 16th overall. Pekovic averaged 8.8 rebounds a game last season while the Mavericks starter, Chris Kaman, pulled down just 5.6.
If Howard spurns the Mavs, look for them to make an offer to Pekovic next.
USA TODAY Sports
Cleveland could use an upgrade at center, as Anderson Varejao cannot be relied upon to stay healthy for a whole season anymore.
Varejao has played just 81 games the past three seasons, missing time with a variety of injuries. Now 30 years old, it's time the Cavs plan for his replacement.
Pekovic does almost all of his scoring in the paint, where the Cavs haven't had a reliable scorer from since the days of Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
Cleveland wants to keep their cap space open for next summer as well, but they hold a team option on Varejao for 2014-15.
The Cavs could still sign Pekovic while keeping an ample amount of cap space for next offseason.
Portland Trail Blazers
Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports
The Trail Blazers have been looking for a center for years now, and aren't afraid to make big offers for other teams' big men.
Could they be after Pekovic now?
The Trail Blazers recently traded for center Robin Lopez, but Pekovic would be a major upgrade next to LaMarcus Aldridge in the port.
Portland was just 24th in the NBA in rebounding last season, something Pek could help them with immediately. His bruising style would be a nice complement to Aldridge's diverse offensive game, and could very well push the Blazers into the playoffs next spring.
New Orleans Pelicans
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
The Pelicans have had a busy offseason, already trading for Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans.
While they don't have the cap space to sign Pekovic outright, it's likely they'll be looking to deal disgruntled shooting guard Eric Gordon and his $14 million salary at some point.
If this happens, New Orleans would be wise to pursue Pekovic, which would allow Anthony Davis to remain at power forward.
The Pelicans ranked 24th in points per game last season, and would greatly benefit from Pek's post scoring.
For a team that won the draft lottery just one year ago, the Pelicans could really be taking off towards the Western Conference playoffs should they land Pek this offseason.
Greg Smith-USA TODAY Sports
The Hawks are another team that's likely out of the Dwight Howard sweepstakes, and could turn their sights to Pek.
With Al Horford able to play power forward or center, Pek could slide in next to him to form a dynamic post duo.
The Hawks also have some talented shooters on the roster in John Jenkins and Lou Williams who would work well feeding off defenders being drawn inside by Pekovic's presence.
Faced with the possibility of losing Josh Smith in free agency, the Hawks need to make an impact signing like Pek or face an all-out rebuilding mode.