Last Team: Minnesota Timberwolves
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.8 blocks, 0.7 steals, 20.26 PER
Type of Free Agency: Restricted
It's almost seemed like a tacit assumption among most fans that Nikola Pekovic will be returning to the Minnesota Timberwolves. He just seems to be synonymous with that team's identity, and his two-way contributions are invaluable to the efforts.
According to the Star Tribune's Jerry Zgoda, the Wolves have made a formal contract offer to the Montenegrin center, and they expect to hear back about it soon:
The Timberwolves have made a formal contract offer to restricted free agent Nikola Pekovic and waived two players in preparation for Wednesday’s end to the NBA moratorium period.
According to league sources, the Wolves made an offer to Pekovic on Friday and expect to receive a response early this week.
On Sunday, they waived center Greg Stiemsma and swingman Mickael Gelabale in two salary-cap moves designed to clear space to allow them to sign free agents Kevin Martin and Chase Budinger as well as bring back Pekovic on a four-year deal that likely will be worth $12 million a year or more.
They also continue to try to trade guards J.J. Barea and/or Luke Ridnour in an attempt to create more cap space to add another two players through signing or trades.
The Wolves have the right to match any offer Pekovic receives from another team. As of Sunday, he is not believed to have been offered such a deal and the number of teams who have the cap space and desire to sign him had dwindled to one or two.
Pekovic repeatedly last season said he wanted to return to Minnesota, and President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders has said all along that he believes the two sides will reach a deal.
It's looking like a question of how much for Pekovic, not where he'll end up at this point.
There were arguably four elite centers on the market this year: Pekovic, Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum and Al Jefferson.
Two have signed thus far, while Pek and Bynum remain free agents. Howard agreed to a four-year max deal with the Houston Rockets, while Jefferson will join the Charlotte Bobcats with a three-year, $41 million contract.
The order that you rank these four centers will vary from person to person. B/R's Foster, who provided the order for this slideshow with his big board, has them as follows (from best to worst): Howard, Jefferson, Bynum, Pekovic. Personally, I'd switch Bynum and Jefferson just because of the upside.
However, they're all up in the top tier of the position. Pekovic's deal should be comparable to Jefferson's as a result.
Prediction: Three years, $39 million