Nikola Pekovic is the best player still available on the free-agent market, and the only things keeping him from signing a new contract appear to be one year and several million dollars.
Per Darren Wolfson of ESPN, the 27-year-old center wants a five-year contract, but the Minnesota Timberwolves may not be willing to grant him that extra year:
As reported by Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune, the Timberwolves offered Pekovic a four-year deal reportedly worth about $50 million. Unfortunately, Pekovic’s contract demands have left the situation at a standstill as the rest of the market continues to die down.
Zgoda quoted Minnesota owner Glen Taylor as saying:
We made an offer and they made a counter offer. And they decided they should get together and talk about it in person rather than over the phone. Our offer wasn’t a negotiating offer. Our offer was what we think was a really good offer.
An offer of $12.5 million per season is certainly a good deal for Pekovic—and Minnesota couldn’t feel too badly about it, either—but at this point in the process, one additional year shouldn’t make or break the deal.
Granted, Pekovic could settle for the four-year deal and the stalemate would be over, but the ball is in Minnesota’s court. There is no shortage of teams that would love to have Pekovic on their 2013-14 roster, and perhaps the only thing keeping that from happening is the restricted free-agent tag allowing the Timberwolves to match any offer, per Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press:
Those teams would include the Lakers, Golden State, Dallas and Atlanta. But none has stepped forward with an offer for Pekovic, perhaps because it's virtually understood that the Wolves intend to match any offer, as is their right.
The longer Pekovic remains unsigned, the more likely it is for another team to break the silence with an offer. And at this point, Minnesota may simply be dodging that bullet.
Should another team step forward with an offer, the Timberwolves would have to hope that contract doesn’t dwarf what they are currently willing to pay him.
While his sample size is small (174 NBA games), Pekovic has shown tremendous improvement in three years with the Timberwolves. He still has some improvements to make—particularly as a defensive rebounder—but he has already made big strides in nearly every facet of the game.
In 2011-12, the 6'11" big man led the NBA in in-the-paint points per minute. Last season, he continued that dominance with 16.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, showing marked improvement at the defensive end of the floor.
Simply put, Pekovic is too important to the Timberwolves’ future to mess around with potentially losing him this offseason—or at least prolonging the situation and creating more unrest that could lead to long-term acrimony between the two parties.
Minnesota doesn’t have to force the issue, but it at least should be willing to entertain the idea of keeping Pekovic in the fold an extra season. Five-year deals are often risky ventures, but the Timberwolves could certainly do a lot worse than to lock him up for an additional year.