Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum figure to dominate headlines this summer when it comes to centers hitting the free agent market, but Nikola Pekovic is another free-agent-to-be that shouldn't be overlooked. The Timberwolves big man will become a restricted free agent in July, and according to Charley Walters of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, "people who know" believe there's no chance the T-Wolves let Pekovic sign elsewhere.
Pekovic, who is earning about $4.84MM this season, is enjoying the best year of his young career, averaging 15.9 PPG and 8.8 RPG in 31.6 minutes per contest. Pekovic will be in line for a big raise next year, with an eight-digit annual salary to be expected.
Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities has reported repeatedly that there may be a difference of opinions in the Wolves' front office when it comes to Pekovic's value. Wolfson tweeted yesterday that he'd be "shocked" if Minnesota went as high as $12MM annually on a long-term contract for the 27-year-old. Still, given the number of teams expected to have cap space this summer, as well as long-term deals we've seen players like JaVale McGee and DeAndre Jordan sign, it's hard to imagine that Pekovic won't command something in that $11-12MM neighborhood.
As we covered yesterday, Kevin Love recently told Grantland's Zach Lowe that he feels good about Minnesota's chances of re-signing Pekovic, because "when he's familiar with something, he kind of sticks with it." If that's the case, perhaps the three-year veteran will consider giving the T-Wolves a bit of a hometown discount when the two sides enter negotiations.