Last week, the Wolves changed the man in charge of their basketball operations, replacing David Kahn with Flip Saunders, but that hasn't altered their plans with Nikola Pekovic. The Wolves still "have every intention" of re-signing the restricted free agent this summer, tweets Charley Walters of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The Wolves have appeared likely to bring back the 27-year-old center since March. That stance may have more to do with owner Glen Taylor, who last month expressed his desire to keep Pekovic around, than Kahn.
Taylor, in spite of his affinity for Pekovic, reportedly won't go as high as a $12MM salary to re-sign him. When I profiled the Montenegro native's free agent stock in March, I speculated that the Wolves might be engaging in gamesmanship regarding that figure. I think Pekovic seems likely to command offers in the $12MM range, so perhaps they're floating that number to entice other teams to make an offer of about that much, with plans of matching it. Otherwise, rival suitors might feel as though they'd have to offer the max — around $15MM — to scare off the Wolves. That's just my speculation, of course. Either way, committing $15MM a year to Pekovic would put a serious crimp in the Wolves' flexibility going forward, with Ricky Rubio eligible for an extension next summer.
Pekovic averaged 16.3 points and 8.8 rebounds in 31.6 minutes per game for the Wolves this season, all career highs. His 20.2 PER displays his efficiency on offense, though he's never averaged as much as a block per game on the other end of the floor. According to NBA.com, the Wolves gave up 102.9 points per 100 possessions as a whole this season, and 104.0 when Pekovic was on the floor, illustrating his defensive shortcomings. Still, teams routinely overpay for size, and it's not inconceivable that someone would decide to give him the max. Tim McMahon of ESPNDallas.com recently speculated that the Mavs could target Pekovic if the Wolves prioritize their pursuit of O.J. Mayo over their own free agent.