SEPTEMBER 25th: Pekovic is out for the season, the Timberwolves confirmed today (Twitter link). The official statement adds, “A determination about future seasons will be made at a later date.” Minnesota cannot apply for a Disabled Player Exception because it is under the salary cap, tweets Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders.
SEPTEMBER 23rd: Appearing on WCCO Radio this afternoon, Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor indicated that Nikola Pekovic won’t play for the team this year, and may be bought out (Twitter link). The veteran center continues to battle ankle and Achilles issues, and wasn’t expected to be cleared to participate in training camp.
Pekovic, 30, had a couple very productive seasons for the Timberwolves in 2012/13 and 2013/14, averaging 16.9 PPG and 8.7 RPG in 116 games during that stretch. However, he has long been plagued by injuries, having never appeared in more than 65 games in a season. Last year, Pekovic played just 12 times before being shut down.
The Wolves are on the hook for $12.1MM this season for Pekovic, and $11.6MM in 2017/18. If Pekovic is ruled medically ineligible to play by a doctor jointly approved by the NBA and NBPA, the team could get salary cap relief for his contract as of January 31. Based on Taylor’s comments though, a buyout is also a possibility. Buying out Pekovic wouldn’t create as much cap flexibility for Minnesota, but it would free up a roster spot sooner, and the team would be able to stretch out his 2017/18 cap hit, limiting the impact.
With buyouts apparently possible for both Pekovic and Kevin Garnett, the Wolves could create two openings on their projected 15-man roster. That would be a silver lining for players on non-guaranteed deals hoping to crack the regular-season squad, including Rasual Butler, John Lucas III, and Toure’ Murry.