Nikola Pekovic is entering the final season of his three-year, $11.858MM contract, and though he could be a sought-after commodity as a restricted free agent next summer if he continues the improvement he showed last season, the 6'11" center wants to remain with the Timberwolves, as Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune reports.
"I would like to stay here because of everything," Pekovic said. "I just like everything. I like the area. I like the team. I like all the stuff. Now I got some friends here. Now it's real easy. It's just nice, nice people, nice town. I would like to be here."
Pekovic's agent is Jeff Schwartz, who has a history of netting substantial deals for big men in Minnesota. He helped Al Jefferson get a five-year, $65MM extention in 2007 and Kevin Love to his $60.826MM extension last season. Former GM Kevin McHale was still in place when Jefferson signed his deal, however, and Schwartz fell short of obtaining the maximum five years for Love, instead negotiating a player option that will allow Love to become an unrestricted free agent in 2015. Pekovic said he's aware of his agent's history with the team, but isn't thinking about money right now.
Zgoda observes that Pekovic looks fit and much leaner in training camp this year after summer surgery to remove bone spurs on his ankles that caused him to miss time last season. He played in pain because of the bone spurs, but still managed to put up 13.9 points and 7.4 rebounds in 26.9 minutes per game with a 21.4 PER, wresting the starting center job away from Darko Milicic and planting himself in the conversation for the Most Improved Player award.
It's a long way until next offseason, and much could change between now and then, including Pekovic's stance on remaining with the Wolves. Still, Zgoda believes he's in line for a significant payday, pointing to this summer's maximum-salary deals for Brook Lopez and Roy Hibbert and Omer Asik's contract worth $8MM a season. Pekovic seems in line for a yearly salary of something in between $8MM and the maximum, likely worth $15MM next summer, depending on his play this season.