What to Do With Nikola Pekovic

Writing my last post, I noted that the Timberwolves have no guaranteed money on the books for 2016, including Nikola Pekovic. We all love Pek, and he’s thrived with Rick Adelman. To see him improve from year-to-year and provide us with hilarity like “Where in the World is Nikola Pekovic, as well as our share of jokes about him cannibalizing opponents, has been a part of the fun. While he’s not re-signed yet, it’s a foregone conclusion they will re-sign him, right?

Wrong.

It’s not that they wouldn’t want to, but they may not be able to afford to, especially if Pek continues to outperform his $4million dollar pay grade like he has. The lack of quality centers in the NBA increases his value, even with many teams going towards small-ball lineups as well.

According to Sham Sports, Pek is in the final year of his deal, but has a $6million dollar qualifying offer. Furthermore, with his QO, that puts the Timberwolves just under the cap at around $56million. However, that limits what you can offer to Chase Budinger, who looks to be a useful guy to have around Rick Adelman. And it seems that the Timberwolves don’t have Bird Rights with Pek (That I could find, anyway) which would enable them to go over the cap to re-sign him

So, what do the Timberwolves do? Well, they have a couple options.

Decline Options

The Timberwolves have a few team options they will have to make a decision on, including: Derrick Williams ($5million), Dante Cunningham ($2million) and Ricky Rubio ($3.6million). Obviously, they’re not going to decline Rubio’s option. After that, Greg Stiemsma has an unguaranteed second year on his contract that could save the Timberwolves some $2million dollars, too.

Let’s say they decline Derrick and Dante’s option and cut Stiemsma. That creates about $9million dollars in salary. Can you still re-sign Pek with that? Maybe, but they may still be a couple of million off. And then you have to ask if they can build a strong enough supporting since that would mean Budinger would have to walk as well.

You can’t forget about Andrei Kirilenko’s player option for next season, but for the sake of the discussion let’s say he exercises his $10million dollar option for next season unless he does something like makes the All-Star team.

Make a Trade

I really hate bringing this up, because I feel like it’s going to cause some people to get sidetracked, but this may be a reason to trade Derrick Williams if you can find a veteran at about half of the cost that can contribute. Same goes for making a decision on Luke Ridnour and JJ Barea. The thought process is the same: cut some salary. Even then, that may only bring them to $50million, or about $8millon under the cap if the cap doesn’t change.

Attacking this from a different angle, and this will probably more unpopular than suggest trading Williams, they could also trade Pek to remove themselves from the situation entirely. In doing so they may be able to maintain their depth and could potentially find cheap help up the middle somehow. Actually, this scenario isn’t so crazy since we already heard his name mentioned in rumors this past summer.

Let Pekovic Walk and Try Their Luck in the Draft

I like to think this scenario leaves us all going, “Why the ‘eff didn’t you just trade him and get something for him if you weren’t going to re-sign him?!” Again, this one enables the Wolves to maintain some semblance of cap flexibility, and add cheap help. However, it’s tough to find NBA-ready help late in the first round and Rick Adelman isn’t crazy about rookies right now, meaning a project big would be out of the question.

On top of all of that, you have to consider the way the Timberwolves have been operating with Kahn-Adelman at the helm. There aren’t too many long-term investments on the roster, and they will have to look at re-signing Love and Rubio, too, at some point. Between budgeting for Love and Rubio, saving money to possibly re-up Kirilenko and Brandon Roy after 2014, how much can you say goes to a Pek extension?

There are probably many scenarios that could free up enough money to sign him long-term, but finding one that allows them to field a remotely deep team beyond Love-Rubio-Pek is tough to do. Unless they do it on the cheap with finding hidden gems late in the draft and discount veterans on the free agent market, you know…things the Wolves are traditionally good at.

I guess I don’t have an answer either way as far as what they should do at this point. So, let’s open it up: what would you do?

About Derek James

In addition to writing for Howlin' T-Wolf, Derek James writes about basketball Hardwood Paroxysm in the ESPN TrueHoop Network and covers the Charlotte Bobcats for SB Nation’s Rufus on Fire. Andray Blatche and Isaiah Rider follow him on Twitter.

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