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Roster Review | Nikola Pekovic
C | 6-11, 295 LBS
2014-15 season: 31 games, 29 starts, 12.5 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 0.9 APG, 42.4 FG%, 83.7 FT% (career-high)
Injuries with any athlete are frustrating, but they are especially frustrating when they happen consistently to a basketball player as talented as Nikola Pekovic.
Pekovic (and especially his right ankle) has been plagued for the last three seasons and his 2014-15 season ended with surgery.
It’s not fair to judge Pekovic’s season on his numbers alone. While it was a large enough sample size (31 games), it never really seemed like Pekovic was at 100 percent. He averaged his lowest points per game since his rookie season and perhaps more alarmingly, shot just 42.4 percent from the field, nearly eight percent lower than his career average.
In 2012-13, Pekovic made 57.4 percent of his shots within three feet. Last season, that mark fell to 46.3 percent.
These are numbers that are a bit concerning.
While there’s a chance not all of that had to do with health, it’d be foolish to think the two don’t correlate.
While Pekovic’s season-ending Achilles surgery wasn’t the worst-case scenario, it’s something the Wolves hoped they wouldn’t have to do. Pekovic arrived in Minneapolis in early July, according to Flip Saudners, to start his rehab on his right ankle.
“That’s kind of the last thing that I can try,” Pekovic said of the surgery. “I’ll try whatever I can try. That’s the last thing I can try to make my foot feel better.”
It’s up to Saunders and his coaching staff to figure out how they can get the most out of Pekovic while keeping him healthy for the majority of the season.
That likely doesn’t mean 25-30 minutes per game. It’s probably looking like 15-25 minutes per game in five-minute spurts. Whether that means Pekovic is a starter or not, well, it’s probably too early to tell. First thing’s first: The Wolves just need to make sure Pekovic is healthy going into the season.
Pekovic described the latest surgery as a final effort to keep himself on the court. He’s one of the best low-post scorers in the NBA when he’s on his game and unfortunately, we haven’t seen a lot of that lately and it’s not for lack of effort. Pekovic will be doing anything he can to contribute to the Wolves going forward.
Top Three Games Of The Season
3.) Nov. 8 at Miami Heat
Pekovic looked good in this road loss to the Miami Heat. In 29 minutes and 40 seconds, Pekovic finished with a team-high 19 rebounds and 11 rebounds (four offensively). He shot an efficient 6-of-10 from the field and 7-of-7 from the free-throw line. He also added a steal.
It was one of 11 double-doubles for Pekovic on the season.
2.) Feb. 11 vs. Golden State Warriors
It was promising (at the time) to see Pekovic playing so well this late in the season. In a home loss against the 2015 NBA Champions, Pekovic finished with 17 points and a team-high 13 rebounds (four offensively). He also tied a career-high with four assists to go with two blocks.
Pekovic wasn’t all that efficient from the field, shooting just 6-of-13 from the field. He was, however, 5-of-7 from the free-throw line.
1.) Feb. 8 at Detroit Pistons
This game from Pekovic also came late in the season. In a 112-101 road win over the Pistons, Pekovic finished with a season-high 29 points. In 32 minutes and 30 seconds, he shot 9-of-16 from the field and 11-of-12 from the free-throw line. He also added three rebounds, two steals and an assist.
When Pekovic is at his best, he’s combining his strength and post moves to punish defenses. This game was an example of that.
Top Offseason Objectives
Like we talked about earlier, the biggest thing for Pekovic is his health. When Pekovic is healthy, he's an effective center. It will be crucial for the Wolves to figure out some sort of minute restriction for Pekovic when he does resume basketball-related activity.
Off the court, it will be important for Pekovic to develop relationships with some of the younger players. After five seasons in the league, Pekovic isn't exactly an old man in the NBA, but when you compare him to some of the other players on the Wolves, he might as well be. Pekovic could be a great mentor, especially on the offensive end, for players like Karl-Anthony Towns and Adreian Payne. When those players are in camp this summer, it's important for Pekovic to build relationships with them.
They Said It…
“I’m worried a lot about how it’s going to affect my life in 10 years or something like that. I’m also worried about my basketball life, too. I know it’s kind of a big deal.” – Nikola Pekovic on his season-ending Achilles surgery.