As the Timberpups have started to descend on Minneapolis from (literally) all over the world, news and reports have started to disseminate on the early inhabitants – Brandon Roy, Nikola Pekovic, Malcolm Lee, Chase Budinger, and even Anthony Tolliver, who still doesn’t have a contract with anyone in the NBA and is currently being pursued by Panathinaikos in Greece.
I wanted to take some time to write about Pekovic, who I view as the Twolves M.I.C. – Most Important Cog – for the coming season. Look, we know that Kevin Love is the team’s “best player” and we know that Ricky Rubio may be the team’s “most valuable player.” If you don’t believe the latter, please revisit last season after Rubio’s ACL tear. So we’re creating another acronym here at Timberpups.com and we’re going with M.I.C.
Nikola returns to the Twin Cities coming off a year of snubs. Ryan Anderson may have won MIP last season according to actual voting procedures. However, Wolves fans know where that should award should have landed. Nikola was also snubbed in the Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star weekend, when even after injuries the league left him off the team.
Pekovic had his breakout season last year, posting solid numbers that rose from January to March, as his role continued to increase. The team did start to limit his minutes in April as his ankle started acting up and as the ‘Pups fell out of playoff contention. By all accounts, Pekovic’s subsequent ankle surgery in May has been deemed successful. In fact, Pek is in better shape coming into training camp having reportedly shed a few pounds. However, when asked where his weight went, Nikola deadpanned “To muscles.”
So why is Nikola the Twolves MIC? Simply stated, he needs to solidify the 5 spot for this franchise so that they don’t have to think about a move for a center running up to the trading deadline. Nikola’s impending free agency next summer cannot become a distraction for the team. He needs to prove night in and night out that he can consistently match up with the NBA’s best big men – Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum, Marc Gasol, etc. If he can limit the number of big games that opposing centers have against the Twolves, the team will have a legitimate shot of going deep into the playoffs.
On the offensive end, Nikola needs to continue being the efficient player that he was last season. He’s not going to get as many touches as he may like with K Love to compete with in the post, but he needs to make the most of each and every opportunity. He will need to be that other banger down low to help Love with offensive rebounding. I also fully expect his assist totals to double this season with the much more capable wings the team has brought in. On the defensive end, Pek will need to stand his ground and face up against the cream of the crop. He doesn’t have to “stop them” per se, just limit their production and output. Nikola won’t be a premier shot blocker, but he doesn’t necessarily have to be. He needs to be a net-positive contributor on the floor – unlike just about any other center this franchise has ever thrown out there in its history. Seriously, look at this list sorted by the center position, it is dreadful.
So there you have it, Nikola gets my vote for M.I.C. going into this season. I also figure that it is important to get positive articles out there on Nikola so he doesn’t decide to come and crush me with a flick of a few fingers. You always want this guy on your side, right?
Let’s go Wolves!