Nikola Pekovic has thrived since escaping Rambis’ Phantom Zone
Sometimes a team finds that missing
link piece and goes next-level on us. And the Minnesota Timberwolves have found theirs in one Nikola Pekovic, the perfect complement to Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love.
“This (signing Nikola Pekovic 3-years/$13 mil) was my favorite Wolves move of the past year. They took Pekovic with the first pick of the second round in 2008 — one of the few things McHale did right in recent drafts — and locked him up as soon as his contract expired overseas. Pekovic is a paint-area beast who somewhat overlaps with Love as a productive scorer around the basket and who will have some defensive limitations; nonetheless, this was too great a value to pass up. If the Wolves can get over their Milicic fantasies, Pekovic could end up starting…”
C’mon, I wanna show you show you something.
What we see is the 290-pound 6’11″ Pek has some really nice bulk he couples with smarts, soft hands, and stellar feet to take advantage of an array of offensive maneuvers he punishes defenses with. This is no “soft Euro.”
Derek James of 612Sports notes that “Pekovic has become that player that we were told he would be. Not only has he thrived under Rick Adelman and next to Ricky Rubio, but he has managed to move Darko to his natural position: the bench. As a result, the Wolves are finally capable of running a legitimate pick n’ roll – er, “Pek n’ Roll”. Aside from not having the point guards in the past, running an offense through Darko didn’t work because it was too inefficient and running any offense that relied on Anthony Randolph setting a pick usually ended in disaster. Pekovic solves both of these problems.”
For more on what caught scouts’ eyes when it came to bringing Pek stateside I recommend this excellent (now retrospective) look inside his game from Sebastian Pruiti.
As the scouting reports on him circulate he may become less effective as a primary offensive option, even with his ample bag of tricks, but with Kevin Love keeping defenses honest from the perimeter and Rubio penetrating and using his otherworldly court vision, the game will remain open for Pevovic to do damage to opposition nearly as often as he cares to exploit ‘em.
Heads up: This is a clear candidate for Most Improved Player now that he’s been released from Kurt Rambis’ Phantom Zone with the nice balance of weapons available to new head coach Rick Adelman.
Utah Jazz set to make a move?
A week or so ago I went on WERW Syracuse, New York radio to talk Utah Jazz on Tucker Warner‘s show The Sidelines. One of the questions was “Do you think the Jazz will make a move before the trade deadline?”
Y’know how most fans can burn hours on the trade machine, even when things are going better than expected, but especially after a couple losses? Well, that’s never been me. Most years I’m pretty content to be patient with the core and see where they go. However, this Jazz team is simply dreadful from range. I mean, really bad. Like dead last bad. Like throwing a paper airplane into Raja Bell’s locker from the upper deck bad.
Bell is the Jazz’s best 3-threat, and he’s only the 62nd-best player in the NBA there, among qualified players, at .365. With no perimeter threat, neutralizing Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap has been a breeze for opposing teams. They simply pack the paint and dare Utah to beat ‘em from range, which of course they can’t. I warned that this could happen a few weeks back, when the Jazz acquired a large trade exception for moving Mehmet Okur to the New Jersey Nets, noting that it’s not even as important that you make the shot as to simply have the threat to open up the offense.
The Jazz typically carry only 13 players on the roster (15 is the limit), but just signed recently waived 6’8″ tweener DeMarre Carroll — not a perimeter threat, before you wonder — pushing it to 14. It’s very much in the realm of possibility that this is in preparation for a maneuver to bring in a shooter to reopen the O. Jefferson and Millsap see double, and even triple-teams regularly now, and despite efforts by head coach Ty Corbin to switch it up between Jefferson and Millsap, opposing teams have keyed in on ‘em, with Millsap particularly struggling of late as a primary offensive option with attention fully on him.
In fact, any other reasoning makes little sense. Why pay to bring in a 41% field goal guy that will rarely see the light of day otherwise?
It won’t be popular, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Paul Millsap, a player whose value may never be higher, and CJ Miles, an attractive little expiring contract, get tickets to ride for a sharp shooter. We’ve heard murmurs from Boston that Ainge is willing to break up the Big 3, and they need more than a poor man’s Millsap in Brandon Bass backing up an aged Kevin Garnett, while that would free up minutes to start budding phenom Derrick Favors in Salt Lake City.
And it wouldn’t be the first time the Jazz brought in a player who’s historically torched ‘em. Hell, they do it all the time, actually. It’s like a rule, or a tradition or something.
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