The Minnesota Timberwolves PR department announced on Twitter Sunday night that center Nikola Pekovic will miss the entire 2016-17 season because of recurring ankle pain.
Pekovic has battled injuries throughout his short career, and the 6’11 center from Montenegro has appeared in just 271 out of a possible 492 games. In those games, Pek averaged 12.4 points, 6.7 rebounds, and shot 51.8 percent from the field.
When he was healthy, Pekovic was one the NBA’s most intimidating defenders. He’s far from the most athletic, but his 300-plus-pound frame allowed to put a walloping on any defender who came into his paint. His size also allows him to get excellent position for rebounds and makes for a tremendous hassle to box out, and rebounding is clearly where he makes the most impact.
Because he’s struggled to keep himself healthy, Pekovic has been limited during his time on the court. Looking at his splits, however, paint the picture of a guy who could’ve developed into a dominating center. During his best seasons, Pek would be a legitimate 18-point, nine-rebound threat if given enough time on the floor. Through his career, there have been 88 games where he’s played 30-39 minutes, and he’s averaged 18.1 points and 9.9 rebounds through those contests.
His absence won’t impact the Timberwolves much because their rotation last year seldom featured Pekovic to begin with. Karl-Anthony Towns and Gorgui Dieng are going to be the two guys commanding much of the frontcourt minutes but don’t be surprised to guys like Jordan Hill or Cole Aldrich fighting for whatever’s left over.
Minnesota won’t be missing him on offense because, despite being efficient, he lacked the polish to be a constant threat on the block or from mid-range. Even on defense and the glass, they’re covered. Towns and Dieng are two long, athletic, and explosive young athletes who are better rim protectors than Pekovic.
It’ll be interesting to see if the Timberwolves make any effort to trade him. Pekovic has two more years on his current contract and turns 31 in January, but he doesn’t have the reputation to warrant a sizeable offer.
Data courtesy of Basketball-Reference