With today’s NBA adapting to a more 3 point shooting and finesse style of play, it has become nearly impossible for a team to land a true back to the basket center. The Minnesota Timberwolves, however, struck gold when acquiring arguably the most underrated center in the league, Nikola Pekovic, back in 2010. Although the Timberwolves have been putting together a mediocre season at best, Pekovic has been making great strides as a low post player, while giving his team a desirable advantage over many of the league’s top contenders.
After his rookie season in 2010-11, Pekovic averaged a mere 5.5 points and 2.9 rebounds per game. Now in his fourth year, Pekovic has truly come into his own, averaging 18.2 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. More importantly however, Pekovic has put together a solid week of production for the underachieving Timberwolves.
Since last Monday’s blowout victory over the struggling Philadelphia 76ers, Pekovic has averaged a solid 20.25 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. Pekovic’s recent success gave the Timberwolves a .500 (2-2) record in last week’s games, which has kept the team in the playoff hunt. However, if the Timberwolves are looking to make some noise in the rigorous Western Conference, Pekovic is going to have to continue his offensive dominance down low and also do a bit more work on the glass.
Most of the teams in the Western Conference outside of the Houston Rockets and the San Antonio Spurs do not have very much when it comes to their ability to defend low post players. This lack of size and defensive presence from the opposition plays largely in the Timberwolves’ favor assuming they find a way to sneak into the playoffs. Pekovic’s recent offensive success has shown the Western Conference, as well as the rest of the league, that teams are going to now have to worry about more than Kevin Love making perimeter shot after perimeter shot. Teams are now going to have to respect the Timberwolves’ ability to score at will in the paint, which will cause problems for most teams in the Western Conference. Pekovic’s recent increase in production has also benefited the team by taking some of the offensive responsibility off of Love’s shoulders. Although Love is completely capable of scoring 25 points or more on any given night, it will benefit the team as a whole if Pekovic is able to take some of that pressure off of him.
As the mid-way point of this year’s NBA season draws closer and closer, the Timberwolves must come up with new ways to continue their recent success. It is time to relieve Kevin Love of his overwhelming offensive responsibilities and usher in Nikola Pekovic as the teams newest offensive weapon. The Timberwolves press on and will hopefully capitalize on the under the radar center’s recent success.
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