Posted waaaaaay back in February of 2012’s lockout season, Saving the Skyhook’s Jack Winter noticed something about the Wolves’ budding competence. What follows is why Nikola Pekovic received 5 years and $60 million.
Oh, no! Pek will be 32 in 5 years! Shut up. Read:
Pek’s basic numbers for the month of February: 18.3 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game. He’s shooting a scintillating 61.7% from the field and a solid 75.5% at the free throw line. Even better, though, is the impact he’s made in the win-loss column. The Wolves are 13-8 since Pekovic started taking minutes from the woeful Darko Milcic and Anthony Randolph, a dramatic increase in winning percentage since Minnesota began the season 4-7.
Minnesota has been far better offensively with Pekovic in the lineup. Adelman’s team had a below average offense in their first eleven, Pek-less games, a rarity for a coach known for his prowess on that end of the floor. Since Pek’s “arrival,” though, the Wolves score 101.9 points per 100 possessions, a number that would rank tied for ninth in the league if it was based on results of the entire season.
Utilizing supreme spacing provided by Love’s shooting prowess as well as Rubio’s penchant for passing, Pekovic is by far the league’s most active center at the rim offensively. He takes a staggering 11.3 shots at the rim per 40 minutes, a full 2.3 more than second place Greg Monroe. More important, he shoots an efficient 69.8% from that distance, far outpacing the league average of 64.9%. Shown in the graph above for comparison is Dwight Howard. The NBA’s top big man takes four fewer rim attempts than Pek, and makes just over two percent more of them. Obviously, Pekovic fares pretty well in this facet of the game, and Minny has thrived offensively as a result.
By now you should be properly provoked by Pekovic’s proficiency, but we’re not done. Prior to that fateful January day against the Hawks, the Wolves boasted a solid rebound rate differential of +1.22. Today, that would rank as the league’s 11th best rate. That distinction, while impressive, pales in comparison to where Minnesota actually ranks right now – fifth. Yes, Love is one of the best rebounders in the world, but the insertion of Adelman’s offensive tackle/teddy bear into the lineup coincides directly with his team’s rise to the top of the rebounding ranks. Taking just post-Pekovic numbers into consideration, Minny’s differential is +3.83, just behind juggernauts Chicago and Cleveland for the best number in the league.
Bottom line: the Minnesota Timberwolves were never going to look like one of the best teams of today, and that was before the 300 solid pounds of stuffed animal-looking Nikola Pekovic took over as the team’s devastatingly effective starting center. That should hardly matter to the Wolves and their fans, though, because behind Love, Rubio, and the NBA’s most underrated big man, they’ll be sitting very pretty in the standings for the foreseeable future.
Feel good? I didn’t even see anything about offensive rebounding percentages in there. We’ll get to those later. Have a nice week.