Timberwolves 'intent' on retaining Nikola Pekovic

Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE

Minnesota's big center is a top priority for the Timberwolves when the free agent signing period begins on July 1.

The Minnesota Timberwolves extended a qualifying offer to center Nikola Pekovic with every intention of keeping the big man in Minnesota, according to Pioneer Press' Tim Leighton.

Pekovic should command plenty of attention as a restricted free agent. His great size combined with nice touch around the rim make him one of the more talented true centers in the league heading into his prime at age 27. Team president Flip Saunders views retaining Pekovic's services as a top priority this offseason once the free agent signing period begins (via Leighton):

"We're having communication with Pek," Saunders said. "We can't sign him, but we're going to talk with his representatives and see where they're at. He knows where we're at and what we're trying to do."

The Wolves have the cap space to keep Pekovic, with around $16 million currently available under the cap. Minnesota drafted big man Gorgui Dieng with the 21st pick on Thursday, potentially providing some nice depth behind Pekovic. But Dieng is certainly not considered a potential replacement for Pekovic.

Pekovic averaged 16 points and nine rebounds last season for the Wolves while dealing with ankle and abdominal injuries which forced him to miss 20 games. Injuries could be the one area that gives other teams pursuing Pekovic pause since he has missed 32 games over the past two seasons with various injuries.

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