Nikola Pekovic Re-Signs with The Wolves

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As the negations for Nikola Pekovic dragged on for six weeks and many started to doubt if he would be returning to the Timberwolves, but Flip Saunders, the President of basketball operations, said that he never doubted the Wolves would re-sign Pekovic.

Saunders announced Wednesday that Pekovic has agreed to a contract reported to be worth $60 million over five seasons, plus incentives. He also reportedly offered the restricted free agent about $48 million over four years in a qualifying offer on July 1. He said in a conference call Wednesday that the Wolves “aggressive approach,” in addition to the team’s ability to match any outside offer, probably stopped other NBA teams from making an offer for the 27-year-old Pekovic.

“Maybe that scared them away,” Saunders said.

Saunders indicated that signing Pekovic provides Coach Rick Adelman with a major piece for a team that acquired forwards Kevin Martin and Corey Brewer plus center Ronny Turiaf, re-signed guard Chase Budinger and signed draft picks Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng.

“We were able, really, to address what we wanted to do,” Saunders said. “But we’ve still got a lot of work to do.”

Saunders has been busy since taking over running the Timberwolves on May 3 but said his foremost job was securing Pekovic.

“He’s one of our big, key pieces,” Saunders said of the 6-foot-11 Pekovic. “We came in the offseason and we labeled him our No. 1 priority.”

Pekovic played 62 games for Minnesota last season, averaging a career-high 16.3 points and 8.8 rebounds a game.

“He’s been a dominating player,” Saunders said.

Now with Pekovic officially signing on for the Wolves, they have a smaller but still formidable version of their very own Big Three. Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and the Wolves now have the tools to reach the playoffs and hopefully more after a nine-year absence.

“There are not very many centers who have the ability to score in the low post,” he noted. “Pek does. He’s probably one of the best, if not the best, and we all know that he’s a great rebounder. He’s got very good ability to finish off passes from Rubio.”

Saunders expects the threesome to be invaluable to any Wolves success.

“This league has proven that you have to have, quote unquote, three star-type players — and I’m saying three players at their respective positions who are going to be considered probably in the top five in the league,” he explained. “I really believe that Ricky, Kevin and Pek, all three of those guys have the ability to be in that top five at their respective positions — some of ’em up a lot higher