NBA Free Agency: Cavs have “strong interest” in Nikola Pekovic

The Cleveland Cavaliers reportedly have a “strong interest” in adding Minnesota Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic via free agency.

Sam Amico of FOX Sports Ohio reports that the Cavaliers are high on the bruising seven-footer, but the player’s representation has yet to hear from the Cleveland collective. Minnesota recently extended a qualifying offer to Pekovic, however, and new team president Flip Saunders has called retaining the big man a “priority.” The Wolves have roughly $16 million in cap space, but could balk at a deal similar to the back-loaded (“poison pill”) contracts recently signed by Houston’s Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik. Amico adds that Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor is believed to not be willing to match any substantial offers (Pekovic, 27, is a restricted free agent), presumably out of desire to maintain the ability to keep both forward Kevin Love and point guard Ricky Rubio long term. 

The three-year veteran is coming off of a season where he averaged 16.3 points and 8.8 rebounds in 31.6 minutes per contest, but has missed 32 games over the past two seasons with various injuries. Weighing almost 300 pounds, Pekovic would immediately provide the Cavaliers with a big-bodied true center who would provide Mike Brown with a frontcourt rotation that would feature Pekovic, Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson, No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett and Tyler Zeller.

[Related: Cavaliers need to just walk away from Andrew Bynum]

  • Ben Frambaugh

    No thanks. A true center, yeah, I guess. A rim protector…not so much.

  • saggy

    i’m still feeling some sort of deal coming with a matched offer sheet or sign-n-trade and Kevin Love. wishful thinking, i am sure….

  • JHop

    My only concern with the Cavs signing players to “poison pill” contracts is that by the time the poison strikes 3-4 years down the line we’ll be looking (needing!) to extend our young core (Waiters, Thompson, and now Bennett, etc.). Last thing we need is to be in a cap crunch because we decided to steal a second tier, restricted free agent center.

    A similar cap crunch hit OKC this past year, causing them to lose Harden.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    Based on how the new CBA works, essentially the poison pill affects the team retaining the player. So if we offered Pecovik a 4 year, 5M, 5M, 5M, 20M deal…that’s what Minnesota would have to deal with. If he signed with us, we would be able to spread that money out over the course of the deal (8.75M each year). Go on Hoopshype and look at the salaries for Asik and Lin. They are even this year and next. If Chicago and NYK had kept their players, they’d have a smaller sum this upcoming season and huge sum the next.

  • boomhauertjs

    Or would it be a front-loaded contract with the expensive year this season?

  • JHop

    Noticed that. So then the next question would be, if the new team is greatly advantaged cap-wise over the former team, why aren’t poison pill contracts more common? You’d think every restricted free agent would be getting them left and right.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    This was written in to the new CBA…so last year was the first year that this could actually happen. It really only works when a team with a lot of cap space pulls it off with a team that has basically none (or in a year when the team will most certainly be most hurt by it.)
    Especially with the new Repeater Luxury Tax rules in effect.

  • ThatAlex

    Why would we go after K-Love when we supposedly have Kevin Love lite in Anthony Bennett?

  • Ben Frambaugh

    Pure speculation on my part, but I believe that you aren’t allowed to do so. I think the way the rules are written with the new CBA, it’s harder to write any contract that has a player making less in any given year…but especially it they are going to make significantly less from one year to the next. There has never been (that I have found) anything that said a player can’t make significantly more.

  • saggy

    I don’t agree that Bennett is “Kevin Love lite,” but if you had a bag with $500 in it and there was a bag with $50,000 in it in Minnesota, would you be satisfied with the “lite” bag?

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I still like Asik more then Pekovic but honestly either would be fine. Golden State supposedly has David Lee on the trade block now.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I’d move Bennett in a K.Love deal.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    No pressure with the description Kevin Love lite! I hope these aren’t the expectations especially not year one. Bennett has the chance thanks to his ability but he has much work to do before coming close to the KLL moniker.

  • saggy

    And twice on Sunday.

  • scott

    I believe that the “poison-pill” rule has been around longer than the current CBA, but b/c of the more punitive tax penalties its beginning to be utilized by [smart] front-offices once again. Bottom line, the team making the offer can spread the $$$ out. The team ‘matching’ the offer cannot. Not only is it more punitive for the “poison-pill” year from a financial aspect, it also makes the players contract more difficult to deal

  • scott

    If that were the case, the cap-hit on a team would be less than they’re paying the player (when averaged)…I’m pretty sure the CBA does NOT allow this

  • JHop

    If that $50,000 was in pennies I might be, just because I wouldn’t want to lug $50,000 in pennies across five states.

  • BROSEPH

    If he agrees to an extension beforehand, sure. Otherwise, no thanks.

  • Harv 21

    Haven’t watched enough of Pekovic to have a strong opinion as to how well he’d fit in a rotation here, but I can predict this: poor Tyler Zeller. Practices will be far more brutal than the games for him.

  • JR Reynolds

    Pekovic is a beast..would be a great signing for the right price

  • co818109

    youve never seen him play

  • Bj

    Pekovic is an excellent offensive center/rebounder.. Abt an 18/9 guy when healthy last year.. Would be an excellent pickup for the cavs

  • architrance

    Looks like the Pelicans(?) are going after Tyreke Evans and may need to dump Robin Lopez to clear salary. That seems like a much more likely scenario for the Cavs to nab a 25 yo 7′-0″ C on the cheap.

  • Jim

    “The Cavs have a strong interest in Minnesota Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic, a restricted free agent. However, as of Monday morning, Pekovic’s camp had yet to hear from the Cavs.” So the Cavs have such a “strong” interest in Pekovic that they have not yet contacted him? Makes sense.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com/ Scott @ WFNY

    Wasn’t it Love who Byron Scott compared to Samardo Samuels a year or so ago?

    “Samardo probably has more talent, Kevin has more experience,” Scott said.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    What, when? As a person who thought Byron Scott was given a raw deal I can’t believe he’d make such a comparison. If he did that’s scary.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Maybe the Cavaliers are using back channels via the Canadian ambassador.

  • Bourn, Michael Bourn

    Wow that’s really interesting, it seems like such an unfair advantage to the matching team.

    Is it possible for the Cavs to do a reverse of the typical “poison pill”? Since we have so much cap space this year, why not front load a contract so that Minnesota can’t match?

  • Ben Frambaugh

    Actually, I have. I watch a lot of NBA basketball. When Love went down and this guy started doing his thing this last year, I started paying attention. But thanx for the assumption. It’s appreciated.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    That is in the CBA, you can’t do that. It’s the third year that can be the big jump.

    http://www.cbafaq.com/salarycap.htm#Q44

    “The second-year salary in such an offer sheet is limited to the standard 4.5% raise. The third-year salary can jump considerably — it is allowed to be as high as it would have been had the first-year salary not been limited by this rule to the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level exception2. The salary in the fourth season may increase (or decrease) by up to 4.1% of the salary in the third season. The offer sheet can only contain the large jump in the third season if it provides the highest salary allowed in the first two seasons, it is fully guaranteed, and it contains no bonuses of any kind.

    If the raise in the third season exceeds the standard raise (4.5% of the salary in the first season of the contract), then an additional restriction exists. In order to determine how large the offer can be, the team doesn’t just have to fit the first-year salary under the cap. Instead, they must fit the average salary in the entire contract under the cap. So a team $8 million under the cap is limited to offering a total of $24 million over three years, or $32 million over four years. If the offer sheet does not contain a third-season raise larger than 4.5% of the first-season salary, then they only have to fit the first season salary under the cap.”

  • Ben Frambaugh

    Cavs can’t do the Poison Pill on Pecovic. He has too many years in.

    http://www.cbafaq.com/salarycap.htm#Q44

    If the player is a Non-Bird or Early Bird free agent with three years in the league (this rule applies only to players with one or two years in the league).

  • Ben Frambaugh

    Might give him that much more incentive to work on his strength then.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    Hopefully the Cavs want nothing to do with Lee.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    For those who are asking about “front loading” a contract.

    http://www.cbafaq.com/salarycap.htm#Q53

    “Typically a salary can decrease by the same amount it can increase. For example, since the Larry Bird exception limits raises to 7.5% of the first-year salary, the salary may also decrease by up to 7.5% of the first-year salary.”

    Basically, you can front load a contract, but not to the extent of a “reverse poison pill” front loading. The poison pill (referred to as the Gilbert Arenas Provision is discussed here:

    http://www.cbafaq.com/salarycap.htm#Q44

    It typically only applies to 2nd round draft picks (essentially 1st or 2nd year players) and there area few additional provisions added to attempt to close the loopholes involved from the previous CBA. However, as Houston proved on two different occasions, there is more work to be done still.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    Maybe they’re trying to guage other teams interest in him before they make an offer (to include the Timberwolves interest in retaining him at a given price.)

  • Ben Frambaugh

    The advanced stats suggest that he’s OK…but not spectacular. He’s not a great rebounder (though with TT and Varejao, that might not be as much of an issue here.) Last year was the first year he really saw significant minutes…and he couldn’t get 8 rebounds per 36. He did a pretty good job of not fouling though….which is always nice…and he does well from the free throw line (also a bonus.) Last year was the first year that he didn’t miss a large number of games. It suggests injury issues.

    I view him as a backup big from what i’m seeing on the stat sheets. I’ll need my buddy (a Suns fan…yes they do exist) to link me some game film to see how he did when in Phoenix. Last year indicates that he might just be a guy who got some stats on a crappy team (Pelicans) because there was no one crappier there to replace him.

  • Jaker

    I like Pek, but I don’t ” like him like him”

    He’s gunna cost too much.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Watch it mister Lee is one of my favorite players and has helped me to win not one but two fantasy basketball championships!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Agreed he doesn’t strike me as one of the players the Cavaliers would break their budget over but who knows I didn’t have them drafting Bennett #1 either.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    I love him as a fantasy basketball option. He’s an absolute treasure there (especially when healthy.) But he’s weak defensively and I really don’t want his bloated contract on this team.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    I guess the question to really ask is…what is the line that we draw on his contract?
    I haven’t been able to come up with that answer yet.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    It’s not easy to find guys who can do everything on both sides of the ball so for me I’ll excuse a little defensive liability in light of scoring, rebounding, hustle, grit, leadership and desire. The guy had a torn hip flexor muscle and never left the team. In fact he even played a few minutes in the last game the Warriors played.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    I think if you’re giving someone a max contract (or a near max contract) they need to be able to provide both offense and defense.

    It’s why I don’t want guys like Joe Johnson, Amare Stoudemire and David Lee on my team. Their contracts suggest (in my opinion) that they are going to have few weaknesses. Defensive liability is not (also in my opinion) a minor weakness. They don’t necessarily need to be shutdown defenders…but they should be (at worst) average.