2014-15 Roster Review: Kevin Martin & Nikola Pekovic
We’ll start with the obvious.
It can be tough to look back on the seasons of Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic, who missed a combined 94 games in what became another tankathon for the last place Timberwolves. Both are in their second years of a new contract from the Wolves – contracts that were at least in part a way to try to sway Kevin Love to stay in Minnesota past last season.
More recently, those contracts, though to different degrees, haven’t played out the way the Flip Saunders and the Wolves would have hoped for.
As far as a long-term career pursuits are concerned, Nikola Pekovic is in a far more troubling spot. With a contract that goes through 2017-18, Pekovic’s 51 missed games all came from nagging injuries all stemming from difficulty with his right ankle.
When he played this season, he struggled to make shots that had been money in the past. He rebounded and defended at about the same rate as years past (the latter, especially with help defense, always being a problem), but when Pekovic’s offense isn’t going, that’s when a real issue starts to take form.
By late March, Flip decided to shut Pek down for the season. About a week later, he had surgery on his right achilles. Based on reports, this surgery may bring on the end of the Pek we’ve gotten to know the past 4 years.
Pekovic had his surgery today. Basically a last-ditch effort. If this doesn't work, not much else can be done.
— Jon Krawczynski (@APkrawczynski) April 8, 2015
Reports have suggested that Pek will play on a minutes restriction next season, likely approaching 20 minutes per game on most nights. It’s unclear what Pek’s future looks like, but one thing is clear: his time on the floor in Minnesota has been, mostly, excellent. He’s has been a media-favorite in the locker room, and should have the support of fans as next season, regardless of what his contract looks like. Remember #PekGoesToo? That was a thing for a reason. He was really good for a while there.
As somber a calendar year as Pekovic has had, there’s still hope for Kevin Martin in the short term. While neither are likely to be a part of the young, building Wolves’ core, there is likely a place for Martin somewhere in there.
While he missed time due to injury, nobody was particularly surprised. As a starter, Martin hasn’t played in at least 80 games since the 2010-11 season with the Rockets. This year, he played just 39 games, but played mostly like his usual self when he was on the floor.
In fact, his best scoring performance of the year came the same night he fractured his wrist and missed 2 months of action. On Nov. 19 against the Knicks, he scored 37 points on 14-20 shooting, but suffered the fracture in the first quarter. This was two nights after Martin dropped 34 on Dallas.
Those have been the two constants for Martin in past years: scoring and the occasional hit of the injury bug. And that’s what he did again this year…though, we’re all hoping for far less of the latter next season.
Injuries aren’t fun for anyone, but the things Martin brings to a team are worth the contract he’s getting paid for. In addition, he brings consistent 3-point shooting to a Timberwolves backcourt that desperately needs it. While Martin is entering the latter stages of his career, and Zach LaVine will try to establish himself as the team’s go-to shooting guard of the future (unless they move Wiggins there, but I digress), there will be a place for Martin in some capacity throughout the length of his contract.
Pekovic and Martin’s future’s may not align, but their 2014-15 seasons were similar by way of unfortunate circumstances. Between Ricky Rubio, Andrew Wiggins, Shabazz Muhammad, Zach LaVine, and either Jahlil Okafor or Karl-Anthony Towns, the Wolves seem to have figured out the framework for their upcoming young core. Usually when that happens, the older guys from the previous core don’t stick around for long. One seems to have a spot as long as he wants it, the other will have to abide by how his body reacts.
Still, the good moments mostly outweight the bad moments for both Martin and Pekovic when looking at their tenures here overall. But yes, if you’re looking strictly at this past season, it would make sense if you averted your eyes.