Wessel: Decision on Nikola Pekovic will be among Wolves' most important
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Just six games remain in the 2012-13 season for the Minnesota Timberwolves after coach Rick Adelman recorded his 1,000 career victory in a 107-101 win Saturday over the Detroit Pistons at Target Center.
This will be the Wolves' ninth consecutive season that will end without a trip to the playoffs and yet another summer of uncertainty is set to begin.
Here is a breakdown of all 15 players on the Wolves roster and what their contract status is heading into what will once again be a very busy summer. All salary figures are courtesy of ShamSports.com.
Restricted free agent
Nikola Pekovic: This, along with the future of coach Rick Adelman, will be the biggest talker this summer. What the front office decides to do with the center has franchise-changing ramifications. Simply put, the Wolves cannot afford to mess this one up.
Pekovic is a restricted free agent so the Wolves can match any offer sheet he signs with another team but that likely will be costly. It is no secret that Portland will be willing to pay top dollar for Pekovic. It could cost the Wolves upward of $12 million or beyond to sign Pekovic and there are those who are skeptical about whether he is worth that much.
This will be one of the bigger free-agent decisions made by the Wolves in recent memory. Whatever they decide, they need to be right.
Unrestricted free agent
Chase Budinger: Budinger had a trying season after missing 59 games because of knee surgery. His comeback has been hampered by a busy schedule to end the season with the Wolves having played 11 games in 17 days since Budinger returned on March 21.
Despite a season he would like to forget, it appears Budinger will be back in 2013-14, especially if Adelman returns. The Wolves didn't give up a first-round pick to Houston for Budinger last summer just to have him for one season. The thought is Budinger will cost around $4 million a year (same as backup point guard J.J. Barea) and will provide the court width and 3-point shooting the Wolves lacked when Budinger was out of the lineup.
Andrei Kirilenko: Kirilenko has a $10.2 million dollar player option for next season that he can exercise after playing this season for $9.7 million. The Russian has been the team's most consistent player this season despite a few nagging injuries that always seemed to linger.
Kirilenko is always private when it comes to contract situations but all indications are he will want to play at least another season. One possibility is that he could decline the player option in order to negotiate a two-year deal with the Wolves to give the veteran security beyond next season. But that could be dicey for the Wolves, giving a two-year deal to a 32-year old who missed 18 games this season.
Dante Cunningham: The Wolves have a $2.1 million dollar option on Cunningham that seems likely they will pick up. Cunningham has provided a spark off the bench and Adelman is a big fan. He comes at a very reasonable price, is dependable and all indications are the Wolves will bring him back.
Brandon Roy: It is sad to say since everybody likes Roy and it was natural to want to see a happy ending come from his return, but this was a disaster. Roy signed a two-year $10 million contract in July with the second year voidable if his knees once again gave out.
Roy only played in five games for 122 total minutes, far below the 65/1400 threshold necessary to make the the second year of his contract fully guaranteed. It was a worth a shot and the sad end to a career cut short, but Roy will not be back and the Wolves will only have lost $5 million in the process.
Under guaranteed contract
Kevin Love: The forward is signed for $14.6 million and $15.7 million the next two seasons before that $16.7 million player option kicks in 2015-16 that has every Wolves fan nervous Love will be bailing for Los Angeles.
But that is still far down the road and Love is under team control the next two seasons. The Wolves can still offer him more money than any other team when it comes time to negotiate a new deal. If this team can start winning, keeping Love around hopefully won't be a problem.
Derrick Williams: The up-and-down sophomore is under contract next season for $5 million under the third year of his rookie contract. The Wolves then own a team option for $6.3 million in 2014-15.
The Williams saga has been an interesting one and this summer will be no exception. His name has been brought up in trade talks almost since the day he arrived and those won't end as long as Love and Adelman are here.
Ricky Rubio: The point guard will enter the third year of his rookie deal next season and will be making $3.6 million -- quite the bargain. The Wolves then have a team option in 2013-14 that will (obviously) be picked up.
But every move the Wolves make going forward has to be made with Rubio's future in mind. It is too early to start negotiations on an extension now but the front office needs to make sure they are in position to give Rubio what he wants to stay in Minnesota beyond his rookie contract.
J.J. Barea: Barea is set to earn $4.6 million next season in the third year of a four year deal he signed as a free agent after being a member of the 2010-11 NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks.
The backup point guard's name came up in trade talks at the deadline and that will continue this summer. The Wolves have enough depth at point guard that either Barea or Luke Ridnour could be dealt over the summer to address other issues, or be a part of a bigger overall package.
Luke Ridnour: Ridnour is entering the final season of a four-year deal he signed at the start of the 2010-11 season after playing 82 games as a backup in Milwaukee the previous season. Ridnour is set to make $4.3 million next season (less than Barea will make) and has proven to be a valuable signing, having to start most games at shooting guard and defend opponents much bigger and stronger than him.
As mentioned above, Ridnour's name will certainly pop up in trade talks. Teams called on Ridnour at the deadline and his name might be even more enticing now that he is entering the final season of his deal.
Alexey Shved: Shved will make $3 million next season as part of the three-year $9.2 million contract he signed last summer as a rookie after playing professional basketball in Russia and for the Russian national team alongside Kirilenko.
Malcolm Lee: Lee enters the final deal of a somewhat rare guaranteed contract for a second-round draft pick. The former UCLA man will make $884,293 dollars after missing most of the season following knee and hip surgery. Lee has shown flashes but can't seem to stay healthy. But either way, his contract isn't exactly breaking the bank.
Under contract -- non-guaranteed
Greg Stiemsma: The Steamer is under a non-guaranteed contract for $2.6 million next season and the Wolves can void the deal if they waive him by July 17. It seems logical that Stiemsma will be back. He has given the Wolves depth at center and has even started 16 games when Pekovic has been on the shelf.
Chris Johnson and Mickael Gelable: The two both signed their contracts for the rest of the season on Feb. 8 and earned the prorated minimum of $346,781 dollars. They are both signed non-guaranteed contracts next season for the full minimum of $916,099, but it is unknown when the team would need to cut them by to void the deals. Both have struggled to get on the court lately, but Adelman says he has seen enough to make a decision on them over the summer.