Tag: Nikola Pekovic

Golden State Warriors v San Antonio Spurs

PBT Weekly NBA Power Rankings: Warriors, Cavaliers, Spurs then everyone else


In the penultimate PBT Power Rankings of the NBA season there is not a lot of change at the top, although I was tempted to move the Spurs in front of the Cavaliers. Basically it’s Golden State, Cleveland, and San Antonio then the rest of the league. At the bottom, the Timberwolves take a turn.

source:  1. Warriors (63-14, Last Week No. 1). They had won a dozen in a row but the Spurs reminded everyone on Sunday the West playoffs are no foregone conclusion. Rather they will be a bloodbath. That said, the Warriors have home court throughout the playoffs and they are 35-2 at Oracle Arena.

source:  2. Cavaliers (50-27 LW 2). Cleveland’s offense has been fantastic and it’s defense improved since the All-Star break (and trades), but that defense had gone from terrible to a little above average. But they have shown flashes of better defense of late and they will need that against the Hawks in the conference Finals.

source:  3. Spurs (51-26, LW 3). Kawhi Leonard missed a lot of time this season but he is still going to draw Defensive Player of the Year votes. You saw Sunday why with his play against Stephen Curry on Sunday. Big home-and-home against Houston this week, with some wins they could get home court in the first round.

source:  4. Hawks (57-19, LW 4). Atlanta beating Brooklyn by 32 Saturday — even with Paul Millsap getting injured — is a preview of what the first round will look like in the East. Millsap is going to miss a couple games but is not in danger of missing playoff games.

source:  5. Clippers (52-26, LW 5). Jamal Crawford is set to return on Tuesday and his depth is needed for the shallow-benched Clippers. Los Angeles has a soft schedule the rest of the way, but there is a big game with Memphis this week — win and the three seed is well within reach.

source:  6. Rockets (53-24, LW 6). If Houston is going to hold on to the two seed in the West, they have to get at least a split against the red hot Spurs in a home-and-home this week. James Harden has been putting up MVP numbers and is doing it efficiently, pushing his team into a top seed. He’s got a good case.

source:  7. Trail Blazers (50-26. LW 8). As the winners of the Northwest Division they will be the four seed, but still likely will start the playoffs on the road because the five seed (Clippers, Spurs or Grizzlies) will have the better record. Portland’s offense is clicking but they will only go as far as their defense takes them.

source:  8. Grizzlies (52-25, LW 7). For Memphis the playoffs basically start this week — they are the three seed, just one game back of Houston for the two seed but also just half a game ahead of the Clippers and one up on the Spurs. They could finish anywhere from 2-6 in the West. Big games against the Pelicans and Clippers this week.

source:  9. Bulls (46-31, LW 9). Derrick Rose is expected to return this week, and the Bulls can try to make a positive out of how they stuck close to the Cavaliers Sunday without him or Kirk Hinrich. Yet they have not played the level of defense we expect from the Bulls enough this season to picture them as a serious threat for the conference finals.

source:  10. Mavericks (46-31, LW 10). The Rockets, Grizzlies, Clippers and Spurs are all holding out hope of getting the two seed — because all of them would love to face Dallas in the first round. The Mavs need to get their defense back on track before the playoffs and hope for a favorable offensive matchup.

source:  11. Pelicans (41-35, LW 12). Despite the Pelicans having the tougher schedule they have gotten within half a game of the Thunder as OKC stumbles down the stretch. And the Pelicans own the tie breaker. Ryan Anderson is back in the lineup which is huge for their offense and spacing. Still tough sledding ahead with Golden State, Houston and Memphis on the docket this week.

source:  12. Wizards (44-33, LW 14). They have won 4-of-5 and are within a game of four-seed Toronto and home court in the first round. Those wins hadn’t been that impressive until the upset of Memphis on Saturday night, but the Wizards are playing good defense again and that keeps them in just about every game.

source:  13. Thunder (42-35, LW 11). They have lost five of six and given the Pelicans hope (and New Orleans has the tie breaker). Russell Westbrook is racking up triple doubles (11) but he’s not efficient, the Thunder defense is bad and the losses pile up. Games this week are the surging Spurs, the Kings, then an interesting test at Indiana (with Paul George).

source:  14. Raptors (45-32, LW 15). Toronto’s sloppy defense continues to cost them in close games, as it did over the weekend. They need the wins, the Wizards are just one game back and could take home court away in the first round. Toronto is on the road this week but the games are winnable at Charlotte, Orlando, and Miami.

source:  15. Jazz (35-42, LW 16). Interesting discussion around the NBA now is what the much-improved Jazz should do this summer to build on their defense and second half surge. History suggests there will be patience, looking for growth out of the guys they already have, and maybe one or two trades but not a blockbuster. They just need the right guys.

<source:  16. Suns (39-38, LW 13). Can the Suns finish over .500? Not going to be that easy with this being four of their final five games: At Atlanta, at Dallas, at New Orleans, at San Antonio.

source:  17. Bucks (38-39, LW 17). They should be doing their homework on the looming I-94 first round showdown with Chicago. Just making the playoffs will be a positive experience for John Henson, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo and the rest of the young Bucks.

source:  18. Nets (35-41, LW 19). They have won 8-of-10 behind the return of Brook Lopez (he was just named Eastern Conference player of the week), yet they are not secure in the playoffs. The Nets are the seven seed, 1.5 games ahead of nine seeds Indiana/Miami, with a tough lineup of Portland, Atlanta, Washington and Milwaukee this week.

source:  19. Celtics (35-42, LW 20). This could be the make or break week for Boston’s playoff dreams. The Celtics are the eight seed, one game up on the Pacers/Heat, but Boston has a home-and-home against Cleveland this week.

source:  20. Pacers (34-43, LW 21). Paul George looked good but rusty in his return Sunday (as to be expected), but his presence brought a new energy to a Pacers team that throttled the Heat. Indy is just one game out of the playoffs with winnable road games against the Knick and Pistons this week, followed by a tough one against Oklahoma City. This is going to go down to the wire.

source:  21. Heat (34-43, LW 18). They were on the wrong side of the Paul George return Sunday, but their problems are bigger than that having lost four in a row. They are a game out of the playoffs and need wins at home this week against Chicago and Detroit or Dwyane Wade could miss the playoffs for only the second time in his career.

source:  22. Pistons (30-47, LW 23). They may just be playing out the string but there are reasons for hope in Detroit — Reggie Jackson is putting up big lines, Andre Drummond remains a beast inside, and the Pistons have turned the Palace into a tough place to play again. All things to build on.

source:  23. Hornets (33-43, LW 25). Kemba Walker came to the defense of coach Steve Clifford this week, saying it’s not his fault the Hornets regressed this season. While everyone can take some blame, more goes on the guys in the front office who pushed for the Lance Stephenson trade than on Clifford, who can still flat out coach.

source:  24. Magic (24-53, LW 27). The Magic are in an interesting place, with some quality young players that should be part of the future — Nikola Vucevic, Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris, Elfrid Payton — but they lack a true No. 1, a cornerstone/foundational player. That’s always the hardest piece to get. Oh, and they need a new coach with a system that fits all these guys.

source:  25. Nuggets (28-49, LW 22). Denver’s players are clearly mailing in the rest of season, which is a bad sign for interim coach Melvin Hunt (but I think this is more on the makeup of the players mentally than the coach).

source:  26. Kings (26-50, LW 24). DeMarcus Cousins put up back-to-back 20-20 games last week and looks very comfortable in the George Karl offense. But it’s what Karl and the Kings front office do this summer that is really going to determine the future in Sacramento, this roster needs work.

source:  27. 76ers (18-60, LW 26). I’m excited to see Joel Embiid in a Sixers uniform playing at Summer League in Las Vegas, he could be the foundational piece that helps transform these Sixers (who certainly have looked better since the All-Star Break).

source:  28. Lakers (20-55, LW 28). Here’s the only number that matters in Los Angeles — 82.8. That is the percentage chance the Lakers hold on to their draft pick this year. They have the fourth worst record in the NBA, if two teams jump them in the lottery and the Lakers fall to the six pick then the Sixers get it (remnants of the Steve Nash trade). But if they keep it and draft wisely, someone to pair with Julius Randell and Jordan Clarkson, then the foundation of the future starts to get laid.

source:  29. Knicks (15-62, LW 30). Phil Jackson talked about defense to season ticket holders this week, and in doing so it sounded like he was leaning toward Karl-Anthony Towns over Jahlil Okafor if the Knicks land the top pick. That may be the better long-term pick but it’s not going to help Carmelo Anthony win right now, and it may be a tough sell.

source:  30. Timberwolves (16-60, LW 29). Watch them to see future Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins (he’s putting up numbers now), but no Nikola Pekovic or Ricky Rubio. Mostly sadly, maybe no more Kevin Garnett again.

Timberwolves finally rule Nikola Pekovic out for season

Charlotte Bobcats v Minnesota Timberwolves

The last time we saw Nikola Pekovic on the court for the Timberwolves it was March 11 against the Suns. His ankles were sore, the ankles that have been a problem for him for a couple seasons now.

For a while now we knew the Timberwolves had basically shut him down for the season — it’s not like they need him for the playoffs — but of course they wouldn’t admit it. Because coaches and teams are like that for reasons that are sometimes hard to grasp.

Monday, coach Flip Saunders owned up to it.

Pekovic averaged 12.5 points a game (on just 42.4 percent shooting) plus had 7.5 rebounds a night when he could play. He’s a solid center if one who is overpaid for what he can deliver at $12 million a season — and his contract runs through the summer of 2018.

Gorgui Dieng is the big man of the future for Minnesota, but they will have Pekovic around for a while.

Minnesota needs to get Pekovic’s ankles right or limit his minutes in season (they tried this year). Or both.

Timberwolves signed a player because he was near New York

Delaware 87ers v Sioux Falls Skyforce

Why did the Timberwolves sign Sean Kilpatrick?

Sure, he played well enough in the D-League after going undrafted out of Cincinnati.

But that was far from the only reason.

NBA teams are required to have eight players available for each regular season games, and with a long list of sidelined players – Nikola Pekovic, Shabazz Muhammad, Robbie Hummel, Anthony Bennett, Kevin Garnett, Justin Hamilton, Gary Neal and Ricky Rubio – Minnesota was down to just seven healthy players for its game against the Knicks in New York last night.

Enter Kilpatrick, whose D-League team was in nearby Delaware.

Timberwolves president/coach Flip Saunders, via Brian Mahoney of the Associated Press:

“We had to fulfill our rules, so we had to go find somebody that was within a train ride away,” Wolves coach Flip Saunders said.

Kilpatrick actually drove, arriving in the Wolves’ locker room at Madison Square Garden about 45 minutes before the start.

“We had him in before so we worked him out, so we knew about him and we’ve been following him, but there’s no question that geography helped,” Saunders said. “We had to have a guy here ready to play at 7:30.”

Kilpatrick played 10 minutes, missing his lone shot, grabbing a rebound and turning the ball over in Minnesota’s win.

He’ll earn $29,843 for this contract, more than he would have made all season in the D-League. Not bad for being in the right place at the right time.

Saunders also had a cool story about a player arriving even closer to tip-off than Kilpatrick did. Mahoney:

When Saunders was coaching in the CBA, Sidney Lowe – now a Wolves assistant – arrived half a game later.

“For the (postseason) he had to be eligible for seven games and the seventh game we were playing at La Crosse. So he flew in and got in at halftime,” Saunders said.

“He got in playing the second half to be playoff eligible.”

Timberwolves granted injury exception, sign Sean Kilpatrick to 10-day contract

Talib Zanna, Sean Kilpatrick
1 Comment

The Timberwolves have been beset by injuries in recent months. Anthony Bennett, Nikola Pekovic, Shabazz Muhammad and Robbie Hummel (almost a third of the roster) are still out and don’t seem like they’ll be back in the near future. Because of this, the NBA has granted Minnesota a hardship exception, allowing them to sign a 16th player, and they’ve signed former D-League guard Sean Kilpatrick to a 10-day contract.

From the team’s press release:

The Minnesota Timberwolves today announced the team has signed guard Sean Kilpatrick to a 10-day contract. The Timberwolves were granted an NBA hardship exception for a 16th roster spot due to having four players out due to injury.

Kilpatrick, 25, has averaged 13.6 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 42 games this season with Delaware and Santa Cruz of the NBADL. Kilpatrick, 6-4, went undrafted in the 2014 NBA Draft after a four-year career at the University of Cincinnati. Kilpatrick finished his career with averages of 15.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 140 contests, earning Second-Team All-America honors his senior season. Kilpatrick was signed by the Golden State Warriors on October 20, 2014 and waived on October 24, 2014 after playing with the Philadelphia 76ers on their 2014 NBA Summer League team.

Kilpatrick likely won’t play much, but the Timberwolves need bodies to close out the season with so many rotation players out, and he’ll help to keep down the minutes for Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin, who have had injury problems of their own earlier in the year.

Kevin Garnett is already yelling at his Timberwolves teammates. In a good way.

Kevin Garnett

The Kevin Garnett homecoming to Minnesota isn’t just a marketing ploy for a franchise about to miss the playoffs again, it’s a chance to bring a leader and teacher into a young locker room. Minnesota is loaded with inexperienced but talented players who need to be shown how to be a true professional. They need a mentor.

Garnett is already teaching lessons.

And doing it in his own style, which means a lot of yelling. Andy Greder of the Pioneer Press has the details.

During Tuesday’s early afternoon practice, Garnett twice yelled at burly center Nikola Pekovic to get back on defense.

“I think nobody in (Pekovic’s) career yell at him to run back on defense, so that’s good,” Ricky Rubio said…

With Garnett’s help, Rubio said he can become a more vocal point guard.

“I don’t know how to do it yet. I’m too nice, so I hope he teach me that bad side,” Rubio said. “That (will) help team to improve.”

The other lesson is about work ethic — Anthony Bennett got to the team’s weight room at 11 a.m. expecting to be the first guy there and found KG had been there 90 minutes already.

I don’t know if Garnett is going to stick around for a season after this one, but even if he is just there a couple months he can show these young players a lot. And I mean show — KG has the ring and still walks the walk (even if his body doesn’t respond like it once did). This franchise will be better off for these couple months (or however long it lasts).

This is the kind of thing the Sixers should do, but that’s a different story.