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RandBall: Wolves have two of the top 13 NBA free agents, ESPN says

  • Blog Post by: Michael Rand
  • June 25, 2013 - 3:41 PM

As you ponder ways for your local NBA franchise to add players and get better next season, don't forget: they have some big decisions looming on the homefront. In fact, ESPN thinks they have two of the top potential free agents out there in Nikola Pekovic and Andrei Kirilenko.

Pekovic is a restricted free agent, meaning the Wolves can match offers from other teams. Kirilenko, meanwhile, will decide soon whether he is opting out of his $10 million salary for next year to become a free agent. Here is what ESPN.com's Amin Elhassan had to say about each (insider required) in a piece about the top 30 potential NBA free agents:

Pekovic, No. 7: Pekovic finished the season strong, solidifying his status as an excellent scorer on the interior and a force on the offensive glass. Some readers previously asked whether giving a five-year deal to Pekovic would cause Minnesota to use up its "designated player" assignment -- the provision that allows teams to offer only a five-year rookie extension to one player on the roster -- and the answer is that it wouldn't, as this represents an entirely new deal rather than an extension.

Kirilenko, No. 13: Kirilenko has until June 30 to decline the option on the second year of his deal, when he's owed $10.2 million. Like Iguodala, tearing up that option opens the door for him to sign a longer-term deal with more guaranteed salary.

Both have their shortcomings. Pek has limited range and is not a shot-blocker. Kirilenko isn't a classic scoring small forward. Both have had their share of injuries. But Pek averaged 16.3 ppg and nearly 9 rebounds last year, which are nice numbers for a starting center. Kirilenko was, at times, the best player on the court for the Wolves last year and is wonderfully versatile on both ends of the court. Of players who were in 50 games or more last season for the Wolves, Pek and Andrei were 1-2 in Player Efficiency Rating.

But it's also hard to imagine the Wolves being able to keep -- or wanting to keep -- both and still being able to significantly upgrade other areas of need. It's worth noting that Pek is ranked ahead of Al Jefferson on that list (Jefferson is No. 8), meaning a significant bidding war could ensue and the Wolves could be faced with a tough decision.

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