Hi guys, I recently read quite a lot about Nikolas Pekovic on your blog as a potential building block for the future of the T-Wolves, and wanted to pass on a few of my impressions. Disclaimer: I have only watched him in a few Euroleague games on a pan-European sports channel and looked up a few of his stats, and never saw him live in person. You would probably need to get in touch with a fan of Panathinaikos to get a personal in-depth review of him. Or a local journalist either from Greece or his home country.
I think he shares quite a few similarities with Darko Milicic. (When they were born they were countrymen. Well, not anymore since that region has seen some split-ups). You be the judge if that comparison would be a positive or a negative sign for his NBA future. As you are likely well aware, he also stands to make more money in Greece or elsewhere in a top European league than initially in the NBA (my Blazers have the same problem with Joel Freeland of the Spanish ACB) so it's not sure he will want to come play for the Wolves.
Some oberservations of Pekovic's strengths and weeknesses:
- Plays simple and highly efficient. Very high PER of 28.4 in the pretty strong Greek league and 27.4 in the Euroleague. TS% of .70 and .69 respectively.
- Looked to have good post moves to either side, even a nice hook shot.
- Good hands. I didn't see problems catching the ball and holding on to it when he gets it inside.
- Worked hard to get rebounds, put-backs, the occasional And1, ...
- Runs the floor well, even on fast breaks
- Used to playing on winning teams, so he must do something right. Panathinaikos BC leads its Euroleague group in the final 16 round (they are the defending champions, but without Pekovic if I'm not mistaken), and is a perennial leader and champion in the Greek league. Won the Greek Cup this year. Before that, he became a multiple national and regional (Adriatic League) champion with his old club Partizan.
- Currently on a very strong roster, where he can learn from former Grizzlies forward and international star Antonis Fotsis as well as experienced C/PF Mike Batiste (Arizona State, also Grizzlies) and train with those as well as future draft prospect Georgi Shermadini, a youngster who is likely to be in the 2010 draft. However, that also limits the minutes he gets (see below).
- He only plays fairly limited minutes, under 20 in both the Greek league and the Euroleague. Hard to predict if he could keep up his efficiency with more playing time, much less in the NBA in a brutal schedule.
- While he gets to the foul line at a nice rate, doesn't have the highest free throw percentage (under 70 percent in the Greek league).
- Which might have to do with the fact that he has not much of a face to the basket game to speak of, much less an outside shot.
- Needs a good point guard to get him the ball preferably deep in the paint for easy scoring. Currently he plays with Sarunas Jasikevicius and Dimitris Diamantidis, who despite never getting much traction in the NBA are still All-World experienced players with strong personalities. And big for their position, so they can get nice passing angles.
- Not the quickest guy laterally, which makes it hard for him to contest shots on the weak side and keep players in front of him. Also doesn't block a lot.
- A tweener between the C and PF spot. In Europe he can easily play the 5, in the NBA against a lot of more athletic guys he might be tall enough but not strong enough to do that.
- Already 23, so the potential to add a lot to his skill set quickly is somewhat limited. If he plays out his current contract he will be even one or two years older once he comes over. Note that e.g. Milicic is just 6 months older, but already in the NBA seemingly forever.
That's it for my impressions so far. His club e.g. plays today in the Euroleague vs. Unicaja Malaga, which apparently can be watched also on ESPN 360 (3PM ET) if someone is interested in that. There should be some more games coming on there later this month.