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Top 50 NBA Players: #49 Nikola Pekovic

Nikola Pekovic
Resume: 16.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, 31.6 minutes, 52% FG, and 75% FT… Team record in games played: 26-36 (5-15 without)

One of my favorite parts of putting together the Top 50 list is running it by some of my NBA fan friends and family members. I let them take a look at my rough drafts, they pick them apart, I revise, and the process continues until we have a sit-down right before I finalize the list. The guests at the sit-down this year were my cousins Pauley and Gianni (Yes, Pauley, Gianni and Sonny were having a late night sit down and it wasn’t mafia related). We got to the back half of the list and I threw out Nikola Pekovic’s name as a potential player to get one of the final spots on the list, to which Pauley responded “I don’t believe I know this fella.” Nikola Pekovic, ladies and gentlemen! I couldn’t completely fault him. Pekovic is a foreign born player, plays in a small market, and is a whole lot more steak than sizzle. Luckily, Gianni and I are big fans of the big Montenegrin and were able to clue Pauley in. Here is what we told Pauley about the 2013 winner of the Best Player That Casual Fans Haven’t Even Come Remotely Close To Hearing Of Award.

-Pekovic is the most intimidating player in the league, and he holds that metaphorical championship belt with very little contention from anyone else in the league.  Tattooed on his arm is a medieval knight standing on a pile of skulls, and by Montenegrin law, he’s never allowed to look happy. There may or may not be truth to the rumor that he’s auditioning to be the villain in the next James Bond movie in 2015. Continuing on with this point…

April 10, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic (14) dunks to score a basket against the Los Angeles Clippers during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

-Both teammates and opponents alike rave about how incredibly strong Pekovic is. In a January 2012 game against the Lakers, former Los Angeles center Andrew Bynum said after the game, “Thank God they took Pekovic out of the game,” after Pekovic only played 20 minutes thanks to foul trouble. Andrew Bynum’s not exactly a svelte fella either. However, Brandon Knight is and he learned about Pekovic’s strength the hard way.

-Pekovic knows where his bread is buttered. Of his 741 field goal attempts, Pekovic took only 34 outside of 9 feet (this is for a good reason; he shot only 29% beyond 9 feet). He makes a living in the paint despite the fact that he’s one of a very select few good players who couldn’t jump over a laptop and rarely dunks the ball. He thrives on very textbook layups and jump hooks (remarkably similar to my post game), and that’s appealing to me.

You could say he’s the third wheel behind Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, but in some ways its more appropriate to say Pek’s the ox that pulls the wagon (For what it’s worth, I can totally imagine Pek literally pulling a wagon with all of his Timberwolves teammates in the back). He’s a perfect complement to Love, a power forward who bangs the boards just like Pekovic, but is just as comfortable shooting from the perimeter as he would be near the basket. And with Love missing a large chunk of the season last year, Pekovic was able to develop a nice rapport with point guard Ricky Rubio. When/if the Timberwolves ever stay healthy people will finally start to hear of Nikola Pekovic, and most young fans will likely run and hide.

sonnygiuliano