Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 7/12/13
MINNEAPOLIS -- Welcome back to the start. When the Target Center emptied for a final time during the 2012-13 season April 17, the needs for the team sauntering off the floor were readily apparent. Get healthy. Get bigger. Get deeper. Get shooting. Get defense. Get better. Much, much better. Since then, a front-office regime change has brought an aggressive roster-building approach, which culminated in the past couple days as a busy free agency period came to a head. Holes have been plugged, money's exchanged hands, pieces have been moved, and the finished product is almost complete. Almost. Between the NBA Draft and subsequent free-agent signings of Chase Budinger, Corey Brewer, and Kevin Martin, new president of basketball operations Flip Saunders has built a machine with plenty of interchangeable parts. She's expected to run much better than the one that fizzled to a 31-51 record last year. "We had people we had targeted and what we wanted to do, and we pretty much were able to fill our targets," a triumphant-sounding Saunders told a room full of reporters Friday. "You feel good about that." There's just one final indentation to chisel into the key before it fits the ignition. You've read about him here, and you've watched him grow into one of the most effective old-school big men in the NBA. He was Saunders' No. 1 priority when he took the job in early May, and you can bet that status hasn't changed one iota. There's a very slight, seemingly negligible chance restricted free agent Nikola Pekovic ends up on another team. After inking Brewer and Muhammad on Friday, the Timberwolves are just above the salary cap, Saunders told reporters. Because of their Larry Bird rights to Pekovic, they can exceed the salary cap to retain him. Only an extremely lucrative offer sheet from somewhere else could take him away. There haven't been any reported yet. But the Timberwolves and Pekovic haven't come to terms, either. Conversations continue between both sides, Saunders said, while refusing to get into specifics. "We're not talking about negotiations, but they're progressing," he said. While Pekovic's still technically a wild card, it's progress that's defined Minnesota's offseason activity to date. The league's worst 3-point shooting team of a year ago now has two viable threats in Martin and Budinger, both products of coach Rick Adelman's system. Martin's coming off the best outside shooting season in his nine-year career, and Budinger went 40.2 percent from beyond the arc during his last fully healthy campaign. Retaining Budinger, whom Minnesota acquired through a trade from Houston, required some deeper pocketbook digging. Another team -- reportedly Milwaukee -- offered him more than the Timberwolves did originally, forcing them to dish out a three-year, 16 million salary. Budinger made a little more than 885,120 last year. "We had to do a little more to get it done," Saunders said. "But he was important, the way we looked at it. I know people always look at how guys are overpaid or under-paid, well everybody in our league is overpaid." Minnesota took care of defense across the board, too. Drafting Gorgui Dieng in the first round and signing Ronny Turiaf -- the latter move isn't official, but happening soon, Saunders said -- gives the Timberwolves two solid post stoppers behind Pekovic, and space was cleared to sign Brewer primarily upon his merits as a perimeter defender. That deal took some maneuvering, too, as Saunders worked out a sign-and-trade that sent Luke Ridnour to Milwaukee, brought in Martin from Oklahoma City and put a mid-level exception in play to sign Brewer on Friday. "Everyone's going to say, 'We think you guys will be able to score; are you going to be able to defend?'" Saunders said. "That's why getting Brewer and getting Turiaf, a perimeter defender and an inside defender, I thought was going to be very big for us." So was parting ways with Ridnour, even though he was an Adelman favorite. The sign-and-trade with the Thunder and Bucks relieved Minnesota of Ridnour's 4.3 million salary for next year and helped dissipate a logjam at point guard -- his primary position, though he played a lot of two last year with injuries undercutting the Timberwolves. But improved outside shooting, better defense and a freshly-balanced roster, mean a whole lot more with one of the few true centers left in pro hoops around. If he were to somehow slip away, either a rookie (Dieng) or an eight-year, off-the-bench journeyman (Turiaf) become the next-best options at the five position. The emphasis on keeping Pekovic rings just as clear as it did in April. Minnesota is close, Saunders said. "We have the ability to match anything," Saunders said. "Right now, where we're set . . . in our budget, we have an ability to sign Pek, so we expect he will be back." Follow Phil Ervin on Twitter
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: Jazz receiving heavy interest in Derrick Favors

Petition started to remove Dennis Rodman from Hall of Fame

Report: Celtics trying to get Porzingis, price may be too high

Report: Wolves considering trading seventh pick for Jimmy Butler

Lonzo Ball is already recruiting LeBron James to the Lakers

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Ex-NFL player: Cam Newton is not well-liked by teammates

Report: Cavaliers will not land Paul George or Jimmy Butler

Who are the Golden Knights? A look at their expansion draft picks

Report: Spurs have 'strong interest' in Derrick Rose

Dwight Howard’s sister slams Hawks after surprise trade

Roger Goodell makes it through the Boston airport

The 'NBA Draft going back to school?' quiz

2016-17 NBA Awards: The Gary Payton Award for best trash talk of the year

It’s quarterback contract silly season, starting with Derek Carr

Feeding your roundball addiction through the summer months

2017 NBA Mock Draft

Box Score 6/22: Emotion-filled Knight for Pens fans, Preds fans... and Knicks fans

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

The 'Golden Knights will begin with a Fleury of activity' quiz

2016-17 NBA Awards: The Ricky Davis Award for most irrationally confident shooter

It's time for Satchel Paige Day in Major League Baseball

Which vets the Vegas Golden Knights should build around

Box Score 6/21: Summer of NBA trades heats up

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

The 'NBA Draft going back to school?' quiz

2016-17 NBA Awards: The Gary Payton Award for best trash talk of the year

It’s quarterback contract silly season, starting with Derek Carr

The 'Golden Knights will begin with a Fleury of activity' quiz

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Feeding your roundball addiction through the summer months

2016-17 NBA Awards: The Ricky Davis Award for most irrationally confident shooter

It's time for Satchel Paige Day in MLB

Which vets the Vegas Golden Knights should build around

The Giants' failures for 2017 are complete, time to think of the future

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker