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
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Dallas Cowboys' team employee bus involved in fatal crash

Aldon Smith posts video under a pseudonym of a blunt on Periscope

WATCH: Cam Newton get blocked by a girl playing volleyball

Russia avoids complete ban from Rio Olympics by the IOC

Report: Padres trying to move Andrew Cashner, Derek Norris


Baseball's top prospect called up to majors by Astros

Report: Braves 'aggressively' shopping Francoeur, Aybar

Report: Hue Jackson designing plays for Terrelle Pryor

Report: Darnell Dockett expected to announce retirement

Report: Yankees have not discussed releasing A-Rod

Report: D-Backs making Shelby Miller available via trade

Cristiano Ronaldo spars with Conor McGregor in gym

Adam Silver is the new standard-bearer for league commisioners

Iowa football player held at gunpoint by police while playing Pokemon Go

Eight most significant injuries going into NFL training camp

Man. U players banned from playing 'Pokemon Go?'

Ken Griffey Jr. put on backwards hat during HOF speech

Mike Piazza honors 9/11 victims during Hall of Fame speech

Jeremy Lin hints he is racially profiled by arena employees

Why did Rio mayor offer to put kangaroo in Olympic village?

Joe Maddon wastes no time cracking Chris Sale joke

Report: Lamar Odom walked out on family intervention

One Gotta Go: Do NBA players really love NBA2K?

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.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

One Gotta Go: Do NBA players really love NBA2K?

Effect of ban on Russia could span beyond the Olympic Games

One Gotta Go: NBA players hate Facebook too

QUIZ: Name every city to host the NBA All-Star Game

One Gotta Go: NBA players settle the fast food beef

One Gotta Go: NBA players make tough choices on their favorite rappers

One Gotta Go: NBA Summer League is not about that Game of Thrones life

The top NHL free agents available as offseason winds down

WATCH: NBA jersey sponsors that need to happen

Expansion draft playing heavy hand in the current NHL offseason

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Follow Yardbarker