Flip Saunders locked up a lot more than Nikola Pekovic's long-term services Wednesday.

He formally anointed the precise direction in which the Timberwolves are headed.

After nine struggling seasons that's a tall job to complete in just 3 1/2 months as the team's president of basketball operations. But immediately after his hiring Saunders coach Rick Adelman and owner Glen Taylor hatched a sharply-defined plan the impending Pekovic signing jolts into motion.

Commitment that banks on potential. Saunders was still a coach when Minnesota's former front-office staff broke ground on this reclamation project but he rejoined the organization he once took to unprecedented heights in time to insert those two interrelated ideals into the club's foundation.

There will be no systematic rebuilding here Saunders has said. Like so many upper-echelon NBA teams the Timberwolves' wagon is already hitched to three thoroughbreds.

Their names are Nikola Ricky and Kevin. They're all under 27 they've all suffered injuries and they all possess All-Star-caliber upside.

Wednesday Minnesota managed to keep one around while maintaining space to retain the other two.

"This league has proven that you have to have three star-type players" Saunders said. "All three of those guys have the ability to be in the top five at their respective positions."

A maximum-length $60 million deal may appear a little alarming on the surface especially for a player who's missed about a quarter of each of his first three NBA seasons. There are not-so-distant Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio deals to consider too. But this lengthy accord leaves ample opportunity to sign the uniquely versatile power forward and deft passing point guard to similar contracts when the time comes.