The Minnesota Timberwolves are close to locking up star forward Andrew Wiggins to a max deal worth $148 million over five seasons, according to Shams Charania of The Vertical.
Minnesota’s Andrew Wiggins is progressing toward a five-year, $148M maximum extension, hopeful to sign soon, sources tell The Vertical.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) September 21, 2017
Signing Wiggins to a long-term extension was one of the last things the Timberwolves needed to do to complete a strong offseason.
President of basketball operations/coach Tom Thibodeau and general manager Scott Layden worked hard to improve a promising — yet underperforming — 31-win team. Minnesota dealt up-and-coming guard Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and a first-round pick (Lauri Markanen) to the Chicago Bulls in a package for MVP candidate Jimmy Butler. Then the T-Wolves dealt Ricky Rubio, brought in Jeff Teague, Jamal Crawford and Taj Gibson on free agent deals.
So with the Timberwolves completely reconstructing their depth, the goal for next season is ending the NBA’s longest playoff drought (13 years). Wiggins is obviously a big part of that.
Once dubbed the “next great one” after getting drafted No. 1 overall in Cleveland (and subsequently dealt to the T-Wolves), Wiggins has been an above-average player on the verge of becoming a superstar. In his third season in Minnesota, Wiggins continued his uptick in production with a career-high 23.6 points per game, 2.3 assists, and 35 percent three-point shooting percentage.
What’s prevented him from taking the next step, however, is his inconsistent production on both sides of the floor. Wiggins was scouted as a potentially elite defensive player and hasn’t shown the ability to be one in Minnesota. He’s a proficient scorer — but on a bad team desperate for buckets, he needs to be more well-rounded in all facets of his game.
Committing a max deal to Wiggins was the club’s only option going forward. But the money isn’t exactly representative of the player. His pending $29.6 million average annual salary puts him in the NBA’s top five, currently ahead of players like Blake Griffin, Russell Westbrook and James Harden.
As of right now, Wiggins is the third-best player on the Timberwolves. Center Karl-Anthony Towns is a complete freak on the court and a better shooter than Wiggins. The 21-year-old is still on his rookie contract, but is in line for a max deal himself. Butler, meanwhile, is an all-around superstar, capable of scoring at a high clip, while being an elite wing defender. Both players are more well-rounded than Wiggins and are first and second on the Timberwolves hierarchy.
With two stars above him, why commit to a max deal? Well, obviously, in the NBA you have to keep your stars. It’s how the Golden State Warriors developed into a powerhouse. Even as the third fiddle, Wiggins is still an important cog for the Timberwolves. The deal is a bet that Wiggins can continue to develop into a superstar and perform at an even greater level going forward. There’s no guarantee he’ll be able to do that, but for now, Minnesota can evaluate Wiggins going forward and see how he fits in behind Towns and Butler.
Honestly, with some pressure off of him to be “the guy,” Wiggins should be able to perform with the microscope off of him. Although, that doesn’t negate the fact he’s now the team’s highest-paid player and is expected to bring it every night. Now, it’s time for Wiggins to take the next step in his game and prove his new deal was the right move, and that he’s worth all the money the T-Wolves ponied up to keep him long-term.