Maybe Waiting to Sign the 5-Year, $148 Mil Deal is in The Wolves’ and Wiggins’ Best Interests?

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As of writing this article, Andrew Wiggins has yet to put pen to paper on his 5-year, $148 million contract extension with the deadline of October 16th looming ever closer. The course to getting this thing signed has been a curious one, involving Wiggins firing his (former) agent Bill Duffy after he had negotiated the deal and then moving on with negotiations without hiring another agent (according to the Associated Press’ Jon Krawczynski and KSTP’s Darren Wolfson, Wiggins’ dad Mitchell Wiggins, who played in the NBA in the ’80s and early ’90s has become his de facto agent with third-party lawyers being used for independent counsel).

It would seem strange on the surface for Wiggins not to sign the extension immediately – not many people have the opportunity to extend for that sum of money, after all, and Wiggins has said repeatedly that Minnesota is where he wants to be – but is it possible that waiting to re-sign until after the season is in the Wolves’ and his best interests?

Why Waiting is in the Wolves’ Best Interests

Perhaps the most important reason for waiting to re-sign Wiggins until he hits restricted free agency next summer is that the Wolves would be able to utilize his Bird Rights. To boil it down to an overly simple explanation, a team obtains a player’s Bird Rights after said player has played for said team for at least three consecutive years; Bird Rights then allow for the player to re-sign even if the contract would push the team over the salary cap. The Wolves own Wiggins’s Bird Rights since he has has been a member of the Wolves for going on four years now and re-signing him using them would allow for increased roster and cap flexibility heading into next summer (Towns will be due for a monster extension and Jimmy Butler’s impending free agency is right around the corner; not to mention the roster is still a major work in progress, so any flexibility the Wolves’ can achieve the better off they’ll be).

Waiting would also allow Tom Thibodeau and company to see how exactly Wiggins functions in his new role and whether or not he is the best fit for it. It’s likely that Wiggins will see his usage and primary scoring opportunities dip this year and while he has shown that he can be a very solid spot up shooter in the past (he hit over 40% on catch-and-shoot threes last year) it remains to be seen if that role best utilizes his abilities. Wiggins will undoubtedly get some minutes as the primary leader on offense with the second unit (we already saw some of that in preseason), but how will he adjust, both mentally and within the flow of the game, to playing alongside Butler and likely differing more shots to Towns? These are legitimate questions and it would make some sense for the Wolves to want to have some answers before fully committing (obviously, Thibs thinks these questions have already been answered since he offered Wiggins the contract, but they linger nonetheless).

Why Waiting is in Wiggins’ Best Interests

It’s only speculation (much like Wiggins, his camp is extremely tight-lipped), but it’s impossible to wonder whether or not there are some minute details in the contract’s verbiage that aren’t sitting well with Wiggins. Is it possible that Wiggins wants his fifth year to be a player option rather than guaranteed?

Although this may seem like a ridiculous thing to keep someone from signing a $148 mil contract, for a player of Wiggins’ age it’s rather important. By making the fifth year a player option, Wiggins would be able to opt out of his contract and reach unrestricted free agency a year sooner (his age 27 season rather than his age 28 season). This has all sorts of implications ranging from being able to sign a supermax extension should he qualify (which I’d say is unlikely, but not impossible; here’s a primer on supermax extensions) a year sooner to his second unrestricted contract being offered to him in possibly his year 30 or 31 season.

If Wiggins is serious about wanting his fifth year to be a player option, there’s an argument to be made that he’s better off waiting and using that as a bargaining chip for negotiations next summer or signing a four-year offer sheet from another team (only the Wolves can offer a fifth year) which would get him to unrestricted free agency at the same time (summer of 2023).

Or maybe it’s possible (unlikely in my estimation, but possible) that Wiggins isn’t sold on having a lesser role with the Wolves. He’ll still be prominently featured within the offense, but maybe he isn’t sold on his fit now that Butler is around. Not signing his extension now would allow for him to play things out this year and determine if it’s in his best interests to stick around in Minnesota.

There are inherent risks with waiting, however. Injuries are always right around the corner, even for a player like Wiggins who has been extremely durable even with an insane amount of minutes played through his first three seasons; maybe the salary cap won’t grow as quickly as some believe; maybe Wiggins doesn’t even get the fifth year player option next summer.

In the end, it’s likely that one of Wiggins or the Wolves will cave by next Monday’s deadline. $148 mil is a lot to pass up and if players learned anything from this past summer it’s that betting on yourself and trying to make more money in free agency isn’t always the best idea. Wiggins wants to be a Wolf and the Wolves want Wiggins to stick around. This extension will almost assuredly get done, but maybe, just maybe, waiting wouldn’t be the worst idea.

Update: The Wolves announced that Andrew Wiggins signed his presumably 5-year, $148 mil extension right before I published this piece. Here is the press release:

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3 Responsesso far.

  1. Tom says:

    I’m glad we signed Wiggins, but I wonder what the true market is for him? What would Glen have done if KAT was first and Wiggins second? Would he have given Andrew the max deal he got now? My guess is that he probably would have, but maybe he lets someone else to offer the restricted Andrew the max before matching. So many teams the last two years have aggressively used up cap space and I’m not sure how many teams would have the cap room to offer Wiggins a max deal.

    Of course now Wiggins has to live up to the max deal he signed. He is young and has improved his offensive game each year. Yet, when you watch Jimmy Butler, you see a lot of what Wiggins has yet to add. Jimmy just looks a lot more comfortable with the ball, knowing what his options are before he breaks down his defender. He has great defensive presence and he responds better to double teams than young Andrew. Hopefully, Wiggins can emulate his new mentor and give the wolves a great three man threat. If so, we just got a cornerstone to playoff success for the next six years.

  2. pyrrol says:

    This was next to inevitable, but I don’t love it. Ever since we got Wiggins, which I thought was a really good trade, it’s felt as though he’s been the most babied and favored person on the roster. When we first got Wiggins I had a bias towards him. I favored his sinewy style over J Parker (his chief rival) and was glad to have him. But while Wiggins certainly has health over Parker, I’ve been more impressed by his overall game than Wiggins’. More broadly speaking, having to watch Wiggins for three full years… he’s grated on my and I’ve eroded my expectations for him from just watching. While Rubio was routinely disrespected even as he was often the only reason we won games, and while Towns was clearly ahead of Wiggins as a player even though he’s one year behind in NBA experience, Wiggins got the most bending over to accommodate him. For a while it made sense. But particularly after we got Towns at #1 it began to make less and less sense. In a lot of ways LaVine and Wiggins had the same issues–lack of D, but good at inefficient scoring. It seems like LaVine was never in the conversation to get the respect Wiggins gets from the franchise despite perhaps being the more explosive scorer. Trading away LaVine made some sense, in light of his injury and getting the return of Butler. But it is still odd how much favoritism Wiggins has gotten.

    Can we assume going into his 4th season, that Wiggins is what he is to a degree? If the answer is yes it is hard to justify this contract. Simply explaining it by saying ‘someone else would have offered it’ doesn’t answer (even if this is true which I’m not sure of) whether it is worth it for us to pay that. There is an argument that Wiggins’ biggest test is this season. How will he respond to being on a playoff level roster? Will he finally learn things he’s been putting off (D, effort, wile, team skills, passing, rebounding) under veteran tutelage? It would be nice to see some answers to this before backing a dump truck of money to Wiggins’ back door.

    I have my doubts. It’s clear Wiggins has talent. It’s nearly as clear to me that he lacks the personality and drive to be great. It is a character issue. We associate that with off the court problems, and or locker room strife from clueless cockiness. Wiggins has none of these issues. In some ways Wiggins works hard. He is in shape. He works out. He obviously added some muscle in the off season. He’s improved his 3 point shooting a bit, so he’s been working on that. But in games his effort, intensity and focus waver. I might just put it to youthful confusion if it weren’t for his suspicious effort (and results) explosion in certain very limited situations (for instance, when we play Cleveland). He’s listless, not a leader whatsoever, plus effort and competitiveness seem to waver or just be lacking. I think some of this (and not talent level) is why he’s close to being the same player as when he entered the league. He improved his 3 point shooting slightly, and his scoring average has gone up a tick each season. That’s it. He is the same defender, same passer, same rebounder (or lack thereof of these things) only marginally more efficient and with no clue how to help his team without ball domination. How can he have shown so little improvement in all these ways so far? Perhaps a combination of things, but character and attitude is a factor (contrast this with LaVine’s winning attitude and personality and large improvement since he came in). For this reason I am nervous this contract will never pay off like it should. It certainly puts us in some financial risk going forward.

    Armchair GM: I would have traded Wiggins by now. It’s impossible to see even a portion of the insider’s picture, but I feel like Wiggins currently has very high value in the league. That value may have more worth than keeping him on this massive contract. Either we could get excellent return for trading him, or the combo of decent return plus not having to pay a dump truck to a possible 3rd fiddle would beat out the value of keeping him. My fantasy version of our offseason would be to have traded Wiggins straight up for Butler, traded Dunn for something else somewhere else, kept LaVine, and kept Rubio. Would could have used the Dunn trade and or money saved to add a 2 and wings. I’m guessing, but from the feel of things, Wiggins was never seriously offered in trades. I would have strongly considered reasonable trades for the guy. we’ll see how the reality pans out. We may be raw to start with just 3 preseason games, but hopefully we’ll be decent fast. Will Wiggins’ contribution to decent be worth a max 5 year deal?

  3. gjk says:

    They’re essentially paying the extra $ for an increased opportunity to pay him during his prime years (no, he is not a finished product, as aren’t most 22-year-old players). My assumption is that none of the top lottery teams in previous seasons have offered their pick for him; that would be the only justification for not extending him. Because most of his growth has been individual (better shooter, ballhandler, passer than as a rookie), the skepticism about his worth is understandable. Ultimately, they could trade him later if needed, and they obviously have to determine whether he fits with Butler so that Butler’s willing to re-sign when he’s eligible.

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