Andrew Wiggins and the Minnesota Timberwolves are reportedly in talks about signing a five-year, $148 million extension.
It’s evident that the Timberwolves want to build the franchise around Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, and inking the former All-American to this extension would be an excellent start. Coach Tom Thibodeau said “we’re working on it right now” during their presser to introduce Jamal Crawford.
Wiggins has one year left on his rookie contract, where he’s set to earn a bit more than $7.5 million. The extension would then start in 2018-19 with him making $25.5 million. Looking at the numbers, Wiggins may not be deserving of such a lucrative deal, but he’s also too valuable for Minnesota to let him walk. I’d do the same if I were in their position because has such a high ceiling.
He and the Wolves just wrapped up their third season together. It was the best of Wiggins’ young career. He’s remained durable and has turned into a talented scorer who hasn’t even reached his full potential on that end of the floor. Wiggins averaged 23.6 points a game over the 82 games he played. Additionally, he shot 45.2 percent from the field and 35.6 from three, a 5.6 point improvement from his sophomore year.
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The confidence in expanding his range is huge for Minnesota. Ever since Wiggins’ days at Huntington Prep, his athleticism has played a significant role in his game. More times than not he’d finish above the basket because he was always the most athletic guy on the court. That was the case in his one year at Kansas, except Wiggins started to expand his repertoire enough and slowly become more polished on the offensive end.
Once he got to the league, that style of play wasn’t going to be effective as it was in college. Wiggins is still a phenomenal athlete, but he’s no longer the most explosive. The aggressiveness hasn’t wavered, though.
Each year, Wiggins has finished in the top 10 free throw attempts, and he averages 6.4 a night for his young career. He converts those at 76 percent. It’s not the best, but it could be much worse. If nothing else happens, at least Wiggins is putting pressure on the defense, and the Wolves have more than their fair share of weapons to benefit from that. Once Wiggins develops a consistent stroke from outside, he’s going to be a handful to defend and that’s key because of the addition of Jimmy Butler.
On offense, Butler and Wiggins are athletic forwards who love to attack the basket. Both do it with efficiency and versatility, but neither is a reliable threat from behind the arc, and that’s going to affect the spacing with which Minnesota operates. But we have yet to see by how much. Synergy says Wiggins attempts 225 shots between 20 and 24 feet. Of those, 119 were threes, and he buried those at a 38.7 percent clip. Once Wiggins started to get further (25-29 feet), his mark dropped to 34.6. From those numbers, it’s Wiggins safest bet to be as close to the line as possible without stepping over. I can only imagine how challenging that is, but it illustrates how only the most accurate can knock in triples from other area codes.
Being younger and already having a massive uptick, Wiggins is the likely candidate to spend more time on the perimeter. Also, he’s got a decent mid range shot that he’s not afraid to showcase. That counts for something, given how hard it is to defend someone who can get all the way to the cup and hit a one-dribble, hesi pull-up Jimbo.
At this stage in his career, however, Wiggins is just a scorer. And that hampers him. To complement the points, he put up just 4.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists, the latter being a career-best. Butler is a more well-rounded player, and Thibs hopes Wiggins can learn a lot from the three-time All-Star. Even with his limitations, the Timberwolves were just better with Wiggins on the floor. They put up 112.4 points per 100 possessions with him on and just 106.0 when he sat. He’s tremendous for them and has solidified himself as one of the NBA’s best young scorers.
The risk of giving him a contract like this is that he only plays one side of the ball. That itself isn’t the issue — the problem is that Wiggins is one of the worst defenders in the league (like, arguably worse than Derrick Rose. And that’s bad).
Solid defensive teams can hide their worst defender; Golden State does it with Stephen Curry. Minnesota didn’t help themselves by finished 27th in defensive rating this past season, but even the 1996 Bulls would have a hard time hiding Wiggins. The oddest part is that he has all of the tools to be an effective defender. We know about the athleticism, but Wiggins has the size to boot — 6-8 with a 7-0 wingspan. He’s as quick as he is explosive, so it either comes to down to effort and a lack of understanding. Both are possible. With Thibs at the helm, the focus on defense is going to be perpetual.
Minnesota was 3.6 points per 100 worse with him on the court. Wiggins also finished with a defensive rating of 115 and a defensive box plus/minus of minus-2.9, which tied him for second and second-worst, respectively, among players who averaged 30 minutes a night. (The guys below Wiggins were Devin Booker, Danilo Gallinari, Zach LaVine and Derrick Rose for DRtg, and Isaiah Thomas for DBPM.) For Minnesota sake, Butler needs to do everything in his power to help Wiggins on defense just as much as offense.
The next few seasons are going to be fascinating. Andrew Wiggins (and Towns) haven’t hit their primes yet, and God only knows how electrifying they’re going to be. Now, Thibs has gone out and paired Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague with them, who are more than capable of competing with the stars in a loaded Western Conference. Minnesota could also make a few more moves to strengthen their bench, the weakest part of their team at the time of this writing.
Minnesota isn’t a lock to make the playoffs in 2018, but the odds increase as the years go on. Andrew Wiggins’ (offensive) ceiling is ridiculous, and he could be one of the NBA’s best scorers once he hits his prime. Until then, the Wolves just have to be patient. Luckily, they’ve shelled out the cash and are making sure they won’t have to watch him develop elsewhere.
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