It’s been two seasons since Andrew Wiggins signed a max contract extension with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Looking back now, what would we do differently with Wiggins’ extension?
Andrew Wiggins was supposed to signal the start of a new era in Minnesota Timberwolves basketball.
His arrival as the number-one overall draft pick in 2014 came alongside the departure of Kevin Love and signaled the start of a full rebuild. While the drafting of Karl-Anthony Towns the following offseason made him the face of the Timberwolves, there was a time when Wiggins carried the hopes for the future of the franchise.
Now, five seasons into his career, Wiggins’ play has subsided. The per-game and counting stats suggest that he’s a starting-caliber player, yet he misses the mark of ‘superstar’ that he was once heralded to be some day. At the same time, advanced metrics paint a far less promising picture of Wiggins, and his overall improvement has been disappointing by any objective measure.
With four seasons and over $120 million left on his current contract, most Wolves fans are hoping that Wiggins regains some of the explosiveness we saw from his first few seasons in the league.
Before looking back at his contract extension, I think it’s important to point out that Wiggins’ last season wasn’t as bad as a lot of people seem to think.
Yes, his numbers have been down, but Wiggins’ stats last season were a measured improvement from the prior season, when he was forced to take a backseat to Jimmy Butler. His field goal percentage was down, yet Wiggins was still managing 18.1 points on 41 percent shooting, as well as contributing 4.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists, which were also improvements.
Wiggins saw a slight drop in minutes to a career-low of 34.8 per game, although he managed a career-high 0.7 blocks and only a slight drop to 1.0 steals per game. Rather alarmingly, his free throw percentage was still alarmingly under 70, but still markedly better than the 2017-18 campaign.
Wiggins was also noticeably more consistent come the end of season, only tallying less than 20 points in three of his last 12 games and shooting above 50 percent in half of those outings.
We also saw flashes of potential-superstar Wiggins, with his best performance of the season a 40-point showing with 10 rebounds, four assists, a block and a steal.
These are the kinds of performances that we need to see more often from a max-contract player, and with Towns’ max-contract extension kicking in this year, the Timberwolves have a lot of money invested into these deals.
So looking back now, what would a fair offer to Wiggins’ be knowing his drop in play since the extension? If his contract extension was now instead of two years ago, it’s fair to assume a max contract would be off the table.
Wiggins and his representatives always seemed insistent on his extension being the max, and Glen Taylor never seemed to have an issue with forking over that amount of money for him. If the Timberwolves had have taken the max contract off the table and offered Wiggins a lesser deal, it could’ve turned into a massive drama. Although perhaps that may have been best.
Clearly, Wiggins would have chased the max (albeit not as much as Minnesota could offer) from another team if he failed to negotiate his deal with Glen Taylor. Teams such as Sacramento and Brooklyn would’ve been candidates to sign Wiggins, and one of them would have surely sent a big offer his way if he had entered the free agency market.
Sacramento offered Zach LaVine a $78 million deal over four years that Chicago matched. If they offered Wiggins a deal north of $100 million would we have matched? Knowing what we do now, who wouldn’t be fine with allowing Wiggins to walk at that price?
If I were in charge of offering Wiggins a contract right now, I would likely land somewhere around the $80 million mark for four years. His potential is still huge, and a deal of greater value likely would’ve come his way if nothing got signed in Minnesota, but that may have been best for both parties involved.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m more than happy to have Wiggins in Minnesota, and we all hope he can get back on track and live up to his potential. Wiggins was a potential superstar, a future All-Star and a player that could lead the team along Towns to multiple playoff appearances. As things stand now, he’s on the bad side of a lot of fans, and has even been labeled a bust throughout social media and the like.
Wiggins isn’t a bad player, necessarily. He’s just overpaid. The criticism likely wouldn’t be as harsh if Wiggins wasn’t on a max contract, but he is, and simply put, he hasn’t lived up to it.
Let’s just hope that next season and beyond show a resurgence for Wiggins and the team as a whole can live up to its potential. Basketball in Minnesota has a bright future, and overpaid or not Wiggins is likely going to be a big part of that.