Minnesota Timberwolves: Andrew Wiggins’ contract upset Jimmy Butler

Andrew Wiggins and Jimmy Butler. (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)
Andrew Wiggins and Jimmy Butler. (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images) /

As it turns out, Andrew Wiggins was indeed the main reason that Jimmy Butler chose to blow-up the Minnesota Timberwolves last offseason.

In the least surprising news of the last few days, we learned that the Jimmy Butler-induced explosion from 12 months ago was instigated by Andrew Wiggins’ max contract extension with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The report came from Bobby Marks, former longtime Brooklyn Nets executive and ESPN analyst. It was part of an ESPN Insider (subscription required) piece centered around the challenges presented by rookie contract extensions.

Here’s the bit directly related to the Wolves, Butler, and Wiggins:

"This type of signing can backfire on a team — just ask the Minnesota Timberwolves about the $147.7 million max contract of Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins has failed to live up to expectations, and the extension was at the root of Jimmy Butler’s unhappiness in Minnesota, league sources confirmed."

The Wolves, of course, have two players on this type of extension: Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. Wiggins was drafted a year earlier than Towns and thus was eligible for his extension in the summer of 2017, the same offseason during which Butler was acquired from the Chicago Bulls.

The Butler trade went down on draft day in late June. Stories persisted about the hesitation by Wolves owner Glen Taylor to give the extension to Wiggins. Of course, at the end of the day, the extension was done, and Wiggins didn’t need to do much other than promise that he’d work hard in order to land the agreement.

Butler apparently wasn’t happy with Wiggins getting his deal, but it didn’t really come out until the following summer, when Butler was interested in landing an extension of his own. And that’s when things reportedly got ugly behind the scenes.

Wiggins had the worst season of his career in 2017-18, following the signing of his extension. Butler approached the Wolves about an extension in summer of 2018, but due to Wiggins’ existing extension and the pending deal for Towns, it was impossible for the Wolves to ink Butler.

That mean that Butler was all-in on requesting a trade. Rather than play out the final year of his deal with a guy who he felt was overpaid and not productive, he decided to detonate and force a move to a new organization. And, that’s exactly what happened.

None of this news is particularly surprising, but it is significant to see it confirmed by a member of the media who is clearly quite plugged in.

While Wiggins improved incrementally during the second part of last season under interim head coach (and now permanent head coach) Ryan Saunders, the Wolves are still waiting for him to live up to expectations.

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Butler wasn’t wrong about Wiggins being overpaid and underperforming, but that doesn’t mean that they way he handled the situation was remotely professional, either.