Over the past few weeks, we’ve already learned that Andrew Wiggins wants “nothing less” than a max contract extension, and Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor has no trouble offering him one, so it seems the only hurdle left is for the two sides to shake on an agreement and put pen to paper.
That handshake deal, though, may not come quite as easily as Taylor and Wiggins have made it seem.
While Taylor remains adamant the team is committed to signing Wiggins to a five-year, $148 million max extension by the Oct. 16 deadline, telling the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Sid Hartman this week that the 22-year-old former No. 1 overall pick also “is not available to anybody in a trade,” the Wolves owner included one small caveat to his offer: Wiggins must promise to become a better player.
Wolves owner Glen Taylor tells AP he is ready to give Wiggins max, but 1st wants meeting to hear from AW that he's committed to improving
— Jon Krawczynski (@APkrawczynski) August 7, 2017
It’s sort of a “no duh” statement. Every team hopes a budding young scorer who signs for roughly $30 million annually will commit himself to becoming a more well-rounded player. But it’s also a quaint notion from the 76-year-old Taylor. Will Wiggins be any more likely to improve over the next five years if he looks a man in the eye and shakes on it? Who knows, but you’ve got to respect the heck out of it.
“To me, by making this offer, I’m speculating that his contribution to the team will be more in the future,” Taylor told The Associated Press. “We’ve got to be better. He can’t be paid just for what he’s doing today. He’s got to be better.
“So when you’re talking about negotiations on his part, I’m already extending to him that I’m willing to meet the max. But there are some things that I need out of him, and that is the commitment to be a better player than you are today.”
“I just think it’s important. If a guy is a real star and he really cares about it, which I think he does, I think it’s a commitment. I’m not sure that he wouldn’t do it anyway. But I think that’s part of the negotiations.”
And, really, from Taylor’s perspective, getting better shouldn’t be all that difficult for Wiggins. The Timberwolves owner added of Wiggins to the AP’s Jon Krawczynski, “He seems to have the ability and so the only thing it would be is for some reason he didn’t work hard enough to obtain the skill sets.”
Of course, it would be ridiculous for Wiggins’ agent, Bill Duffy, who will reportedly meet with Taylor next week, to agree to a clause in his contract that would require him to improve through 2024. The National Basketball Players’ Association almost certainly would throw a fit over such an agreement. But promising the owner in a face-to-face meeting that you will at least try is something of a start.
All that said, Wiggins must improve to be worth the investment, and he has already shown the ability to doing so. His points per game and 3-point efficiency has improved in each of his first three seasons, culminating in career-highs of 23.6 points per game and 35.6 percent shooting from distance this past year. As our own Dan Devine has noted on multiple occasions, he’s one of just 13 players ever to average 23 points before age 22, joining Timberwolves teammate Karl-Anthony Towns and former MVPs Shaquille O’Neal, Michael Jordan, Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Allen Iverson, among others.
Still, Wiggins has room left for improvement offensively and hasn’t proven to be the playmaker (five assist points created) or rebounder (6.3 rebound percentage) a team might expect from a max-salary wing. What’s worse, FiveThirtyEight.com’s metrics rated him as the league’s worst defender in 2016-17.
Under a defensive mind like Tom Thibodeau, one would think Wiggins and the Wolves will improve this season after posting a bottom-five 109.1 defensive rating in their first year for the head coach. And the additions of hardworking All-Star wing Jimmy Butler and veteran locker room guys Taj Gibson and Jamal Crawford should only further help Wiggins make strides both on and off the court. In a perfect world, Butler’s presence will allow Wiggins to operate and facilitate more easily in the offense, and two players who were stalwarts for Thibodeau in Chicago will help drive home a defense-first culture.
But Taylor seems more intent on a promise from Wiggins than those handshake-less expectations. Considering the Wolves owner has already pledged publicly to give him the max extension and not trade him in a deal for a certain available 25-year-old point guard, it’s hard to imagine Wiggins throwing his hands up at this point and telling Taylor, Well, you see, I’m just not that committed to improving. Which means he will likely sign a max extension at some point in the next couple months.
Then, the only thing left for Wiggins is to live up to that promise, which just means nothing’s changed.
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