Andrew Wiggins will remain in Minnesota for the foreseeable future. The two parties officially signed a $148 million max deal to keep Wiggins in Minnesota for the next five years. This deal seemed inevitable despite Wiggins recently changing agents. Earlier this summer the Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor made it clear that he was willing and ready to commit to Wiggins by giving him the max as long as Wiggins was willing to commit to continuous improvement. While this may not be the greatest negotiating tool, it was important on the level of showing the young star that the organization believes in him and sees him as part of the future. In August Taylor told the Associated Press “To me, by making this offer, I'm speculating that his contribution to the team will be more in the future. 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”. This is something that is rarely heard from owners and a new organizational attitude by the Timberwolves. Historically the Timberwolves have not been a team committed to spending a lot of money. They have struggled to retain players and almost never pursued high-end free-agents. This summer they have taken a completely different approach. They maxed out a young star in Wiggins, they traded for a top 15 player in Butler, and they acquired three solid free-agents in Gibson, Teague, and Crawford. If you don’t love every one of these moves, at least be excited that one of the stingiest franchises has committed to making moves to build a roster that can win.
Wiggins has been a polarizing prospect among the NBA community as some see him peaking as Rudy Gay and others believe he can become a two-way star. The former number one pick was seen as an athletic wing defender who might struggle to develop an offensive game. Through his first three years, Wiggins has shown the exact opposite. His offensive ability has grown year by year while he has consistently become worse on defense. Last year Wiggins averaged 23.6 points, 4 rebounds, and 2.3 assists (all improvements from the prior year). His Usage Rate also jumped to 29 while his Offensive Rating increased to 107. Wiggins was looked to at the end of games to take the big shots and carry a lot of the offensive load as he logged the most minutes in the NBA.
While his offensive numbers continue to improve, there is a huge concern about his defense. Wiggins had a horrible Defensive Box Plus/Minus of -2.9 and a Defensive Rating of 115 which was the ninth worst in the league for players who logged over 1500 minutes. This is as confusing as it is concerning. Wiggins showed in college he was a very good defender. He also has the physical tools at 6’8” with a 7’0 wingspan. It would be understandable, to an extent, if it is just a case of him struggling to grasp the higher level concepts. He has had three coaches in three years so having the same coach carry over should help him tremendously.
The best case scenario is that his lack of defensive performance has been just an effort issue. He has had to carry the load on offense for most of his career. This year I would imagine we see a downturn in his volume but an uptick in efficiency. The continued emergence of Towns and additions of Butler, Teague, and Crawford will take a lot of the workload off of Wiggins. This will not only keep him fresh towards the end of games but also allow him to exert more energy on defense.
This deal could eventually prove to be a mistake for the Timberwolves, but it was one that they had to do. They showed their young star that they are committed to him, and see him as part of bright future. In an age where loyalty is not just rare but practically nonexistent, the Timberwolves showed they don’t want to wait to match an offer in restricted free-agency. Wiggins will continue to be an offensive focal point for the Timberwolves but for this deal to truly be worth it; he will need to make a jump defensively and become the dominant two-way wing that he was projected as.