BY JON KRAWCZYNSKI
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Timberwolves have signed Andrew Wiggins to a new contract extension.
The Timberwolves announced on Wednesday that the two sides had reached agreement on a multiyear contract. Terms were not disclosed, but owner Glen Taylor said in August that he had offered Wiggins a five-year max contract worth $148 million.
It puts a big piece of business to rest after the situation dragged out for most of the summer.
Wiggins averaged 23.6 points per game in his third season in the league. The former No. 1 overall pick has cemented himself as one of the building blocks of an up-and-coming franchise. Along with Karl-Anthony Towns and Jimmy Butler, Wiggins is expected to help the Timberwolves end a 13-season playoff drought this year.
Wiggins will not turn 23 until February and has yet to make an All-Star team. But had he made it to restricted free agency next summer, there was a very good chance another team would have sent a max offer sheet his way. The Timberwolves beat them to the punch.
Taylor made it clear to Wiggins early in the summer that he was comfortable with paying the huge price to keep the athletic wing in the fold. It is extremely rare for a player coming off of a rookie contract to turn down a max-level extension, but Wiggins did inject a little drama into what is normally a straight forward process.
“Minnesota’s been good to me,” Wiggins said in September. “They’ve been loyal, trustworthy and with that contract it means they’re committed. They want me here and I want the same.”
The two sides were on the verge of reaching a deal in August when Wiggins decided to part ways with agent Bill Duffy, who had represented him ever since he was drafted out of Kansas in 2014. The Cavaliers chose Wiggins in that draft, but ultimately traded him to Minnesota later that summer as the headliner of a package that brought Kevin Love to Cleveland.
Wiggins’ decision to leave Duffy caused a major delay in the negotiations. Taylor told The Associated Press in August that he wanted to meet face-to-face with Wiggins before the deal was signed to have a frank conversation about the expectations that come with such a big contract.
“He seems like a very good person,” Taylor said then. “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. That’s what you’re asking him to commit to.”
The meeting was held in September and Wiggins completed the process without an agent while leaning on a close circle of advisers, including his parents, and an attorney to review the paperwork. Duffy is still expected to challenge to get a commission from the deal that he negotiated.
When Kyrie Irving first made his trade request from Cleveland known, the Timberwolves were one of the teams he reportedly was open to joining, which set off a wild few weeks of speculation that Minnesota would offer Wiggins to get that deal done. But coach Tom Thibodeau and Taylor have long believed in Wiggins’ ability to become the kind of dynamic, two-way player who can play a major role in ending the team’s playoff drought.
Wiggins made great strides as a scorer in his first three years, improving as a 3-point shooter, developing a low-post game and using his athleticism and strength to get to the free throw line. But he still has a long way to go as a defender and rebounder, and will need to be even better than the .356 shooter he was from 3-point range last season if the Wolves are going to snap that skid.
Wiggins has also been a durable fixture in the lineup ever since he arrived in town. He has missed just one game in his first three seasons while averaging 36.2 minutes per game.
Despite all of that, the contract is sure to be a polarizing one. As good as Wiggins has been as a scorer, certain metrics paint him as a very poor defender and an offensive player ill-equipped to play in this era of pace and space. He also figures to be the third option in Minnesota behind Butler and Towns.
The Wolves clearly believe that there is a lot of room for growth. Taylor made clear in August that he is counting on that.
“To me, by making this offer, I’m speculating that his contribution to the team will be more in the future,” Taylor said then. “We’ve got to be better. He can’t be paid just for what he’s doing today. He’s got to be better.”
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