The Timberwolves had no choice but to give Andrew Wiggins the max

SHENZHEN, CHINA - OCTOBER 05: Andrew Wiggins (Photo by Zhong Zhi/Getty Images)
SHENZHEN, CHINA - OCTOBER 05: Andrew Wiggins (Photo by Zhong Zhi/Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Timberwolves announced an extension with young, blossoming forward Andrew Wiggins Wednesday afternoon. The deal isn’t great for the Wolves, but they really didn’t have a choice.

Andrew Wiggins is locked up with the Minnesota Timberwolves. The team announced signing the forward to a five-year, $146.5 million extension. In other words, they gave the 22-year old a maximum contract, a costly move for the emerging Wolves.

Thus far, Wiggins has come as advertised on the offensive end. Through three seasons, he averages 20.4 points a game and is coming off a career-high 23.6 points per game for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Additionally, he’s improved his 3-point shooting from 30 percent in 2015 to 35.6 last season. He also has consistently got to the free-throw line over his career, averaging 6.4 attempts a game.

Basically, the Wolves forward looks worth the money, offensively speaking. He should build on his offensive success in the coming years.

On the other hand, the fourth-year veteran hasn’t shown growth on the defensive end, contrary to what was expected after being selected first overall by the Cleveland Cavalier in 2014. In fact, he had a defensive rating of 115 last season, an estimate of points allowed per 100 possessions. To make matters worse, the rating was tied for twelfth worst in the NBA.

Additionally, when compared to the league-average player, he’s given up 2.4 more points per 100 possessions, including a career-low 2.9 in 2016. This equates to a replacement level player, meaning his defense has hurt Minnesota considerably the last three years.

Ideally, Jimmy Butler takes some of the load off Wiggins going into the 2017 season, considering he won’t have to defend other teams’ top wing player. Also, there’s no question he can learn from Butler, who’s established himself as a top-five wing defender in the league. Yet, there’s no guarantee that’ll be the case either, even though he has all the ability in the world to do so.

In turn, this makes the Wolves’ decision to hand Wiggins a max contract extension frightening given the chance he doesn’t develop into a well-rounded player. Sure, he has definite offensive value, but if he can’t play defense, that just makes him another Rudy Gay type player. Someone whose points essentially get cancelled out due to the points given up on the defensive end.

If Wiggins can’t develop his defensive game, Minnesota is not only going to feel the consequences on the court, but in their cap space. This is a problem considering they have to sign Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns in the next couple of seasons.

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Of course, the Wolves have their Bird rights. But, they are limited as far as what they can put around them with three max contracts in the books. Although, they could seemingly convince a couple of solid veterans to sign for the minimum. Yet, that largely depends on how successful the Wolves’ new “Big-Three” is with Wiggins being the biggest question mark of the three.

Concerns aside though, the Timberwolves had no choice but to give Wiggins the max given the situation.

In this day and age, NBA players are getting insane contracts, so the Wolves forward was likely getting a max somewhere, if not here.

At 22, he hasn’t reached his prime yet either. So, they had to go all in on Wiggins with the hope that he reaches the potential everyone saw out of college. I mean, there’s no doubt that Timberwolves management wouldn’t have heard the end of it had they allowed him to walk and become a superstar on another team.

Basically, there was nothing ideal about a Wiggins contract extension. They had to bet on his potential and they had to do it now. If they had waited, they risked losing Wiggins. Plain and simple.

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While Wiggins has ways to go in his development, the Wolves made the right move. Players with his kind of potential don’t grow on trees and they have to see what they have before cutting bait is ever a consideration. Let’s just hope the long-term risk pays off in the end and leads to brighter days for Timberwolves basketball.