A Timberwolves team that traded away two stars named Kevin this decade on Wednesday signed young star Andrew Wiggins to a maximum extension that will keep him under contract through 2023.
Wiggins’ five-year deal worth about $148 million dwarfs in franchise history a $126 million extension a young Kevin Garnett signed in 1997, a $65 million extension Al Jefferson signed in 2007 and the $62 million deal Kevin Love signed in 2012.
In the NBA these days, that’s merely the price of milk for a promising young star who’s just 22 years old. Fellow members of Wiggins’ 2014 draft class are also cashing in. Philadelphia’s oft-injured Joel Embiid on Tuesday signed an extension comparable to Wiggins’, and Denver’s Gary Harris last weekend signed for $74 million guaranteed. Wolves forward Gorgui Dieng last fall signed for $64 million.
Both Kevins later were traded after they earned All-Star and All-NBA honors. That was after they had signed rookie extensions that kept them in Minnesota for at least one big second contract.
Wiggins did the same Wednesday, five days before a Monday league deadline.
He agreed with a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2004, refuting some of his hometown Toronto fans once eager to wear Raptors jerseys bearing his name not long after the Wolves acquired him in a 2014 trade that sent Love to Cleveland.
Wiggins technically was a Cavalier for two months, but now will be a Timberwolf, barring a trade, for his first nine pro seasons because of an extension that starts with the 2018-19 season.
At a Wednesday news conference, Wiggins said he never considered anywhere else because of a variety of reasons beyond 148 million obvious ones.
“Just the loyalty and the love,” he said about the Wolves and Minnesota. “I’m friends with everybody. I like everyone from the trainers to the coaches to the front office, my teammates. I love everybody. They’ve treated me with nothing but nice since I got here. And they were the first people who gave me the opportunity to play in the NBA after I got traded from Cleveland. They welcomed me with open arms, so this is where I wanted to be.”
The Wolves felt the same way, offering Wiggins as much as they could after negotiations that started July 1 included meetings with team owner Glen Taylor. In July, Wiggins told a reporter he was worth “nothing less” than a max extension. Two weeks later, Taylor said he wanted to look Wiggins in the eye and measure his commitment to become a better player throughout the extension’s life.
“Just making sure we’re both committed to this,” Wiggins said of those meetings. “We both love the Timberwolves. We’re both here for one reason and that’s to win, win a championship. That’s our main goal. That’s where we were talking about.”
That and getting a $148 million contract extension — that’s $184 million Canadian, by the way — done.
Wiggins on Wednesday called himself “just thankful” after he achieved a financial windfall toward which he has worked “my whole life.”
“I feel like I’ve played well enough to earn it in my career in the NBA so far,” Wiggins said. “But I’ve still got so much more to do, so much more to accomplish.”
Individually, his to-do list includes becoming a better off-ball defender and rebounder. Timberwolves fans wouldn’t mind him consistently reaching the level of greatness he has shown some (but not all) nights, either.
Collectively, reaching the playoffs tops the list.
Entering his fourth NBA season, Wiggins already is an elite scorer — at 23.6 points a game, 16th best last season — who has been remarkably durable, too. He missed one game in his first three seasons and led the NBA in minutes played last season.
He’s also one of those rare players who can create a shot for himself or others when the game is in doubt. New teammate Jimmy Butler is one, too.
Butler is the Wolves’ driven alpha who also is a three-time All Star. The 2014 draft’s No. 1 overall pick, Wiggins is quiet and reserved, perhaps a perfect third player in personality on a team that already includes Butler and outgoing young star Karl Anthony-Towns.
Wolves coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau praises the “progression” Wiggins already has made as a pro.
“It says a lot about him and I think he’ll continue to grow,” Thibodeau said. “He plays for the team and he has met expectations his whole life. He’s sort of low-key, but I know the fire. Sometimes you can be fooled. Sometimes you can have loud guys you think are fierce and they’re really not. And then you can have quiet guys who are fierce. I’ve coached against him, so I know what that feels like, and I had the opportunity to coach him and I know what the feels like.
“We’re very excited to have him. He has a very unique skill set.”
Next in line for a huge contract extension next summer, Towns called Wiggins a “once-in-a-generational talent” who “deserves every dime” of that $148 million, which would take a person making $50,000 annually 2,960 years to earn.
“Look at it,” new teammate Jamal Crawford said. “Guys who are doing way less are getting $20 million a year. That’s just the league and the way it is. Here’s a guy who averaged 24 points and he’ll get better and better. I’m happy for him. He deserves it.”
When asked if Wiggins is buying his teammates their next dinner, Crawford said Wiggins will buy at least the next 10 dinners. Wiggins agreed, stipulating his mates can have their choice: “Chipotle or Noodles,” he said.
“It’s a relief,” Wiggins said about the extension. “That’s some money that most people don’t see in a lifetime, so I’m thankful for it. My family is going to forever be in a good positon. It’s a blessing. … This is just motivation to get better and show everybody what I can do, the other stuff I can do. And the stuff they think I can do, add more.”