Sports have long been about stars and personalities driving fandom, but that sentiment has seemingly accelerated in recent years. Fans root for teams still, sure, but more than ever sports are packaged in social media highlights and sound bites that accentuate the individual above all else.
Combined with skyrocketing TV deals, leading to skyrocketing salaries, professional athletes have a tremendous amount of power to dictate how and where they play.
When you put that against a backdrop of leagues that have a salary cap and a whole team full of egos to manage, things can get pretty interesting pretty fast.
That brings me to three biggest money questions on the horizon in this market: Potential new contracts for the Wolves' Karl-Anthony Towns, the Vikings' Justin Jefferson and the Wild's Kevin Fiala. All three have their own specific nuances, which makes them even more interesting.
- Towns: By being named to the All-NBA third team earlier this week, Towns became eligible for a massive super max extension this offseason.
The numbers, per ESPN's Bobby Marks: four years, $211 million.
In addition to sorting out what to do about D'Angelo Russell, an extension for Towns — who has two years left on his deal — is the biggest offseason question facing incoming President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly.
Connelly gave Michael Porter Jr. — a less durable, less proven player — a massive extension in Denver, so presumably he would be up for the same with Towns. It would be hard for Towns to pass up that sort of money. But players have a lot of leverage, so until it happens nothing is certain. And even if it does happen, that's a lot of money to owe one player.
- Fiala: The player has less leverage in this case because Fiala is a restricted free agent. The Wild could keep him, which seems attractive based on his 33-goal season, but Fiala is due for a big raise.
A likely outcome: The Wild trades Fiala to a team that sends back lower-priced young talent in return, part of GM Bill Guerin's plan to get through the heavy Zach Parise and Ryan Suter buyout years.
- Jefferson: The Vikings wide receiver is going to be eligible for an extension after this season. If he's as productive as he has been his first two years in the league — and perhaps even more so under new coach Kevin O'Connell — Jefferson could get close to $30 million a season based on similar contracts for premium wideouts.
The Vikings have every incentive to do that deal, even if it's expensive. And they have every incentive to keep him happy up until the pen hits paper.