Timberwolves President Tim Connelly and Nima Namakian, the agent for Jaden McDaniels, were chatting at the end of Wolves practice Monday, both with wide smiles on their faces.
That's because the two had put the finishing touches on a long-anticipated contract for McDaniels, who signed a five-year, $136 million deal, the Timberwolves confirmed, just hours before a Monday NBA deadline on negotiations would have punted a new potential contract until next offseason, when McDaniels could have been a restricted free agent.
Instead, both sides avoided the awkwardness that situation can create by finding common ground in the final days of negotiations.
McDaniels earned the contract largely thanks to his growing reputation as one of the league's best perimeter defenders with an offensive game that has expanded over his first three seasons.
The 23-year-old former Washington Huskies forward played in 79 games last season, averaging 12.1 points and 3.9 rebounds before breaking his hand punching a wall in Target Center on the last day of the regular season.
McDaniels, who the Wolves took with the 28th pick in the 2020 draft, plays with a fiery competitiveness that can boil over in moments like that, but it's also what drives him to be one of the league's best defenders, with players such as Dallas guard Luka Doncic and Clippers forward Paul George citing him as one of the toughest to score against in the league.
Contract negotiations quickened with the looming deadline of Monday at 5 p.m. as McDaniels, sidelined because of an injured calf, worked out during and after practice. The injury could cause McDaniels to miss Wednesday's opener in Toronto.
One contract that affected McDaniels' market value in negotiations was the extension the Spurs agreed to with Devin Vassell earlier this month for five years and $135 million. Vassell, who the Spurs view as a franchise cornerstone, is also a dogged defender who averaged 18.5 points a season ago. He shot 39% from three-point range last season, while McDaniels shot 40%. McDaniels' guaranteed contract number came in just above Vassell's.
Connelly has said multiple times he views McDaniels as one the foundational players of the franchise, and Connelly developed a reputation in Denver for making sure those kind of players, like Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., received long-term, lucrative contracts without the angst of restricted free agency. Connelly was also intentional about keeping McDaniels out of the trade package that brought Rudy Gobert to Minnesota from Utah last summer. That's one reason the Wolves surrendered four future first-round picks and another pick swap in that deal.
The Wolves signed Anthony Edwards to a five-year deal that could be worth up to $260 million this summer. Both extensions for Edwards and McDaniels will kick in next season, when the Wolves might be staring down a luxury tax bill or will need to shed one of their big salaries.
Gobert is slated to make nearly $44 million next season while the first year of Karl-Anthony Towns' supermax contract could come on the books at around $50 million, depending on how much the salary cap jumps. The luxury tax threshold could be around $180 million, and the Wolves will have over $150 million tied up in those four players, and potentially over $160 million.
From the Wolves' point of view, those are tomorrow's issues. This season will dictate what the next step for the franchise will be. But McDaniels figures to be around as long as Edwards is, and Monday's news confirmed that.