LAS VEGAS — Andrew Wiggins has lofty goals for the 2017–18 season: a playoff berth and an All-Star appearance. Before all that, though, he is seeking a max rookie contract extension.
The 22-year-old wing, who is in Las Vegas for Adidas Basketball’s LVL3 event this week, believes that Minnesota’s busy off–season, that included the additions of All-Star forward Jimmy Butler and point guard Jeff Teague, has put his team in position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
“We have great pieces, we added great pieces, and we have a great coaching staff,” Wiggins told The Crossover during an interview promoting his Adidas Crazy Explosive 2017 sneakers. “I think this year is the year.”
Wiggins, who averaged a career-high 23.6 PPG, 4 RPG and 2.3 APG last season, is eligible for a rookie extension prior to the Oct. 16 deadline. Talks are ongoing between the Timberwolves and Wiggins’ representatives for the extension, which would kick in for the 2018-19 season.
While Wiggins said that he is taking a “day by day” approach to the contract discussions, he didn’t waver when asked whether he was worthy of a max contract, which could reach $148 million over five years with a starting salary of $25.5 million. “I definitely do,” Wiggins told The Crossover. “Nothing less.”
The 2014 No. 1 pick arrived in Minnesota prior to his rookie season thanks to a summer trade with Cleveland. Kyrie Irving’s reported trade request has sparked speculation that the Timberwolves might trade Wiggins back to the Cavaliers in a deal for the All-Star point guard, but Wiggins refused to take questions on trade scenarios and maintained that he wants to play in Minnesota next season.
Wiggins also spoke optimistically of his new pairing with Butler, saying that he felt the two scoring-minded wings would “complement each other’s game and make each other better,” and said that he has been placing special emphasis on his three-point shooting and ball-handling this summer.
“Our starting five is strong, we’re strong off the bench,” he said, when asked to summarize the Timberwolves’ strengths and weaknesses. “We’re big. We play a lot of different positions. Weaknesses? You can say we haven’t played together yet. On defense, [you find success] when you’re ready to give in, when you’re ready to sacrifice yourself. Everyone can play defense. If you’re athletic and you can run, you can play defense. It’s a mindset. I think we were just a young team last year. We took breaks. We had good games where we played great defense and we had other games where we didn’t know what was happening.”
During Wiggins’s first three seasons, Minnesota won 16, 29 and 31 games, respectively, and he’s been passed over for All-Star consideration despite his gaudy scoring numbers and durability. Even though cracking the West’s All-Star team has gotten more difficult thanks to the East-to-West migrations of Butler, Paul George and Paul Millsap, Wiggins has nevertheless set his sights on earning a trip to Los Angeles in February.
“[Being an All-Star] is definitely is a goal,” he said. “[To make it happen], we need to win first off, play good, and make my team better. Just rebound the ball more, that’d be the most important thing [to prove to voters].”