Andrew Wiggins perception that he deserves nothing less than an $18 million raise next season could put the Minnesota Timberwolves into a financial corner soon, since Karl-Anthony Towns will also seek a $17 million hike the season after next. That adds up to a combined $35 million payroll increase, not including potential luxury taxes, in two years. Sports Illustrated’s The Crossover writes,
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.”
A straight up swap of Wiggins for Winslow lives in a fantasy world by itself, but the speculation of a Wiggins for Kyrie Irving trade hints Wiggins could be on the market.
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.
With Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague, Gorgui Dieng, Taj Gibson getting $70 million next season, the Wolves have to pay Wiggins, Towns, and 10 other players with a little over the $30 million that's left over. Enter Pat Riley and Andy Elisburg to offer a solution to management’s difficult problem of juggling the finances of a talent-laden team in the future.
Butler is an All-Star. Can Minnesota afford to pay for two possible All-Stars in addition to him, perhaps by next season? Having a Big 3 of star players can strain the budget of a franchise in a smaller market. Teams such as the Philadelphia 76ers may run into a similar problem once their process matures and the rookie-scale contracts become full-blown max or even super-max deals.
The Cavaliers face the same prospect with Kyrie and the designated veteran player contract that only Cleveland can offer him. The Cavs may not be able to afford keeping both LeBron James and Kevin Love, if Irving gets a super-max deal from the Cavs.
Since Wiggins and Winslow both play small forward, their swap would give the Heat an awesome starting five, in Miami’s dreamworld. But that won't happen without complex maneuvering of other players and contracts.
Looking ahead Pat Riley might be looking to deal with disgruntled front offices instead of disgruntled players. The reality of limited NBA cap space hinders what management can realistically offer their star player’s demands down the road. Teams with financial dilemmas could present opportunities for Miami's salary cap geniuses to fix.