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Teammate Towns says Wiggins 'deserves every dime' of new contract extension

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins attempts to drive the ball around Houston Rockets guard James Harden during the third quarter at Toyota Center in Houston on Apr. 12, 2017. Troy Taormina / USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS — In his mind, he's earned it.

Andrew Wiggins believes he's worth the five-year extension worth nearly $150 million he signed with the Timberwolves on Wednesday, which comes into play following this season and theoretically keeps him in Minnesota through the 2022-23 campaign. He thinks his play has warranted that type of deal. The people who matter most tend to agree.

"He deserves every dime," teammate Karl-Anthony Towns said. "He's one heck of a player. We're blessed to have him, especially for long term now. ... He works tremendously hard. He's, in my opinion, a once-in-a-generational talent."

The offensive numbers back up the praise. Wiggins averaged 16.9 points as a rookie, 20.7 in his second year and 23.6 last season, 16th best in the NBA. That scoring progression has come despite added attention from opposing defenses.

"I think when you look at what he's done so far in his career, he's one of the elite scorers in this league," coach Tom Thibodeau said, "and to do it at such a young age, we think he's only scratching the surface. We're very, very excited about this day."

Thibodeau said when players are evaluated, people often forget about the progressions they make from year to year. Often, a fourth-year player such as Wiggins will be compared to someone like Kawhi Leonard, who is entering his seventh year in San Antonio. Instead of making those comparisons, Thibodeau looks at attributes those star players all possess.

"When you dig deep on them you see that there's a hunger to improve, I think the drive, the intelligence and, obviously, you have to have a lot of talent to achieve," he said. "But I think those characteristics are important and they embody winners."

Thibodeau has mentioned the work Wiggins put in this summer many times. Wiggins has made a point to improve on the little things, including rebounding. It can be hard to see someone as low-key as Wiggins possessing a passion to improve, but Thibodeau sees it.

"Sometimes you can be fooled. Sometimes you can have loud guys you think are fierce and they're really not and then you have quiet guys who are fierce," Thibodeau said. "I've coached against him, so I know what that feels like, and I had the opportunity to coach him and I know what that feels like.

"What got him the contract is (to) not to get lost in anything other than chasing excellence, just keep working like he's been working, put the team first. He's never satisfied; he wants to get better. I think he's already demonstrated that. To make the progress that he's already shown is impressive, but as I mentioned, it's scratching the surface. And now we hope that it'll continue to grow and it'll translate into wins. The challenge is not only to bring the best out of himself, but also to help bring the best out of all his teammates, as well."

When someone is as talented as Wiggins, people on the outside always want more. Yes, he can score, but can he defend? Can he rebound? Can he make his teammates better?

He might not have done much of that to date, but that doesn't mean he won't. Wiggins said he hears criticism from time to time, but noted it's "in one ear and out the other" — a tactic he's likely picked up over the years as a prodigal basketball star. If anything, he said his new contract serves as motivation to improve.

"It's motivation to get better and show everybody what I can do, the other stuff I can do," Wiggins said. "The stuff they think I can't do, add more, just keep on adding to my game."

It was a surprise to many that it took Wiggins so long to put pen to paper with this deal, especially after team owner Glen Taylor made it known this summer that the Wolves would give their budding star the maximum deal.

But Wiggins never wavered on his commitment to Minnesota. The former No. 1 draft pick and NBA Rookie of the Year has felt the love and loyalty from this franchise since he arrived via a trade with Cleveland back in 2014. Thibodeau said Wiggins made it clear in July that this is where he wanted to be.

Wiggins attributed the delay in the deal to the fact he was navigating the final stages of the contract without an agent after he parted ways with his agent, Bill Duffy, in August. Flying solo at the end of the process, Wiggins said he just wanted to take the time to make sure he did things correctly.

Of his much-discussed meetings with Taylor this summer, Wiggins said the two just talked about their commitment to the franchise.

"We're both here for one reason, and that's to win," Wiggins said. "Win a championship. That's our main goal."

If Minnesota is to achieve any major level of success in the next six years, Wiggins will certainly have a lot to do with it.

"I feel like I've played well enough to earn (this contract) 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."

The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.