The Warriors’ Willingness to Write an $80 Million Check Is Bad News for Andrew Wiggins

Andrew Wiggins is having a season to remember.

Once a castoff of the Minnesota Timberwolves, the 27-year-old is showcasing his star potential with the Golden State Warriors. Wiggins has started 54 of a possible 59 games, averaging 17.7 points on a career-best 48.1% shooting. He also earned All-Star honors for the first time in his eight-year career.

Wiggins has become a critical piece for the 42-17 Warriors and should continue to have a major role with the team next season. However, Golden State also has another important player it wants to reward with a handsome contract, which might mean moving on from its All-Star forward sooner than expected.

The Warriors want to extend Jordan Poole this offseason

Wiggins’ rise to relevancy is an amazing story and one that shouldn’t be overlooked. But there is another player the Warriors have gotten major contributions from … and for a fraction of the cost.

Jordan Poole, 22, has had a breakout campaign for the contending Warriors. The 6-foot-4 guard has largely been used in a reserve capacity through his first two seasons, averaging no more than 22.4 minutes per game. In 2021-22, Poole is up to 28.8 minutes through 53 games, 35 of which were starts. He’s made the most of those minutes, averaging a career-high 16.4 points on 43.8% shooting.

Whether it’s starting next to Stephen Curry in the backcourt or serving in a first-man-off-the-bench role, Poole has proven to be an effective scorer in his third season. And with the 2019 first-round pick in line for an extension this summer, the Warriors want the promising guard to stick around a while longer.

According to Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle, the Warriors will attempt to sign Poole to a long-term extension this summer before he becomes a restricted free agent in 2023. While it’s not official, Spotrac salary cap expert Keith Smart told Letourneau that he estimates Poole’s next contract to be “in the four-year, $80 million range.”

Poole, the 28th overall pick out of Michigan three years ago, is one of Golden State’s more cost-effective players. He’s currently making $2.1 million this season and will make $3.9 million next year before his potential extension kicks in ahead of the 2023-24 season.

A big extension for Poole spells trouble for Andrew Wiggins

There’s nothing wrong with rewarding good players with hard-earned money. That’s exactly the case with Poole, a 22-year-old who conceivably has better days still ahead.

But assuming Poole and the Warriors agree to a deal, Wiggins might be playing for a new team by the summer of 2023.

Golden State is already shelling out quite a bit of dough. No one in the league makes more money than Curry, who’s in line to make $48 million next year and over $50 million in each of the following three seasons. Additionally, Klay Thompson will earn close to $84 million over the next two seasons, while Draymond Green will grab another $53 million in that span.

That’s not even counting Wiggins. The 27-year-old is in the second-to-last year of his max contract, which will pay him $33.6 million next season. After that, the talented scorer will become an unrestricted free agent likely facing his final opportunity to cash in.

The question, of course, is whether his payday will come from Golden State or elsewhere (h/t: San Francisco Chronicle).

“If the Warriors keep Curry, Thompson and Green, pick up the team options on [James] Wiseman, [Jonathan] Kuminga, and [Moses] Moody, sign Wiggins to a max contract, and re-sign [Kevon] Looney and Poole for their anticipated values, they’ll be saddled with a 2023-24 payroll of almost $208 million for only nine players. Add in the massive luxury-tax ramifications, and the Warriors would pay in the $400 million range, with eight roster spots — including the two two-way contracts — yet to fill.”

Connor Letourneau

The Warriors have shown a willingness to spend. But everyone has a budget. So unless Wiggins is willing to sacrifice tens of millions of dollars in order to stay, Poole’s contract effectively makes him the odd man out.

Even if Andrew Wiggins doesn’t get paid by the Warriors, another team will sign him to a max deal

Wiggins has done a lot of things well since coming over from Minnesota. He’s become a great three-point shooter, knocking down 41.4% of his attempts this year after going just 33.2% in six seasons with the T-Wolves. He’s also become a responsible defender, getting major minutes for the league’s number one defense.

Even if the Warriors don’t re-sign Wiggins, he will have a sizable market vying for his services.

Real GM projects a $127 million salary cap in 2023-24. If that’s the case, Wiggins would be eligible for a max deal of five years, $223 million with the Warriors. While the 2021-22 All-Star wouldn’t land as much with a new team, he could still fetch a four-year contract worth approximately $172 million.

In a 2023 offseason where teams should have significant cap space to work with, someone will give Wiggins his big payday. Whether he’s worth the max is a different conversation. But he’s done enough to warrant a good contract, which is bad news for a Warriors team that under any other circumstances would want him back.

All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference and contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.

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