Jaden McDaniels continued his work post-practice Monday at Mayo Clinic Square in downtown Minneapolis, putting in ample 5-on-0 work as he rehabilitates his calf back into form.
Whether or not the 23-year-old wing is able to play in the Timberwolves’ season opener Wednesday in Toronto is still an unknown.
Whether or not McDaniels will be in Minnesota for years to come is no longer a mystery.
The Timberwolves and the young, defensive-minded wing agreed to a 5-year, $136 million extension Monday afternoon, just hours ahead of the league deadline. The move locks in McDaniels next to Anthony Edwards – who signed a max deal in July – as the youngest pieces of the franchise’s long-term core.
Had no agreement been made, McDaniels would have gone to restricted free agency next summer. Minnesota almost certainly would’ve matched any offer another team made to the wing in that setting, but getting this deal done now certifies McDaniels’ long-term future in Minnesota, while avoiding any potential awkwardness that comes between team and player during the restricted free agent setting.
While a casual observer across the country may be perplexed that a player who averaged 13 points per game could net such a large financial figure, Timberwolves fans have seen first-hand just how valuable McDaniels is. His on-ball defense is a marvel. Per BBall Index, McDaniels graded out as the best perimeter isolation defender in the entire NBA. Missing out on All-Defense accolades last spring likely had more to do with name recognition than actual performance. He’s already widely regarded as a top-tier defender by elite offensive players around the league.
So while this deal may look like an overpay to some in the now, the Timberwolves are betting more people recognize McDaniels’ name in seasons to come. And, frankly, McDaniels’ extension simply falls in line with market value.
San Antonio inked young wing Devin Vassel to a nearly identical deal at the beginning of the month. That number was a major marker used in negotiations, and it doesn’t appear to be a coincidence that McDaniels’ deal is for $1 million more.
The McDaniels contract does guarantee Minnesota will be in a major salary tax crunch starting next offseason. That’s when his extension, Edwards’ extension and Karl-Anthony Towns’ extension – signed last offseason – all kick in. The new collective bargaining agreement will make it very difficult for the Timberwolves to operate thanks to the restrictions placed on teams various levels above the luxury tax.
That could lead to some difficult decisions Minnesota will need to make down the line. But, for now, Minnesota is in a good spot to contend given its current level of talent. And the Wolves are in a good spot for the distant future, as well, with Edwards and McDaniels locked in as pillars on the wings of lineups for years to come.