Karl-Anthony Towns and the Timberwolves have until 6 p.m. Eastern on Oct. 15 to agree to a contract extension. The deal wouldn’t kick in until 2019-20, anyway. So, there’s plenty of time.
But why isn’t it done yet? Most max extensions are completed, or at least clearly agreed upon, by now. Is the reported discord between Towns and Minnesota that significant?
Brian Windhorst on ESPN:
There’s nothing happening right now.
The fact that this isn’t getting done yet is sort of eye-brow raising. To me, I believe he’s going to sign it. There’s never been a player who hasn’t signed it. The question again will be, to me: What type of deal is it? Is it a full five-year extension? Is it KAT saying this is where I want to be? Or does he take the shorter extension?
A five-year max contract extension for Towns projects to be worth $190 million (if he makes an All-NBA team or wins Defensive Player of the Year next season) or $158 million (if he doesn’t qualify for the super-max).
A three-year max extension would project to top out at $88 million. He wouldn’t be eligible for the super max unless he signs for four or five more years (no options).
The Timberwolves shouldn’t offer Towns a shorter extension unless it includes a much lower salary. They’d be better off waiting to re-sign him in restricted free agency next summer and hoping their relationship is in a better place.
If it is, they could re-sign him to a five-year deal with the exact same terms an extension would have now. If it’s not, they could make it very costly for him to leave.
Minnesota could extend a maximum qualifying offer – a standing offer for a fully guaranteed five-year max contract with max raises and no options. By doing so, the Timberwolves would force any offer sheet Towns signs elsewhere to be for at least three years, not including options (up from two years, not including options, otherwise).
The only way he could unilaterally leave Minnesota quicker than three years is accepting his regular, $10,191,266, one-year qualifying offer. That’d be a steep drop from his projected max salary of more than $27 million and come with no long-term security. But it would make him an unrestricted free agent in 2019.
Windhorst is right: Nobody has ever passed on a rookie-scale contract extension. It’s players’ first chance to earn huge money, not a time most feel ready to take a risk.
But circumstances have changed in recent years with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Towns would be eligible for the super max in his eighth and ninth seasons with only the team he ends next season on. An unintended consequence of the new rules: Young players have more incentive to push for trades sooner.
Towns refusing to sign a contract extension would be a bright flashing warning to the Timberwolves, one that might even cause them to trade him now. They’d still have significant control over his future if he heads toward restricted free agency, but how long do they want to do that dance with him?
It’s also possible Towns is delaying to exert less-explosive leverage. Maybe he’s just making noise to get a player option or a higher portion of the super max if he qualifies on a five-year deal.
The expectation should probably remain Towns signs an extension with Minnesota, but the longer this drags out, the more curious it becomes.