With Zach LaVine out for the season with a torn ACL and unlikely to resume basketball activities for an estimated nine months, the Timberwolves will enter 2017-18 with big questions about their 21-year-old shooting guard.
- Will he return with his pre-injury explosiveness?
- Will the Wolves extend his rookie contract or let him get to restricted free agency?
An answer to the first question won't come by anything other than projections until he actually proves he's back on the court. But in nine months it'll be October, meaning LaVine won't be back until at least right before the beginning of the season.
It's during the final stages of LaVine's recovery, July 31-Oct. 31, that Minnesota is allowed to offer extensions on Andrew Wiggins' and LaVine's rookie contracts. Zach Harper of Fan Rag Sports explains:
Wiggins and LaVine have the same agent — Bill Duffy. He’s the same agent who got four years and $70 million for Klay Thompson. That was right before the ceiling of the Golden State Warriors 2-guard became so high. The salary cap will be $30 million higher from when Thompson was getting an extension. Will Duffy push for something in the $90 million range? Do the Wolves blink and give it to him possibly a month before LaVine even returns to the court?
Talk about a tough call to make.
If LaVine doesn't sign an extension in the fall he'll likely get to restricted free agency in 2018-19, where other teams can offer him more than what the Wolves might be able to match.
That leaves Tom Thibodeau with two choices: Pay LaVine this fall and hope he returns to form, or wait and risk losing him before he turns 23.
Early indications point to Thibodeau believing LaVine will be fine.
“His overall game had blossomed,” Thibodeau said after LaVine got hurt last week, via the Star Tribune. “He’s shooting the three great, the free throws, the drives. All of it. He’ll get through it. He’s a mentally tough kid. He’s already talking about what’s next.”