Two 2014 first-round picks signed five-year, maximum salary contract extensions within the last few days, beating the October 16 deadline for rookie scale extensions. While both players are, of course, significantly valued by their respective teams, Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins have had very different NBA careers so far.
Embiid’s injury problems have been well chronicled, to the point that they’re hardly worth revisiting, but the upshot is that those health issues have limited him to just 31 games in three NBA seasons. Even when he did see the court, the Sixers center was on a minutes restriction, averaging about 25 minutes per contest.
However, in his 786 career minutes, Embiid has looked like a generational talent, combining an ability to rebound and protect the rim (7.8 RPG, 2.5 BPG) with a knack for scoring both in the post and from beyond the arc (.367 3PT%).
Wiggins, on the other hand, has been incredibly durable during his first three NBA seasons, missing just one of 246 possible games. He has also steadily increased his scoring numbers each season, pouring in a career-high 23.6 PPG in 2016/17.
Those scoring totals are more reliant on volume than efficiency though, and Wiggins’ ability to put the ball in the basket hasn’t been complemented by many other on-court contributions — his defense has been shaky, he doesn’t get many rebounds or assists, and his three-point shot, despite improving last season, remains somewhat unreliable.
Both the Sixers and Timberwolves locked up their respective youngsters because of their potential. In Embiid’s case, it’s his potential to stay healthy. For Wiggins, it’s his potential to develop into a more well-rounded, complete player.
Philadelphia’s agreement with Embiid includes some language that protects the Sixers in the event that the former third overall pick continues to battle injuries in problematic areas, like his feet and back. But in that scenario, the Sixers would have to waive Embiid outright, and they’d still be on the hook for significant guaranteed money — approximately $84MM if they waive him one year into the deal, $98MM if they waive him after two years, and so on.
Wiggins’ contract, meanwhile, doesn’t include that sort of protection. It’s a straight five-year deal with no options.
Given those parameters, which contract would you feel more comfortable with for the next half-decade? Do you have more confidence in Wiggins to develop his game and make good on the Timberwolves’ investment in him, or would you rather be in the Sixers’ spot with Embiid, rolling the dice on his ability to stay healthy and to become one of the league’s premier bigs?
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