The Toronto Raptors are already looking to potentially bring Andrew Wiggins home when he becomes an unrestricted free agent, reports Cathal Kelly from The Globe and Mail. That's in 2021 at the earliest -- six years from now. The Raptors have zero players under contract in 2021 because nobody can sign for more than five years.
Nevertheless, plans are reportedly in motion. Kelly mentions the new practice facility the Raptors are building as a key component to the pitch, noting that it could serve as an" indoctrination hub" where Canadian players would practice in the offseason, allowing the franchise to familiarize itself with the them without violating the league's tampering rules.
It's not hard to see why the Raptors would be interested. Wiggins, the country's second-most famous NBA import and a confessed Raptors fan, according to Kelly, is averaging 14.7 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.1 steal a game as a 19-year-old. In the last ten games, he has averaged 20 points per game on 48 percent shooting and at this point looks like a shoo-in for Rookie of the Year.
But are the Raptors really making plans for six years from now?
Why it makes sense
Well, Wiggins is from Canada and reportedly a fan of the Raptors. According to Kelly, Wiggins wanted to attend a game wearing a Raptors jersey before the draft and had to be convinced not to. If he truly feels that passionate about the franchise, it would not be shocking at all for him to consider a return to his hometown when he has his pick. The Raptors have been able to galvanize the Canadian fanbase recently and Wiggins would be showered with praise and adoration by them, especially if he decides to leave money on the table to return.
The Raptors should have a good team in place as well. Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross will be in their prime by then and the team has some intriguing young pieces in Lucas Nogueira and Bruno Caboclo. If they can also secure the services of other high-level Canadian players, or other stars, they could offer both the chance to contend and do it in Canada. If Wiggins wins a championship, it will have more significance than if he does it elsewhere.
Why it doesn't make sense
We are talking about something that can't happen for at least six years!
Wiggins is in the first year of his rookie contract, which means the Timberwolves will have him on their roster for at least three more seasons. Assuming he doesn't sign an extension like many players coming out of rookie contracts do, he will become a restricted free agent after the 2017-18 season.
But the Timberwolves will be able to match any offer he gets, which means the Raptors won't be able to pry him away upright. Toronto must hope Wiggins signs for three years if they want to sign him six years from now and not any more. If Wiggins signs a five-year extension, the Raptors will have to wait until 2023, which is eight years from now. And that assumes the new collective bargaining agreement has similar rules regarding rookie contract extensions as the current one.
Bottom line: a lot can happen in six, seven or eight years. The Timberwolves have a nice young core and will have a high draft pick this offseason, so it's entirely possible for them to be contenders at the time Wiggins unrestricted free agency comes. It's also entirely possible the Raptors aren't even a playoff team by then. In six years, Kyle Lowry will be 34 years old and DeMar DeRozan 30. That's assuming they are all with the team by then, which is impossible to know because we are talking six years down the line.
And there's also this: who knows if Wiggins will even become the star the Raptors are projecting him to be?
There are too many variables at play. On the one hand, it's fair to think Wiggins may choose to play in his home country at some point. On the other, the Timberwolves could lock him up for eight years with a max extension, making all of this speculation moot.
But while it sounds inconceivable, NBA teams do plan for well into the future these days.