When players—even rookies—agree to contracts, it implies attachment; it creates a sense of loyalty and obligation between player and team.
In the case of No. 1 overall draft picks, that first contract usually marks the beginning of what will be a long, lasting relationship.
For Wiggins and the Cavs, it won't. His future with the team isn't tied to his contract or the fact that Cleveland chose him before so many others.
It's tethered to Love.
Sources told ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst the Cavaliers plan to sign their top pick very soon.
Although the absence of a deal to this point has been twisted to mean any number of things, Windhorst says it's just business:
Sources told ESPN.com that the Cavaliers' delay in signing the former Kansas star has nothing to do with the prospect of Wiggins being dealt to the Minnesota Timberwolves as part of Cleveland's ongoing trade discussions for Kevin Love.
The Cavaliers, sources say, are merely exploring options for using their estimated $1.4 million in remaining cap space before signing Wiggins to a contract that will pay him in the neighborhood of $5.5 million as a rookie. ...
... The Cavs' delay in formalizing Wiggins' contract has garnered extra attention because of the Love factor, but the reality is that this process is a fairly routine bit of salary-cap management that takes place this time of year with draft picks.
If Wiggins' contract is emblematic of anything significant, it's that the Cavaliers are done trying to recruit free agents. That's all the absence and inevitable presence of a contract is: cap politics.
Committing to one another on paper won't stop the rumor-mill beast. The chatter won't cease. It will only continue...for longer than intended.
Once Wiggins signs his deal, he cannot be traded for 30 days, guaranteeing at least one more month of rampant speculation and strategically leaked babble.
Unless Love is dealt elsewhere first.
Those 30 days would serve as a window of opportunity for any other interested teams, as CBS Sports' Matt Moore explains:
Having to wait 30 days wouldn't mean that the deal is precluded from happening. They can work throughout the period to reach a deal, or just agree to one and wait 30 days.
But without it being able to be made official, there is the risk of another team, be it Golden State, Boston or some sleeper team, of coming in with an offer to bowl over the Wolves and acquire Love. It does mean the situation remains fluid and if they go though [sic] with it, to a degree it's a dare-you move by the Wolves.
What could happen in 30 days?
Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics could assemble a package that catches the Minnesota Timberwolves' attention.
The Denver Nuggets could open their stable of assets and allow Flip Saunders to handpick his return.
The Golden State Warriors could (finally) come to their senses and include Klay Thompson in a deal that ESPN.com's Marc Stein says would have been "clinched" by now if the shooting guard was available.
Another dark-horse suitor could ride in brandishing assets on assets on assets and steal Love before the Cavaliers can officially trade for him.
Any one of those scenarios is a real danger that would prevent Cleveland from landing Love, bringing an end to incessant conjecture. But that doesn't mean the rumors will actually end.
The emergence of a dark horse remains unlikely. If the Celtics, Nuggets or another team planned to barge into what is now a two-team race, it would have been before the draft, when they were slinging lottery picks as compensation.
Cleveland's most direct competition, its biggest threat, remains the Warriors, who can toss in Thompson on a whim and apparently end everything. That's only if they move on their current stance, which, thus far, has been inflexible and is unlikely to change due to the impact the trade would have on their defense, per USA Today's Sam Amick:
Their recent refusal to include guard and Timberwolves target Klay Thompson in the deal is rooted in this reality, as losing Thompson would not only leave [Stephen] Curry overexposed defensively in the backcourt but is compounded by the fact that Love — much like incumbent power forward David Lee, who would head to Minnesota if this deal got done — isn't exactly known as a two-way player. From [owner Joe] Lacob on down, this is a major part of the Warriors' internal analysis and something that belies all the initial speculation about how this [Steve] Kerr era might be defined.
Thirty days from Wiggins signing a new contract, the Timberwolves won't have necessarily received a better offer than they have now.
Dealing with the Cavs, even if it means they have to drag this thing out longer, may be the best option they have.
No End in Sight Yet
Even if the Timberwolves field a better offer, even if they are unwilling to wait—unlikely considering how long this saga has already lasted—this soap opera isn't over.
The Cavaliers aren't excluded from the Love sweepstakes without Wiggins. The inability to trade him diminishes the appeal of their offer and damages their chances, but it doesn't destroy them entirely.
LeBron James wants Love, per Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski. Like, he really, really wants him:
Simply walking away from any James-endorsed venture isn't an option for Cleveland. If James wants Love, the Cavs are expected to go after him, so they'll continue to chase him no matter what.
Chris Broussard of ESPN.com already revealed the Cavs have attempted to acquire Love without including Wiggins by dangling Dion Waiters, Anthony Bennett and a first-round pick. Some version of that deal could be revisited, or Cleveland could continue searching for a third party to help facilitate the transaction.
There's no concrete evidence Wiggins is truly available, mind you. Broussard says he is, but the Associated Press' Jon Krawczynski says otherwise:
If Wiggins were on the table, one has to imagine a potential deal would have more traction. There would be something, anything, suggesting a trade is close or inevitable.
Talks wouldn't just plow on like this. Minnesota wouldn't be applying pressure to Golden State for this long, nor are the Cavaliers likely to balk at additional requests levied by the Timberwolves. Offering Wiggins is proof they're all in on Love, and such a commitment wouldn't be compromised by arguments over Bennett or Waiters.
"I just know what you know, I just see what you see on TV," Wiggins said of trade rumors, per NBC Sports' Kurt Helin.
What we know hasn't changed: Wiggins' future inside or outside Cleveland remains tightly bound to the Cavaliers' interest in Love more than it does the contract he may or may not sign.