loverubioRicky Rubio and the Timberwolves agreed to a four-year, $55 million contract extension over the weekend, and as is often the case the immediate discussion from many fans became an attempt to determine whether the contract is fair — or which side got the better deal. The general reaction we saw was that Rubio made out like a bandit.

But as is often the case with contracts, this deal is more nuanced than just the details on an offer sheet. It is a culmination of many factors, some of which favored Rubio and some of which favored the Wolves:

*With the trade of Kevin Love this summer, the Wolves pretty much backed themselves into a corner when it came to attempting to retain Rubio. Letting him reach restricted free agency and even entertaining the notion of not bringing him back would have been another step in the direction of a total rebuild instead of what Flip Saunders and co. hope is a remaking of the roster instead. From that standpoint, Rubio and his reps had leverage.

*Where the Wolves could counter with some leverage is that Rubio, while showing some flashes of potential, hasn’t yet become an elite (or even consistently above-average) point guard. He has his strengths (vision, defensive intuition) and glaring weaknesses (shooting accuracy, on-ball defense against quick opponents). The counter to that is that Rubio only freshly turned 24 years old, even though it feels as though we’ve known about him forever, and that there is still plenty of time for him to improve to be a functional shooter while building on his other skills. Still, the Wolves could say they were going into negotiations on faith and potential, thus taking talk of a five-year max deal well off the table even though they still had it in their pocket after not giving it to Love.

*The impending TV contract that figures to goose the salary cap upward quite a bit, too, worked in the favor of both sides. Rubio could get a massive deal that sets him up for life without the potential for a down year entering free agency that would diminish his value and the Wolves could dish out a contract that might seem big now but could seem tilted in their favor under the new salary structure, particularly if Rubio improves.

In the end, Rubio probably squeezed a little more out of the Wolves than they wanted to pay because of the Love leverage factor. Rubio will make $1 million more per season next year than fellow 2009 draftee Steph Curry, and nobody would say he’s a better player than Curry. That said, market value is set by so many more factors, particularly these days, than simply a player’s accomplishments.

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