It may be early in the NBA season, but certain squads are beginning to understand what they have at their disposal. Those teams are seeking to both improve in the short term and position themselves for future, sustained success.
One of those teams is the Los Angeles Lakers. They are in a perpetual state of uncertainty, with the impending return of legendary shooting guard Kobe Bryant still to come.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are attempting to avert losing one of their franchise cornerstones by reportedly putting younger assets on the block to try to land veterans and make the team more competitive now.
That superstar in the Twin Cities is Kevin Love, who will be an unrestricted free agent in 2015 and should be of interest to many big-market teams, including the New York Knicks. A tough 2-4 start has the Knicks in an early hole and already dreaming of what awaits down the road, regardless of how this season plays out.
Let's take a closer look at the latest trade rumor buzz around the Association and what it means for all the teams involved.
Lakers Seeking Another Point Guard?
Unfortunately for LA, the NBA's oldest player is starting to show it.
Point guard Steve Nash, who won two league MVP awards running head coach Mike D'Antoni's offense in Phoenix, is out for at least two weeks as of Monday evening, per the team's official Twitter:
Injury Update: Steve Nash has been diagnosed with having nerve root irritation. He is expected to be out of action a minimum of 2 weeks.— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) November 12, 2013
According to FoxSportsOhio.com's Sam Amico, that should put the Lakers in the market for another player to run the point in lieu of the 39-year-old, as LA only has Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar on the roster otherwise.
The problem may be that general manager Mitch Kupchak may not have enough viable trade chips to acquire a decent Nash alternative.
League executives Amico spoke with hadn't heard from Kupchak as of late Monday but expected that to change. One GM even said he was already preparing counteroffers in anticipation of what type of players Kupchak might inquire about.
So while it seems like pure speculation, the writing is on the wall that Kupchak will indeed look to upgrade the backcourt to position the Lakers for a playoff spot ahead of Bryant's return.
Timberwolves Don't Want to Share Kevin Love
With a player option to opt out of his contract in 2015, Kevin Love has plenty of leverage. That should galvanize the Minnesota front office into making moves to improve the pieces around him in swift fashion.
According to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, the Knicks' rough start already has them looking toward the first summer Love becomes available. Thus, the Timberwolves are considering moving a couple of youngsters:
Kevin Love is on deck to be recruited to New York in 2015, and that's among the reasons the Timberwolves are so determined to make deals to climb deep into the playoffs these next two years. Young Minnesota players Derrick Williams and Alexey Shved are available in deals for veterans to help these T'wolves now, league executives told Yahoo Sports.
With regard to Williams, it may be difficult for Minnesota to get much for him in return. The 2011 No. 2 overall pick has been a disappointment thus far, but there is still upside.
What will be tricky is getting potential suitors to take on Williams' contract, which owes him just over $5 million total this season and roughly $6.3 million next year, per Spotrac.com.
Shved just isn't very good and won't have much of a chance to showcase his abilities moving forward, with Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin and J.J. Barea all being superior backcourt options.
A trade would likely have to involve both Williams and Shved. Shipping them to a team intent on landing in the draft lottery would be one of the only feasible ways to net a solid veteran in return.
J.R. Smith's Return May Signal End for Iman Shumpert
J.R. Smith is the NBA's reigning Sixth Man of the Year Award winner, so this line of thinking makes at least some sense.
After this season, superstar Carmelo Anthony has an early termination option on his contract, which makes the Knicks' disarray early in the season all the more alarming.
Which team is most likely to make a trade soon?
Wojnarowski notes in his report that New York is already brainstorming for Love as part of its press to keep Anthony in the Big Apple. Clearing out as much room as possible to bring in another star to pair with Anthony will be essential.
That's why Shumpert becomes expendable, and Frank Isola of the New York Daily News reports that the market for the dynamic swingman seems favorable.
"The rest of the league seems to value Iman more than the Knicks do...And his value is high," said one Eastern Conference executive.
Shumpert is an excellent perimeter defender whose game on offense is improving—and he's only 23 years old.
Isola brings up a potential Shumpert swap with the Denver Nuggets for Kenneth Faried in an effort to add depth to the frontcourt. According to Isola, the Knicks believe they have enough insurance on the perimeter with this year's first-round pick in Tim Hardaway Jr. to make such a move.
It remains to be seen if Shumpert is indeed moved, but Smith struggled in his debut after a five-game suspension. Perhaps the Knicks will stay put at least until Smith shows signs of the player who provided such a huge spark off the bench last season.