Best Potential Trade Scenarios, Packages and Landing Spots for Kevin Love
Milk, butter, mayonnaise, ranch dressing and Kevin Love's tenure with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
What do they all have in common?
One year away from free agency, Love has made it clear he has no intention of remaining in Minnesota beyond next season, according to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski. Six consecutive years of playoff-less basketball has been too much. He wants out and, after years of restraint, the Timberwolves must take action.
"For the first time, [Flip Saunders] sounds like looking at deals for [Love] is an option," one rival executive told Wojnarowski.
Quite predictably, Love's purported availability has already sparked a feeding frenzy. According to Wojnarowski and ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne, the Chicago Bulls, Golden State Warriors, Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns are all expected to enter negotiations. Other suitors are bound to emerge too. Superstars like Love don't become available often, after all.
The problem for everyone involved—Love, the Timberwolves, prospective suitors, etc.—is finding the right fit. Love won't provide assurances that he'll re-sign with just any team. Clubs that don't make his preferred destination list won't fork over valuable assets in exchange for a possible rental. That puts the Timberwolves in a bind.
Moving Love demands they find a team playing in a market their star likes that also offers the right combination of assets in return. Given the alternative—losing him for a nothing—it's a necessary undertaking.
One that, officially or unofficially, must begin now.
Minnesota Timberwolves Get: C Joel Anthony, PF Brandon Bass, F Jeff Green, F Jared Sullinger and Boston's 2014 first-round pick.
Boston Celtics Get: SF Chase Budinger, F Luc Mbah a Moute and PF Kevin Love
Why Minnesota Does It: Right off the bat, you know this isn't an ideal return. But the Timberwolves are limited to trade partners that Love will re-sign with if they want anything of value.
Boston's top 2014 pick is the key. The Celtics can fall no lower than eighth in the lottery, and they have a strong chance of landing in the top five. There's no better way to relaunch a rebuild than by securing a top pick in a loaded draft class.
As for everyone else, well, they're not as appealing. Roy Hibbert once told CSNNE.com that Jared Sullinger could be the "Kevin Love of the East," and he wasn't wrong. Although he needs to get his weight down, Sully has shown potential as a rebounding-savvy stretch forward. So there's that.
Jeff Green's contract runs through 2015-16, and while he's hardly worth the $18.4 million he's owed, he adds athleticism to Minny's frontcourt and replaces some of Love's offense. Both Joel Anthony and Brandon Bass, meanwhile, come off the books after next season, and the Timberwolves also get to ship out two unfavorable deals in Luc Mbah a Moute and Chase Budinger.
Financial relief will be key. They're never going to match Love's value point for point, rebound for rebound, win for win. Increasing financial flexibility is the next best thing.
Why Boston Does It: Talk about accelerated rebuilds.
Wojnarowski says the Celtics are prepared to dangle their top pick in this year's draft for Love. Though that could change if they land in the top three, it also may not.
Pairing Love with Rajon Rondo leaves the Celtics with two superstars who immediately vault them back into contention in the weak Eastern Conference. Playing alongside one another increases the chances that both players remain in Boston beyond next season as well.
Assuming Mbah a Moute's and Budinger's contracts, in addition to already housing Gerald Wallace's onerous deal, messes with their finances, but they have a bevy of first-round picks coming their way in the next few years. Retooling the roster wouldn't be a problem.
Plus, when you have the opportunity to acquire a top-10 superstar, you seize it.
New York Knicks
Minnesota Timberwolves Get: C Tyson Chandler, SG Iman Shumpert and New York's 2018 first-round draft pick
New York Knicks Get: SF Chase Budinger and PF Kevin Love
Why Minnesota Does It: The Timberwolves won't. At least they shouldn't.
Tyson Chandler is valuable as an expiring contract. That's it. Minnesota already has Nikola Pekovic and Gorgui Dieng on the roster, so Chandler wouldn't be a part of its future.
Iman Shumpert has upside on both ends of the floor once you remove his issues with consistency. He could be a key cog in the Timberwolves' backcourt long term.
If the Knicks are anywhere near as bad in 2017-18 as they were this past season, that first-rounder is also something to look at. Just ask the Denver Nuggets.
Why New York Does It: Anytime you're given the opportunity to flip an aging center and mercurial young prospect for a top-10 superstar, you do it.
Marc Berman of the New York Post says the Knicks will try to do it.
They won't succeed.
Looking beyond the fact that Love won't necessarily fit alongside Carmelo Anthony—who thrives at the power forward position—the Knicks just don't have enough in the way of talent or draft picks to offer. Their best—and really only—chance of acquiring Love is via free agency next summer.
Minnesota Timberwolves Get: C Omer Asik, PF Terrence Jones, SF Chandler Parsons and Houston's 2015 first-round pick.
Houston Rockets Get: PF Kevin Love
Why Minnesota Does It: Being backed into a corner does things to a team.
There is no need for Omer Asik in Minnesota. If the Timberwolves paired him with Dieng and Pekovic, I'm pretty sure the world as we know it would cease to exist. They have the option of trading him, but that's only of interest if Asik holds substantial outside value.
Terrence Jones and Chandler Parsons are two floor-spacing forwards who the Timberwolves can use to help refocus their rebuild, but the latter hits unrestricted free agency next summer if he doesn't sign an extension. He could wind up being a rental the Timberwolves bid farewell to in one year's time.
The Rockets have more to give than some—the Knicks and Lakers, for instance—and Love would fit nicely within their three-point happy offense. But good luck relying on him, Howard and Harden to coexist.
All three of those players want the ball in their hands. Neither Jeremy Lin nor Patrick Beverley is equipped to direct this cabal of offensive egos. This trio could fare swimmingly, or they could be a disaster.
To seriously enter the discussion, Houston must find some way to take back one of Minny's less-favorable deals. Using Lin's expiring pact to assume the contract of a guy like Budinger, Corey Brewer or Kevin Martin could work, but that's predicated on the Timberwolves liking what they have to offer in the first place.
Which they may not.
Minnesota Timberwolves Get: SF Mike Dunleavy, PF Taj Gibson, F Nikola Mirotic, Chicago's 2014 first-round pick and Charlotte's 2014 first-round pick.
Chicago Bulls Get: PF Kevin Love
Why Minnesota Does It: If the Timberwolves are looking to shed salary, dealing with Chicago isn't the answer. If they're looking for draft picks and players who can make an immediate impact, they're in luck.
The Bulls have two first-rounders in this year's draft they can send Minny's way. Draft picks are imperative for the Timberwolves as they look to regroup amid Love's departure.
Then there's Taj Gibson, who came on in a big way this past season. He contended for the Sixth Man of the Year award, and emerged as a consistent two-way force who made Bulls fans loathe Carlos Boozer even more.
Nikola Mirotic remains stashed overseas, but he, like Love, is a floor-spacing forward. Mike Dunleavy falls in a similar category.
Should the Bulls amnesty Boozer—no way Minnesota takes him—that does open up the possibility of them taking back a Budinger or Mbah a Moute, which would bolster the appeal of this deal considerably.
Why Chicago Does It: Who needs Carmelo Anthony? Not the Bulls if they pull off this deal.
A source told Frank Isola of the New York Daily News that they're preparing to make a run at the New York Knicks superstar this summer. Doing so requires they open up additional cap space by amnestying Boozer and parting ways with Dunleavy, among others.
Possible? Yes. Difficult? No question.
Anthony will have to accept a pay cut of some kind if he leaves New York for Chicago. Dealing for another superstar could wind up being the easier play.
The biggest obstacle will be finding some way for the Timberwolves to unload one of their more lengthy deals. Tangible assets aren't the problem—financial flexibility is. A third team may need to get involved. Jimmy Butler and Kevin Martin could exchange hands. That's the type of incentive Chicago needs to give.
Stein and Shelburne say that Love is intrigued by the possibility of landing in Chicago, though. If he exerts his leverage by restricting the Timberwolves' trade partners, this will be one of the best packages out there.
Los Angeles Lakers
Minnesota Timberwolves Get: Los Angeles' 2014 first-round pick and...
Los Angeles Lakers Get: PF Kevin Love
Why Minnesota Does It: Frankly, they don't. Not the unless the Lakers land in the top three of the draft lottery.
Here's what Stein wrote on the subject in March:
The suggestion is already in circulation that the Lakers will attempt to use their forthcoming high lottery pick in June to assemble the sort of trade package that finally convinces the Wolves to part with Love and end the uncertainty that hangs over this franchise even before the 25-year-old enters the final year of his contract. Yet there is just as much defiance emanating from Minnesota, as we speak, about the Wolves' ability to keep Love in town.
Resistance might be waning on Minnesota's behalf, but the Lakers don't have much else to offer.
Only Robert Sacre, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash are on guaranteed contracts as of now. Ryan Kelly, Kent Bazemore and Kendall Marshall can all be retained, but none of them are true game-changers.
A Pau Gasol sign-and-trade might be of interest to the Timberwolves. Placing him alongside fellow Spaniard Ricky Rubio would certainly be interesting, yet the aging Gasol wants to play for a contender.
This only becomes a good option for the Timberwolves if the Lakers are able to nab Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins in the draft. They would then essentially flip Love for a potentially transcendent talent, and likely some inconsequential fillers.
It doesn't seem flashy at the moment because it's not. But it has to be considered a viable option because 1) as Stein and Shelburne remind us, Love likes Los Angeles and 2) landing Wiggins or Parker would be considered a win.
Why Los Angeles Does It: Because, duh.
Wojnarowski was kind enough to say the Lakers are planning an aggressive pursuit of Love, but there was really no need. We know they want him. Badly. They need a second superstar to keep Kobe Bryant's title window open and eventually build the team around. Love can be that player.
“You know, my parents live there and they had me there. It’s not my fault,” Love said of joining the Lakers in March, per the Los Angeles Daily News' Mark Medina. “So, I don’t really care about that right now."
Maybe he'll care now.
Problem is, the Lakers' best chance at acquiring Love lies in free agency next summer, when they will have cap space to sign him outright. Right now, they don't have the tangible assets necessary to make a trade realistic.
Unless that changes, they're better off hoping Love doesn't fall out of reach before then.
Minnesota Timberwolves Get: PG Goran Dragic, PF Channing Frye, PF Markieff Morris, Phoenix's 2014 first-round pick and Washington's 2014 first-round pick.
Phoenix Suns Get: SF Chase Budinger and PF Kevin Love
Why Minnesota Does It: Goran Dragic and Rubio would be fun to watch. The end.
Dragic already showed he can play shooting guard this past season. He spent just under half his time playing the 2. His ability to work on and off the ball makes him a stellar sidekick for Rubio in the backcourt.
Channing Frye is valuable as a floor-spacing big like Love. His contract comes off the books next summer as well. Markieff Morris blossomed into a potent weapon on both sides of the floor last season. Acquiring him adds depth and shooting in Minny's frontcourt.
Those two draft picks are valuable for obvious reasons. The Timberwolves would probably prefer the 2015 top-five protected Los Angeles pick that Phoenix owns, but that's a lot to ask for a team that likely won't receive any future guarantees from Love.
Two first-round selections in this year's draft is more than fair given the circumstances.
Why Phoenix Does It: Go big or not at all.
The Suns are opting for the former. Wojnarowski lists them as a team that will be feisty in its attempt to trade for Love. This deal certainly qualifies.
Trading Dragic, who should have been an All-Star this year, won't be easy. But if the Suns are looking to take that next step, they need another superstar. Dragic, unfortunately, doesn't qualify.
Eric Bledsoe is more than capable of running Phoenix's offense on his own. He and Love form a one-two punch that can maim opposing defenses from anywhere on the court, within any type of set.
Re-signing Love is the issue. As a market, Phoenix doesn't offer the same appeal as Los Angeles, Chicago or Boston. Unlike many other teams, though, the Suns have enough to get Love out of Minnesota as soon as possible.
That, along with his first career playoff berth in 2015, could be enough for Love to love the way he looks in purple.
Golden State Warriors
Minnesota Timberwolves Get: SF Harrison Barnes, SF Draymond Green, PF David Lee and Golden State's 2019 first-round pick.
Golden State Warriors Get: SF Chase Budinger and PF Kevin Love
Why Minnesota Does It: The Timberwolves aren't going to get a better offer than this.
David Lee is a double-double machine. If you're looking for a Love replacement that keeps you competitive at power forward immediately, Lee is perfect. He's productive and attainable. That's hard to find.
Paying him nearly $29 million through 2015-16 doesn't sound good, but statistically, he's worth it. Pawning Budinger's deal off on Golden State also helps lighten Minnesota's future financial commitments.
Bring in Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green along with Lee, and the Timberwolves have a core that keeps them somewhat relevant now as they figure out what's next. And whatever's next will include that first-rounder.
A selection that cannot be used for another half-decade isn't aesthetically appealing. The Timberwolves would prefer one in 2015 or 2016 for obvious reasons. But remember, whichever team acquires Love improves. Imminent draft picks won't be worth as much. That 2019 first-rounder—depending on protection—could be extremely valuable down the line.
Why Golden State Does It: Another "duh" moment.
Not even close.
Now, the Timberwolves could demand Thompson be part of any deal. The Warriors could even oblige. Or they could realize that the Timberwolves have little leverage and this package is good enough, because it is good enough—much better than what other teams can offer.
Keeping those five together—Thompson is eligible for an extension this summer—will be pricey. We're talking luxury-tax-and-then-some expensive. But the Warriors wouldn't think twice.
After firing Mark Jackson, they're on the clock. This team is built to contend now, to win now. Hesitation is not an option. Frugalness is not an option.
Here's Bleacher Report's Grant Hughes on the matter:
Golden State is an exciting destination, with loads of talent and enough intriguing assets (David Lee, Harrison Barnes and/or Klay Thompson, to name three) to pull something off. And with the added pressure of winning big under new head coach Steve Kerr, perhaps the Dubs will be extra motivated to swing a deal.
If they have the opportunity to land Love, they must take advantage of it. Worry about the second unit later. Forget the luxury-tax bills. Act as if financial prudence is overrated.
Love, along with the hellacious starting five he would join, is worth it.