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Why Golden State Warriors Should Go All-in on Kevin Love Trade

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Why Golden State Warriors Should Go All-in on Kevin Love Trade
Rocky Widner/Getty Images

There are plenty of complicated subjects in the NBA, but making a case for the Golden State Warriors to relentlessly pursue a trade for Kevin Love is not one of them.

Here's the deal: He's reportedly trying to get himself on the market, and the Warriors need him. It's that simple.

The catalyst for this discussion is a report from ESPN's Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne:

Kevin Love has made it clear to the Timberwolves that he intends to become an unrestricted free agent after next season and has no interest in a contract extension this summer to stay in Minnesota, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.

Although sources say Love has stopped short of demanding a trade, his position could effectively force the Timberwolves to deal the All-Star forward before next season—or before the trade deadline in February 2015 at the latest—if they hope to dodge the risk of losing him without compensation.

Sources told ESPN.com that the Golden State Warriors and Chicago Bulls are among the potential trade destinations that intrigue Love.

It's hard to think of a team that Love couldn't help, but the Warriors are in particular need of the unique combination of skills he'd bring.

 

The Perfect Piece

Rocky Widner/Getty Images

Caught in a strange middle ground between conventional lineups featuring two big men and more modern four-out sets, the Dubs' strategic future is uncertain. They just finished a season in which an emphasis on playing big and rebounding the ball resulted in the best defensive season the franchise had seen in decades.

But during the playoffs, an injury to Andrew Bogut forced the Warriors into lineups with one big man and more shooters around the perimeter. It didn't work quite so well in these playoffs as it did against the Denver Nuggets in the 2012-13 postseason, but there was still plenty of evidence to suggest the Dubs were better off going with more space at the expense of size on offense.

That's the beauty of Love's game: He'd let the Warriors have the best of both worlds.

Assuming David Lee and his hefty annual salary (nearly identical to Love's per-year compensation, by the way) would have to be part of any deal to make the Wolves budge, Love would slot in next to Bogut on the front line. And as we all know, Love offers better spacing from the power forward spot than any of his peers.

Perhaps there'd be concern about Love being a liability on defense. But Golden State just suffered through four seasons with Lee as its power forward, so it knows what real defensive ineptitude looks like. It's basically impossible for an interior player to be less helpful than Lee, and the combination of Bogut and Andre Iguodala did more than enough to compensate for his shortcomings this season.

Rocky Widner/Getty Images

Love is bigger than Lee, rebounds better and has never had the benefit of playing alongside a center as defensively dominant as Bogut. So for any Dubs fans who just experienced the thrill of great team defense for the first time, fear not; Love won't mess up a good thing.

Offensively, there's no need for a hard sales pitch.

Just imagine the ridiculous high pick-and-roll game Stephen Curry could get into with Love. Defenses wouldn't be able to leave either player—and we're talking 30 feet from the hoop here.

Curry already commands double-teams by necessity because he can hit off the dribble with only a sliver of space. And Love commands nearly the same amount of attention.

I'd like to see teams like the Los Angeles Clippers pick the Warriors apart with high traps when Love and his deadly combo of passing and shooting is the outlet for Curry's quick dump offs.

It's not an exaggeration to say the two-man tandem of Curry and Love would present problems for defenses that are literally unprecedented. You can't overstate the potential of an offense with that duo as the foundation.

And the Dubs need offense. Part of the blame for their No. 12 rating in offensive efficiency last year, per NBA.com, belongs on the uninventive stylings of the departed Mark Jackson. But there was also a clear spacing issue.

Lee's mid-range jumper abandoned him, and as his field-goal percentage from 16-23 feet dipped all the way to 35.7 percent last year (his career average is 42 percent from that distance, per Basketball-Reference.com), he stopped shooting outside the lane entirely.

As a result, the offense bogged down, and it was increasingly difficult for the Warriors' perimeter players to find space.

New head coach Steve Kerr is expected to engineer a smarter system that takes advantage of the talent on hand. That'll help.

But why not supercharge the offense if the opportunity presents itself? It's tough to see any offensive scheme that features Curry and Love ranking outside the league's top five.

 

Pressure's On

Rocky Widner/Getty Images

Speaking of Kerr, signing him to a big deal to replace Jackson puts the Warriors' front office in a position where the status quo will no longer be enough to satisfy fans or critics.

Sure, the team could place its hopes for improvement in better health and some organic growth. But that's not this management group's style. Owner Joe Lacob and general manager Bob Myers know the team must improve, and bold moves have been their forte since day one.

Getting Love in a massive deal would be par for the course for a franchise that dealt the beloved Monta Ellis for the injured Bogut two years ago and signed Andre Iguodala to a hefty offseason deal this past summer.

It's easy to speculate on any of the huge number of teams already connected to Love. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports has already mentioned nearly a quarter of NBA teams that have interest in Love, and if you wait five minutes, he'll tweet about a few more.

But the Warriors have a desire (and perhaps a need) to get a deal done that exceeds anyone else's in the league.

They also have the assets.

 

The Right Package

Lee would almost certainly have to be part of any deal to make the finances work smoothly. His contract is fully guaranteed for another three years and $44 million, per ShamSports.com, and there's a decent chance the Wolves would balk at taking on that kind of commitment for a player who isn't quite a star.

If that's the case, this thing might never get off the ground.

But remember, the Wolves aren't measuring Lee against Love. They're measuring Lee against the prospect of getting absolutely nothing for their best player if he walks away as a free agent after this coming season.

Minnesota isn't exactly loaded with leverage.

With Lee as a hypothetical starting point, the Dubs could toss in any number of sweeteners.

The sign-and-trade exchange that brought Iguodala into the fold cost Golden State most of its valuable expiring deals and two first-round picks, but the Dubs still have enticing assets to include.

Harrison Barnes is probably the guy most Warriors fans would like to see go. He regressed in his second season, and Draymond Green is a cheaper, more effective option on the depth chart. Of course, if the Wolves have been paying attention to the NBA at all over the past year, they also know Barnes is damaged goods.

Green might entice Minnesota as well, and while it would hurt to lose a freshly minted fan favorite (and a flat-out winner who does all the dirty work good teams need done), he's not the kind of untouchable talent that should nix a deal like this.

Klay Thompson is another potential addition here, and his departure would hurt the Warriors most.

Let's just be honest, though: None of those three wings are stars. Thompson is a terrific young player who can shoot the lights out and defend elite perimeter opponents. And he's still on his rookie-scale deal to boot.

But Golden State might not be able to afford the extension he'll be eligible for as soon as this summer anyway. So it might be better to move him at the absolute height of his value before he prices himself out of the Dubs' range.

 

Have A Little Faith

Talents like Love don't come cheap—even when their current teams are dealing from a position of weakness. But the chance to add a superstar doesn't roll around all that often, and Love isn't just any superstar.

He's an absolutely perfect fit for what the Warriors need.

So if it takes Lee, Barnes and Green, or Lee and Thompson plus a little more, the Dubs must pull the trigger.

Maybe that's bold, and maybe it would leave an already weak bench even weaker. But this is where the front office deserves the benefit of the doubt in solving the depth issue.

Trading as many as three rotation players for one would leave Golden State with some holes. But it will have the full mid-level exception to use, and we know winning environments (which the Warriors would clearly have with Love in tow) attract good players who might take a little less to be a part of a winning team.

At this point, Myers and the front office deserve a little faith.

And besides, isn't figuring out which role players to use around a core of Curry, Iguodala, Love, Bogut and Thompson or Barnes a pretty good problem to have?

 

The Final Step

The point is this: The Warriors want to take the next (and perhaps final) step in their pursuit of building a championship roster. In fact, they're desperate to do so.

Lacob is impatient; just ask Jackson. This is a franchise that wants to win yesterday.

Taking that next step isn't without its risks. Love could walk away after the 2014-15 season if he doesn't see a situation in Golden State he likes. That's a scary thought.

But the Dubs can max him out with an extension if he chooses to stay. With the cap projected to rise in each of the next few seasons and wiggle room to clear more than $20 million in space over the next couple of years, Golden State will be able to retain Love for as big a deal as he wants.

The Warriors canned a coach who won 51 games, and they've operated with a confident approach that borders on cockiness under Lacob.

This is exactly the kind of move this ownership group would love (pun sort of intended) to make—as much for the epic splash it would create in the media as the obvious positives it would offer on the court.

All the pieces fit here, and even if it feels a little scary to give up key young players along with Lee, this is an opportunity the Warriors simply cannot pass up.

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