New York Knicks Must Give Up Pipe Dream of Trading for Kevin Love

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New York Knicks Must Give Up Pipe Dream of Trading for Kevin Love
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

If and when the Minnesota Timberwolves finally relent and trade Kevin Love, he will not be headed to the New York Knicks, who have predictably sauntered their way into an impossible situation.

Enraged after six consecutive seasons without a playoff berth, Love apparently has no interest in staying with Minnesota beyond next season, according to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski and ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne. Reports suggest that Love has stopped short of demanding a trade, but that's neither here nor there. If he intends to leave the Timberwolves in free agency next summer, they must strike a trade or risk losing him for nothing.

Once word got out that he could be available, there was no shortage of suitors. The Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns are all expected to have interest.

Oh, and the Knicks. Them, too.

Marc Berman of the New York Post revealed that team president Phil Jackson is "plotting" to dress Love in orange and blue. Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News confirmed the Knicks' interest as well, adding that New York is among Love's preferred landing spots. 

That's all well and good—and exciting—if the Knicks actually trade for Love. But they won't. Because they can't. 

 

Laughable Offer

Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Interest in Love is already high. While he holds plenty of leverage by threatening to leave, the Timberwolves aren't going to hold a fire sale and trade their three-time All-Star for assorted spare parts, second-rate assets, "pet unicorns and basketball-dominating dragons."

Incidentally, that's all the Knicks have to offer, per Berman:

The Knicks believe they have the expiring contracts — Tyson Chandler and Iman Shumpert in particular — the Wolves might want so Minnesota can keep cap space to go after the star-studded 2015 free agent class.

But the Knicks can’t give up a first-round pick until 2018. Saving that 2018 first-round pick for a potential Love deal was one of the factors in the Knicks deciding not to offer it to Toronto during Kyle Lowry talks.

Expiring contracts aren't going to get the job done. That offer won't even come close to catching Minnesota's attention.

Tyson Chandler may or may not be able to regain Defensive Player of the Year form next season. Going on 32, it's unlikely you get much more from him. And as we also saw this year, he's not one to handle losing well. There were times when he seemed to lead a disinterested mutiny on defense, almost like he was trying to prove a point to then-head coach Mike Woodson.

There won't be any additional motivation in Minnesota. The Timberwolves haven't made the playoffs in 10 years, and dealing Love ensures their lottery-bound streak will continue for at least another season. They don't have a need for Chandler either. Not with Nikola Pekovic and Gorgui Dieng in the mix. Chandler's only value to them is as an expiring contract, which means little when it's not accompanied by potential building blocks.

Iman Shumpert could have a future in Minnesota, but the Timberwolves won't be given much time to figure that out. The inconsistent and injury-prone shooting guard will reach restricted free agency in summer 2015, meaning it's possible he becomes nothing more than a one-year rental. 

None of which suggests the Timberwolves would have any use for him beyond next year. Shump has been touted as an elite two-way prospect for three years now. Each season, he's shown flashes of brilliance, yet discouraging bouts with lethargy and inadequacy have filled the time in between.

New York's 2018 first-rounder is easily the most valuable piece to this puzzle. The Timberwolves will obviously want something sooner, but future draft picks with no protection can pay dividends later on—especially when they come from the Knicks. The Denver Nuggets will attest.

Rocky Widner/Getty Images
Teams like the Warriors have more to offer than New York.

Whichever team lands Love is going to markedly improve. Imminent selections diminish in value accordingly. That 2018 first-round pick could fall in the lottery for all Minnesota knows.

But that's it. And it's not enough. Not when you consider the Warriors can offer young talent—Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson—and a two-time All-Star of their own in David Lee. Not when you consider the Rockets can build something around a budding swingman like Chandler Parsons. Not when you consider the Celtics and Suns are swimming in first-rounders they can dangle as bait. 

John Schmeelk of CBS New York drives this point home:

Other teams are in much better position. The Celtics, Suns and Bulls all have multiple draft picks they could offer Minnesota, as well as young guns. If Love is willing to go to one of those locations (assuming they want him) and sign an extension, a trade wouldn’t be difficult to figure out. Their offers would be far better than anything the Knicks could conjure.

Of all the interested teams, the Knicks have the least to offer. The lone club they can rival are the Lakers, who only have the player they select in this year's draft to sling, and even that could be considered a superior proposal.

Why, if you're Jackson and the Knicks, should you even bother wasting any sort of time on trying to deal for Love?

You shouldn't. 

Curiosity is understandable. It's Kevin Love. Top-10 superstars rarely become available. When they do, you look, as the Knicks have. In some cases, you push. You go after said player hard. The Knicks are a different story.

This "plotting" business is a joke. There's no feasible scenario in which they can land Love via trade. None. Not even if they involve a third team. Not even if Love pulls a Carmelo Anthony and tries to force his way to New York. 

The Knicks' best chance at acquiring Love has always been—and will remain—in 2015 free agency. They will have plenty of cap space to burn next summer, even if Anthony re-signs for the maximum amount allowed this offseason. It's then that the Knicks can chase Love without regard for their lack of trade assets.

Not a moment sooner.

 

Uncertain Fit

Tyler Kaufman/Getty Images

All of this, of course, is assuming the Knicks should even go after Love. 

Again, they have to look. Whether it's in free agency or by way of trade, due diligence must be done. But let's not pretend this is, with absolute certainty, a pipe dream the Knicks should be investing time, money and assets in. If they're content indulging airy hopes, there are other forms of wishful thinking worth catering to.

First off, Love and Anthony aren't the perfect dyad. Anthony thrives at power forward, Love's position. He played 72 percent of his minutes at the 4 in 2012-13, and spent 62 percent of them there this past season.

Now, Love isn't Andrea Bargnani. He isn't Amar'e Stoudemire. He can actually space the floor from the free-throw line extended, allowing Anthony to operate off the block without clogging New York's offensive pipeline. 

If there's anyone you move Melo back to the 3 for, it's him. The Knicks superstar did register a player efficiency rating north of 22 at small forward this season, according to 82games.com, so there are traces of merit to overlooking this overlap in positional preference.

Ignoring potential fit, though, doesn't promise success. Nor does it mean there won't be lasting repercussions.

Pairing Love with Anthony destroys any possibility the Knicks have of landing a star point guard or another max free agent next summer. And the Knicks need a preeminent playmaker of some kind. 

Are they prepared to sacrifice a potential run at Rajon Rondo or LeBron James—who could consider signing with the Knicks if he decides to explore free agency next year instead of this summer now that Jackson is on board, according to the New York Daily News' Frank Isola—for Love? They shouldn't be.

Landing Jame is a long shot. Beyond a long shot. But if you're going to pitch a tent on fool's paradise, make sure it's closest to the mirage that makes the most sense.

 

Empty Whimsy

Look at Love, New York.

Don't drool over him.

He's not coming to the rescue. 

The Zen Master was brought to New York to fix the Knicks, not work miracles. Convincing the Timberwolves to trade Love for what the Knicks can offer would take some combination of dark magic and blackmail. So, it's not happening.

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"I'm not in a position where you would say absolutely I wouldn't do it, because what if something that I can't even speculate (on) happens? You'd say, 'You're nuts, Glen,'" Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor told the Pioneer Press' Charley Walters of dealing Love. "Maybe some team puts a value on him that's different than we suspect."

That team won't be the Knicks. The Timberwolves know what they can offer, what they will offer.

Whatever it is, what ever it winds up being, it won't be enough to actualize the latest and greatest purported desires of a Knicks team stumbling into another fantasy they're bound to exit empty-handed.

 

*Salary information via ShamSports.


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