A lot can happen in 12 months, and the Celtics seem ready to gamble on their next year, including acquiring the three-time All-Star and then convincing him to stick around for a while.
The order of those events is important. The consensus has been that any of Love's countless suitors would require him to commit to a long-term extension before selling the farm to bring him on board.
That's not a requirement in Danny Ainge's (Celtics president of basketball operations) world, though. He said as much (without technically saying it) during an appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub's Toucher & Rich Show:
Danny Ainge just told us that he would be open to trading for a high caliber player in their last year without an agreement to an extension.— Toucher and Rich (@Toucherandrich) May 21, 2014
Love can opt out of his current contract after the 2014-15 season.
It's that uncertainty—combined with Love's unwillingness to sign an extension with the Minnesota Timberwolves before next summer—that has the 25-year-old on (or near) the trade market in the first place.
If the Celtics would sign off on the deal without an agreement with Love, they could give the Timberwolves the leverage that currently belongs to their face of the franchise. If no one would trade without an extension, Love could force Minnesota's hand by making it known where he would be willing to sign a new contract.
Should the Celtics swing the trade without an extension, they'll be looking to scratch Love's legacy itch.
"The Celtics believe they can sell Love on becoming the next big Celtics star and all the adulation that comes with that for a franchise that has won 17 NBA championships," Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports wrote.
Ainge's comment should not be construed as a commitment to doing a deal with Love sans long-term extension. Rather, the executive is simply admitting it is a possibility, as it seems anything thrown his way over the next month will be.
The Celtics hold the sixth and 17th picks in June's draft. Those could form the foundation of a blockbuster deal for a top-shelf target like Love. Or they could be packaged together to move up the draft board. Or Boston could move back in the draft and stockpile some assets for the future.
"I do think that’s a possibility, moving up. Moving down is also a possibility," Ainge said, via Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald. "And moving out or using those picks are all options. We’ll explore all those things."
Even with Ainge putting a no-stone-unturned stamp on his draft strategy, this still feels like the summer of Love in Boston (and roughly 28 other NBA cities).
Ainge needs to determine whether the price is right for Love, both now and down the line.
Should the Celtics try to trade for Kevin Love?
"Love (or a player of his caliber) won't come cheap," ESPN Boston's Chris Forsberg wrote. "It's likely to cost the team multiple first-round picks and young talent just to get Love in green, then you gotta pay him max money moving forward."
How high might that initial cost be? ESPN.com's Zach Harper built a trade package for the Celtics to offer in exchange for Love: Kelly Olynyk, Jared Sullinger, Brandon Bass, Phil Pressey, Vitor Faverani, both 2014 first-round picks and Boston's first-round pick in 2016.
That's a five-player, three-pick package for Love. Even if all five players on Boston's side are expendable (they are), that's opening a ton of roster holes and sacrificing three potential chances to address those gaps in the draft.
Ainge did broker a similar deal for a transcendent Timberwolves forward before. He parted with five players and two draft picks to get Kevin Garnett in 2007, but KG also arrived with a five-year commitment to the franchise.
Would Love be worth a similar all-in offer? Absolutely—if he comes with a signed extension in hand.
Without it, that's a massive risk to take. It could be worth it, though, if Ainge can find the perfect one-year strategy to convince Love his future belongs in Boston.