Following a report from earlier this month that Kevin Love has no interest in staying with the Minnesota Timberwolves, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne, just about every NBA team with assets to trade has been tied to the Love Affair.
Even teams with minimal resources required for such a blockbuster deal—like the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks—have reportedly entered the fray, per ESPN’s report and the New York Post’s Marc Berman.
The rumors don’t even end there. According to NBA.com’s David Aldridge, the Washington Wizards “are a stealth candidate” for K-Love. Aldridge cites the connection between Love’s father, Stan, who played for the Bullets. Love reportedly “has a soft spot” for the organization due to that relationship.
One notable franchise that is rarely mentioned as a legitimate suitor for Love, though, is the Phoenix Suns.
Phoenix has three first-round picks in the upcoming 2014 draft, cap space, an upstart coach in Jeff Hornacek and a young core of All-Star-caliber players—namely, Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe (if the latter is retained via restricted free agency).
In theory, the Suns have the assets necessary to both entice Love to sign on and send value to Minnesota in return.
So are the Suns a sleeper team capable of landing the former UCLA standout, or merely another name thrown in the hat?
Truth be told, that depends on a variety of factors.
First and foremost, any organization looking to add Love via trade—thus giving up valuable assets to avoid an offseason bidding war—needs assurance that he plans to stay.
The Lakers, for instance, traded for three-time Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard only to see him leave via free agency after one season. Due to a combination of injuries and not receiving any compensation for D12, in 2013-14 L.A. posted its worst record in franchise history since moving to California for the 1960-61 season.
If the Suns were to, say, package Channing Frye’s expiring contract, Alex Len and a combination of two or three first-rounders—in 2014 or down the road—that may tempt Minny’s front office to pull the trigger on a deal.
A potential package from the Warriors including David Lee and Klay Thompson would trump what the Suns could offer (unless they add Dragic or Bledsoe). However, according to the San Jose Mercury News' Marcus Thompson, the Dubs don't want to give up Thompson in a trade for Love. That would make a deal with Golden State much less favorable for Minnesota. Plus, the Suns' collection of draft picks both this year and down the road allow the T-Wolves to create a long-term plan. That gives Phoenix the edge if Thompson is truly untouchable.
The Bulls could get involved by offering a package including Taj Gibson. The talented power forward, however, is already 28 years old. The Timberwolves are looking at a lengthy rebuilding process if they bite the bullet and deal Love. On that basis, nabbing Phoenix's plethora of picks, the youth of Len and perhaps playing hardball to add the potential-packed Archie Goodwin to the deal makes more long-term sense.
If Love refused to sign an extension to stay in the desert, though, then that would create some problems.
According to Stein and Shelburne, “the 25-year-old’s interest in joining the Suns is unclear.”
The Sacramento Kings would reportedly trade for Love even without the promise that he'd sign an extension, per Yahoo Sports' Marc J. Spears. The Suns could embrace that same thought process, but that puts a lot of pressure on McDonough to convince him to stay after next season. Still, Love may fall in love with the Suns' upstart roster if it manages to make the playoffs in 2015.
Love would fit beautifully in Phoenix’s uptempo system. He could continue hauling down rebounds and use his elite outlet passes to find Bledsoe, Dragic and Gerald Green for easy transition buckets. Provided that the Suns won 48 games without Love, there's plenty of reason to believe they'd earn a postseason seed with him on board.
Minnesota Willing to Wait?
According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Jerry Zgoda, Wolves owner Glen Taylor said he doesn’t plan on trading Love prior to the 2014 NBA Draft.
Given that the major assets Phoenix can offer in a trade are picks in said draft, the Suns’ odds of swinging a deal for Love don't seem as favorable.
That doesn’t necessarily mean Planet Orange is completely out of the running, though. McDonough could potentially draft the best player available at Nos. 14, 18 and 27 in hopes of nabbing guys that will appeal to Minnesota later on. Nevertheless, the Suns would benefit if Taylor insisted upon trading Love as soon as possible, thus avoiding a drawn out saga a la Howard.
Waiting to trade Love has its own inherent pros and cons.
On the plus side for Minnesota, refusing to trade the big man prior to the 2014 draft could bring about more suitors. With more teams trying to coax Timberwolves management, Taylor and president of basketball operations Flip Saunders could be the beneficiaries of better offers.
By contrast, waiting too long could cause Minnesota to lose significant leverage. If it gets closer to next year’s trade deadline without any headway, teams may simply opt to wait until 2015 when Love is expected to become a free agent.
Either way, it makes sense for Minnesota to exhaust all options prior to parting ways with a player of Love’s talent level.
Is a Deal Worth It?
If you were in McDonough’s position as GM, would you trade three first-round picks in a package for K-Love?
Boston.com’s Gary Dzen tweeted the following regarding that outlook:
There’s no true way to establish what Love is worth on the open market, but it’s fair to assume it would take a big-time offer to prompt T-Wolves’ management to bite. So is he worth it?
Keep in mind, Love’s teams in Minnesota have never made the playoffs. Not once. Not even as a No. 8 seed.
Granted, the Western Conference is loaded with talented squads and Love’s supporting cast isn’t overwhelming. Ricky Rubio can’t shoot. Ditto for Corey Brewer. Chase Budinger likely can’t remember the last time he stayed healthy and Nikola Pekovic had health issues of his own in 2013-14.
Still, even with those noteworthy circumstances, Love has never reached the postseason action in six seasons as a pro. He’s also experienced his fair share of injury problems in the past.
Is he truly a guy that can put a pseudo-contender over the top? Can he be the No. 1 option on a championship team or does he need to play second fiddle?
If the Suns—or any other team, for that matter—intend on swapping a grab bag of assets for Love, they better be sure he’s worth the price tag.
His stats are incredible, but making teammates better and being part of a winner haven't yet been a big part of his resume.