More than anything else, the Kevin Love Sweepstakes are seen as a battle of front-office wits, whose winner will almost assuredly secure the All-Star forward’s services for seasons to come.
Enter the Sacramento Kings, who could be willing to toss a rather sizable wrench into into the whole process.
According to Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports, the Kings have expressed interest in trading for Minnesota’s prized possession “without any assurance from Love he'd re-sign with them”:
The Kings are willing to give up their eighth overall pick in this year's NBA draft and a combination of players for Love, even though he would not be expected to sign a contract extension before next season – if ever, with the rebuilding, small-market franchise, the source said. Sacramento envisions Love and DeMarcus Cousins playing alongside each other in the front court. Swingman Rudy Gay has a player's option for next season.
The Kings know they'd have to gamble on convincing Love to re-sign, given that the franchise is rebuilding and Love is looking to play for a contender after never reaching the playoffs with the Timberwolves. Love's suitors also figure to include a number of bigger markets, including the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets and Chicago Bulls.
Everyone who saw this coming, please raise your hand...
You, in the back—the dude with the tinfoil hat on his head eating a box of staples. Put your hand down. You’re lying.
This, to put it mildly, is a fascinating development. As Spears aptly points out, owner Vivek Ranadive hasn’t been shy about shelling out the dollars in order to build something resembling a compelling basketball team.
Signing DeMarcus Cousins—a bonafide superstar in waiting—to a four-year, $62 million tender is one thing. But trading for the eminently polarizing Rudy Gay, knowing he has the right to exercise his $19.3 million player option? That’s a straight-up riverboat gamble.
If—and right now, it’s a colossal one—the Kings are somehow able to land Love, you’d better believe Gay will pull the trigger on a Sacramento return. Which he may well have done besides.
Then again, Gay may have been part of Ranadive’s plan all along.
Back in March, the Kings owner spoke with ESPN’s Henry Abbott about what kind of team he envisioned the Kings becoming under his stewardship:
I want to basically play a new brand of position-less basketball. I want to have these super-athletic, young guys that can run and feel out the game. Guys like Rudy Gay, and Derrick Williams, these are guys who can play the 1-2-3-4 positions. There’s work to be done on offense but I think we’ve made progress.
If you think Love—a prototypical stretch 4 with a power forward’s brawn and a point guard’s brain—fits that description, you’d be right.
Whether the Wolves bite on this deal hinges, of course, on which “combination of players” we’re talking about. Because if Sacramento has to give up too much in return, they’d be emptying the cupboards to such an extent that Love’s departure would be all but inevitable.
At the same time, Minnesota’s not just going to accept a No. 8 pick and random flotsam—not when there are other teams with plenty of assets and cap space to put forth a much more palatable proposal.
It’ll be fascinating to watch how this unfolds over the coming days and weeks. On the one hand, it’s easy to see this as a transparent ploy on the part of Ranadive to get his Western Conference rivals to overpay for Love’s services.
On the other, there’s a distinct “crazy like a fox” feel to this whole thing which, if brought to fruition, could be one of the single greatest NBA gambits of the last 10 years.