Can the Washington Wizards realistically compete in the trade market for Love's services? And if they could, would Love really sign on to stay in Washington for the long haul?
The answers to those questions aren't mutually exclusive.
Make no mistake: There's a lot to like about Washington. If Love could join John Wall, who is already inked to a long-term deal, and Bradley Beal, who will be eligible for an extension soon, he'd have the assurance that he'll be able to play with two young stars for the foreseeable future. There probably isn't a better young backcourt in the league, and that's appealing to any frontcourt player.
And while some might be hesitant to bestow that star label on Beal quite yet, the 20-year-old shooting guard has shown that he should be in store for big things going forward. With plenty of athletic ability, a picture-perfect stroke and plenty of room for growth as a ball-handler and defender, it might not be long before we cast Beal into the conversation for the league's best shooting guard.
As for Wall? Despite some struggles this postseason, he's still considered one of the league's very best point guards, and he too is only going to get better with time. Once that jumper falls more consistently and defenders have to play up on him, he is going to be a nightmare to guard. He's far from a finished product, which is a little scary.
While the upward trajectory of Wall, Beal and the Wizards as a whole might be appealing, there's the whole issue that the Wizards will need to forfeit something to get Love in a trade. In order to acquire such a big talent that multiple teams will be vying for, the Wizards would almost certainly have to sacrifice a major part of their future.
David Aldridge at NBA.com has more:
Wiz are a stealth candidate for Kevin Love -- his father, Stan, who played for the then-Bullets in the early '70s, gave his son the middle name "Wesley," as in Wes Unseld. And Kevin Love has a soft spot as a result for the franchise. But the trade talk will surely die when the words "Bradley Beal" come out of Flip Saunders' mouth.
There are problems on all sides here. While Love is a better player than Beal is now, dealing an already productive young player with potential when he's nowhere near his prime is always scary, especially when said player is on a cheap contract. Love is the better talent, but at a max deal compared to Beal's contract, is he really the better value?
That might all be beside the point, anyhow. If it takes Beal to acquire Love, how appealing will re-signing with Washington truly be for Love?
John Wall is a great player, to be sure, but Ricky Rubio has had his moments as well. The Wizards, despite some success this postseason, have been worse over the last few years than the Timberwolves have, so this could be viewed as a lateral move for Love.
Say what you will about Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic and how they fit next to Love, but at least they are on contract. You can't say the same for Trevor Ariza and Marcin Gortat, who will both be unrestricted free agents.
Of course, Love isn't just considering the merits of his current team. He'll be looking ahead to the 2015 offseason as well, where teams like the Houston Rockets could be in prime position to sign him without forfeiting any talent in the process.
As for right now, though, this is about what Minnesota can get for Love in a trade, and the Wolves will do what's best for them, as Kurt Helin at Pro Basketball Talk reminds us:
Neither Sacramento nor Washington are markets that Kevin Love likely has on his “I would re-sign there” list.
Minnesota doesn’t care, they want the best package available.
That leaves Washington with two objectives: beat every other team's best offer for Love but leave enough meat on the bones to entice him to re-sign.
It will be an uphill battle to accomplish that, for sure. It's hard to imagine Minnesota having much interest in Gortat or Ariza, who could be potentially be used in a sign-and-trade. Outside of them, Washington has very little to offer.
Nene is a good player, but his combination of age, contract and injury history makes him undesirable. The Wizards don't have a first-round pick this year to deal, and last year's first-round choice Otto Porter Jr. showed virtually nothing in his rookie season.
The rest of the roster is made up of aging veterans or middling free-agent big men, neither of which should interest Minnesota all that much.
There are other disadvantages as well. Washington isn't exactly established as an immediate title contender, given its past performances and all the likely turnover from this year's team. That, alongside with having to compete with teams that have more assets and bigger markets, might be enough to leave Washington out of the conversation altogether.
Here's Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo Sports with more:
"For the first time, [Saunders] sounds like looking at deals for [Love] is an option," one rival executive told Yahoo Sports.
The Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns are among many teams determined to make hard runs at trades for Love, league sources said. Boston and Los Angeles plan to make high-lottery picks in the 2014 NBA draft available in offers for Love, sources said.
No team is likely to trade for Love without an assurance that he'll commit to a five-year, $100 million maximum contract extension. Despite a belief that Love prefers Los Angeles or New York as a potential destination, he's open to deals in other markets where he can be part of an immediate contender, sources said.
Ultimately, the Wizards can enter the sweepstakes for Love this offseason if they so choose, but it might not be the home run you'd expect from making such a move. Trading multiple future draft picks and some veterans probably won't be enough, and dealing Beal would jeopardize Love's future with the team.
Sacrificing Beal isn't worth a one-year rental of Love, no matter how great of a big man he is. There would need to be assurances given, of course, and it's hard to imagine Love doing that just to play with Wall. Perhaps more importantly, Love would be committing to playing under Randy Wittman and for general manager Ernie Grunfeld, who rank pretty low on the league's coach/GM combos.
It may sound harsh, but there are more talented teams with more movable parts, smarter management, bigger markets and better chances at sustainable success. The Wizards are definitely on the right track, but save for offering Beal, they don't have enough juice to enter the trade sweepstakes for a superstar like Love.