The Best Kevin Love Trade Offer Every Interested Team Could Put Together
Chances are, no team is going to come up with a Godfather offer for Kevin Love.
The threat of him walking away after just one season in a new uniform is too great for teams to completely break the bank and leave all other offers in the dust. But at the same time, Love is such a talented and useful big man that impressive packages are still going to come flowing into the Minnesota Timberwolves' offices.
So, how will Flip Saunders, the president of basketball operations, react to each one?
That's the question at the heart of this article, as we're seeking not only to come up with each team's best offer—that simultaneously remains realistic—but also to understand how it would benefit Minnesota. Even if it doesn't feel true, the 'Wolves hold some of the cards here, because they can easily keep Love on the roster for one more year before daring him to opt out.
Up to this point, 10 teams have expressed interest.
Yahoo! Sports' Marc Spears recently broke the news that the Sacramento Kings had joined the party, even if they were only treating Love as a one-year rental, but do the Sac-Town residents have the upper hand? Does the pole position belong to someone else?
Timberwolves receive: No. 6 pick, No. 17 pick, 2015 first-round pick from Los Angeles Clippers, Jared Sullinger, Brandon Bass, Gerald Wallace
Celtics receive: Kevin Love, Corey Brewer
The Boston Celtics have the luxury of the Brooklyn Nets on their side. They're overflowing with draft picks throughout the foreseeable future, and that allows them to deal some of their current ones, seeing as those are easily the most attractive assets at their disposal.
On top of that, Jared Sullinger looks like a potential starter, and Brandon Bass will always be a quality rotation member thanks to his mid-range shooting ability and knack for creating his own offense. Don't view Gerald Wallace as anything more than a means to make money work, though.
How could the 'Wolves turn this down?
Sure, giving up Love and Corey Brewer is a lot, but they'd have the ability to immediately reload. The No. 17 pick in this draft class is quite valuable given its depth, and the No. 6 selection could be used to land a potential superstar. In addition to that, there's another first-round pick coming in?
How Does Flip Saunders Respond: Doesn't even hesitate.
Timberwolves receive: No. 16 pick, No. 19 pick, rights to Nikola Mirotic, 2015 first-round pick from the Sacramento Kings, Carlos Boozer
Bulls receive: Kevin Love
This trade offer would be quite similar to the one offered by the Celtics, except there's a bit more uncertainty.
At least the No. 6 pick brings in a more promising prospect while Jared Sullinger is already established as a quality rotation member. In this trade, the No. 16 and No. 19 picks aren't guaranteed to produce stars, and Nikola Mirotic is still a giant question mark.
That said, the Montenegrin forward seems to flash superstar potential every time he suits up across the pond, and he may well be the best player not in the NBA. So as soon as he journeys over to the States, chances are good that he'll be an immediate contributor.
The upside here is, well, the upside. With two first-round picks coming in the stacked 2014 class and another coming via the Sacramento Kings and Mirotic, it's hard for many teams to beat this offer. But Saunders has to be completely convinced that he has impeccable job security.
After all, Carlos Boozer isn't Utah Jazz Carlos Boozer anymore, and everything else in this deal is brimming over with uncertainty. Effectively, Minnesota would be taking a giant leap backward and hoping to make up that ground and a lot more down the road.
There are no guarantees here.
How Does Flip Saunders Respond: Checks his job security, then does it.
Timberwolves receive: No. 1 pick, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters
Cavaliers receive: Kevin Love, Kevin Martin
How good would Joel Embiid look in a Minnesota uniform? What about Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker?
That's the dream scenario for the 'Wolves, who would also be picking up two young, talent-laden players on reasonable contracts. And thanks to the financial flexibility of the Cleveland Cavaliers, they don't even have to take on any bad contracts to make this happen.
Waiters might have experienced some downs during his first two years in the NBA, but he showed throughout the second half of the 2013-14 campaign that he can excel when functioning as the primary scorer out of the backcourt. It's not like Ricky Rubio is going to challenge him for that status, so no worries there.
As for Thompson, his development has stagnated, but he remains a 23-year-old big man with plenty of potential on both ends of the court. He just needs help and time, and a change of scenery might do him good as well.
Is it worth parting with both Kevins for this type of package? Well, it depends on how you feel about the trio of elite prospects sitting atop most draft boards.
Chances are, that's going to result in a definitive "yes" for Minnesota.
How Does Flip Saunders Respond: Where do I sign?
Golden State Warriors
Timberwolves receive: David Lee, Harrison Barnes, Klay Thompson
Warriors receive: Kevin Love, Kevin Martin
The Golden State Warriors don't have any draft picks to offer, seeing as they got rid of just about every single one of them for all eternity while attempting to bring Andre Iguodala and Dwight Howard to the Bay Area.
Fortunately though, there are plenty of intriguing players left to offer.
David Lee would be a less effective version of Love in the Minnesota frontcourt, given his offensive tools and lack of defensive awareness, but the difference would be accounted for by the arrival of two high-potential wing players.
While Harrison Barnes has struggled ever since leaving North Carolina, he's still an elite athlete with quite the pedigree. It's too soon to give up on him, even if he's been rather disappointing for Golden State. Klay Thompson has not been even remotely disappointing, and his jump-shooting abilities and defensive acumen would already make for an upgrade over everything the post-prime Kevin Martin brings to the table.
This is the classic case of both teams loving a package. The Warriors get a replacement for Thompson and another superstar to pair with Stephen Curry, and the 'Wolves drift into the land of potential without taking too many steps backward.
How Does Flip Saunders Respond: Spends a lot of time scratching his head and pondering this trade before ultimately giving his approval.
Timberwolves receive: No. 25 pick, 2016 first-round pick, Omer Asik, Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin, Terrence Jones
Rockets receive: Kevin Love, Kevin Martin
Not one of the pieces the Houston Rockets are offering here is going to win over the Timberwolves by itself.
But the combined product might have a better chance of swaying Saunders and the rest of the front office in Minnesota.
Chandler Parsons is one of the biggest bargains in the NBA, but he's soon going to receive an extension that pays him something much closer to his actual value. As a result, the appeal in landing him rests solely on his on-court skills, which are still quite valuable given his extreme versatility and ability to contribute on both ends of the court.
Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin are overpaid, sure, but they're solid chips who can be used either as spot starters or first options off the bench. There's value in that, especially when it's coupled with the upside-laden portion of this package.
While Terrence Jones didn't stand out in Houston, given the incumbent superstars, he still showed off his potential when he was given a chance to stick in the starting lineup. And even his future might not be as bright as whoever Minnesota could draft with the two picks it's gaining in this deal.
Houston loves stars, so maybe the 'Wolves could even get general manager Daryl Morey to include a few more draft picks. That could very well push things over the top.
How Does Flip Saunders Respond: Asks where he can sign but has some hesitation before allowing his pen to touch the paper.
Los Angeles Lakers
Timberwolves receive: No. 7 pick, 2016 second-round pick, cash, Robert Sacre, Kendall Marshall
Lakers receive: Kevin Love
You have to give the Los Angeles Lakers credit for their efforts.
They don't have future first-round draft picks to give away, as those are already being conveyed to the Phoenix Suns and Orlando Magic, nor do they have many useful parts on the current roster. It's doubtful Nick Young would opt in with the Minnesota Timberwolves, and MarShon Brooks' status is still up in the air, for example.
So, here you have it. The Lakers are offering just about everything at their disposal, save Kobe Bryant.
Is the No. 7 pick a terrific trading chip? Absolutely.
Problem is, it's not paired with anything that's even remotely appealing to Minnesota. The second-round draft pick is too far into the future to matter much, and while cash is admittedly nice, neither Robert Sacre nor Kendall Marshall would land too much playing time with the Timberwolves. Minnesota already has Nikola Pekovic and Gorgui Dieng at center, and Ricky Rubio fills the "great passer who can't score" role rather nicely.
Hey, at least the Lake Show can just wait and offer a mega contract when Love inevitably hits free agency.
How Does Flip Saunders Respond: Respects the effort, then laughs.
New York Knicks
Timberwolves receive: 2018 first-round draft pick, Iman Shumpert, Tyson Chandler
Knicks receive: Kevin Love
The New York Knicks are in even worse shape than the Lakers.
They can offer a first-round pick...just not until 2018. Tyson Chandler is no longer as valuable as he was during his Defensive of the Year days and plays the same position as Pekovic and Dieng, leaving him valuable only as an expiring contract. Iman Shumpert's development has stagnated, which means he's a risky pickup and may also end up being viewed as only an expiring contract.
And that's it.
Seriously, what other appealing pieces does New York possess? Minnesota can do far better than a first-round pick way off in the future and some expiring contracts.
"[Phil Jackson] was brought to New York to fix the Knicks, not work miracles," explained Dan Favale for Bleacher Report while breaking down the chances of the Knicks landing Love. "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."
No, it's not.
How Does Flip Saunders Respond: Laughs when he sees who's calling.
Timberwolves receive: No. 14 pick, No. 18 pick, No. 27 pick, Alex Len, Channing Frye
Suns receive: Kevin Love
I think one of the things that’s important for people to realize is that we may not draft four players even if we have four picks. Our preference would probably be to maybe package a few of them. We’re obviously all looking for stars and we feel like we can put together a package as good, if not better, than any other team in the league if and when a star becomes available. That’s kind of generally what we’ve wanted to do, not only with our draft-pick situation but also with the cap space that we’ve acquired.
That's Phoenix Suns general manager Ryan McDonough, as relayed by NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper. The quote came back in the middle of December, but it's hard to see it being any less true now, especially because Love is so obviously on the market.
Phoenix ended up with "only" three draft picks, and it would make perfect sense for it to package the entire trio, along with last year's lottery pick (Alex Len) and a replacement for Love who also balances out salaries.
After all, Love is certainly a star. The Suns have to be dreaming about the possibilities of pairing him with Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe.
As for the 'Wolves, it's tough to see them getting a more appealing package than this, simply because they'd enjoy all sorts of financial and personnel flexibility by adding three first-round prospects in a historically loaded draft class.
With three shots at stardom, Minnesota might strike gold. And even if the Timberwolves strike out instead, they'd still land two or three rotation members on rookie-scale contracts, which allows them to build in other manners.
This is an easy decision.
How Does Flip Saunders Respond: Doesn't even blink before saying goodbye to Love.
Timberwolves receive: No. 8 pick, Ben McLemore, Ray McCallum, Jason Thompson, Jason Terry
Kings receive: Kevin Love
Neither Ben McLemore nor Ray McCallum looked like much of a star during the 2013-14 campaign, but they were only rookies. The latter showed enough promise to imbue Minnesota with the belief that he could become a first guard off the bench on a competitive team, and the former is a lottery pick with an incredibly high ceiling and a lot to work on.
And those are only two of the four players involved.
Well, Jason Thompson and Jason Terry are there more for salary purposes than anything else, so perhaps they don't really matter too much. Thompson is still a rotation big, but Terry looked completely washed up when he made it onto the court during the 2013-14 season.
Moving on to more important parts of the package, the No. 8 pick in this upcoming draft is clearly the centerpiece, and it's really the only thing that can make Minnesota even bother listening to a pitch.
After all, the Sacramento Kings aren't giving up DeMarcus Cousins, and they can't raise the value of their package too much since Love might end up being nothing more than a one-year rental.
How Does Flip Saunders Respond: Seriously listens to the offer but doesn't pull the trigger.
Timberwolves receive: Bradley Beal, Andre Miller, Martell Webster
Wizards receive: Kevin Love
Andre Miller and Martell Webster are only here to balance out salaries.
Essentially, this trade is a one-for-one swap, with Minnesota getting Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards landing the established superstar. Would either side regret that decision?
Even if Beal blossomed into one of the best shooting guards in the NBA (he's close, given the dearth of quality options at the position), Love is already right near the top of the Association's individual totem pole. That's the rationale for Washington, even if it means breaking up the dynamic backcourt duo of Beal and John Wall.
And as for the 'Wolves, they'd be landing a player who seems almost a shoo-in to become an All-Star at some point in the future, especially given how well he responded to the pressure of the playoffs. Beal has the upside of a lottery pick in the 2014 class, but he also has much more of a guarantee attached to his name.
He's already established to some extent.
Who says no? Well, the Wizards still might.
If they could receive any sort of assurance that Love would extend his contract and stay in D.C., they'd be able to make the move. But giving up a player of Beal's caliber without that guarantee doesn't make sense for Washington.
The Wizards have to be included because they've been mentioned repeatedly as a landing spot for the big man, but this is all they have to offer. No other package will come close, and this one is too much for them to give up without 100 percent certainty that Love will be playing home games in Washington throughout the next handful of seasons.
How Does Flip Saunders Respond: He doesn't have to. There's never a call with this offer.