Assuming president of basketball operations Danny Ainge's desire to orchestrate a rapid rebuild hasn't waned, then neither should have his willingness to part with the pieces needed for such a job.
The Minnesota Timberwolves, even if they don't want to admit it, are approaching (or perhaps already past) the breaking point with perennial All-Star Kevin Love. Minnesota has proven itself incapable of building around the stretch 4, and his ability to escape his current contract next summer has all but tied the Timberwolves' hands.
They know it, too, and privately appear to have accepted their fate, as Sporting News' Sean Deveney explained:
Publicly, the Timberwolves are saying they expect Love to be in training camp with the team next fall. But behind the scenes, as one source put it, the Timberwolves are, 'paving the way to make something happen sooner rather than later.' Sooner, of course, would be draft night.
The Timberwolves have put out feelers on what possible offers might be on the table for Love on draft night. Despite their public protestations, around the league, front office executives say that the market for Love is open, but the initial asking price is high. While the Timberwolves would expect lottery draft choices in return for Love—including a high pick in this draft—they also want a young player with star potential, according to a source.
That last portion would seem to be the death blow for Boston in the Love sweepstakes.
The Celtics' roster doesn't hurt for youth, but the attractiveness of these players could hinge on the Wolves' definition of "star potential." Would Jared Sullinger and his 10 games of 20-plus points and 10-plus rebounds fit the bill? Did Kelly Olynyk tantalize enough with a 7'0" frame and a 35.1 percent three-point stroke?
It's hard to give a confident "Yes," to either question, which would still be the case even if restricted free agent Avery Bradley and his bulldog defense was added to the mix.
Boston doesn't have the bodies to separate itself from a crowded list of Love suitors. There is no Klay Thompson or Chandler Parsons, two names who could potentially be involved in a trade for Love, within the Celtics' ranks.
The only player who could significantly move the needle in Minnesota is Rajon Rondo. But if the Celtics dealt Rondo, they'd have no reason for Love. The only reason to part with major assets is to see what happens when two great players share the hardwood.
That could still happen for the Celtics, but not without some help from the Timberwolves.
Minnesota needs to decide what itch it's going to try and scratch in this franchise-defining transaction. Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press offered some insight on the Wolves' desired return package, reporting that Minnesota's "likely asking price would include a high first-round pick in this year's draft and a solid veteran or two who would come in and contribute right away."
The rebuilding Celtics do not have much in terms of solid veterans. Jeff Green and Brandon Bass might best fit that description—assuming Rondo is off the board—but their main value in terms of this trade would be simply helping the teams match salaries.
If the Wolves want a package built around players, the Celtics are likely out of the race.
Of course, Minnesota should not be chasing current NBA players. Not as the main focus of their return, at least.
When players like Thompson and Parsons check in as something between "best available" and "off the table," the Wolves should discover quickly they won't be replacing one star with another. Besides, this team looks more than just one player away. Despite Love finishing third in both player efficiency rating (26.9) and win shares (14.3), via Basketball-Reference.com, Minnesota still finished at an underwhelming 40-42.
The Wolves need to unlock multiple avenues to potential stars, and that's where the Celtics can start building their "Godfather Offer."
Boston could collect as many as six first-round picks from past trades over the next five years, plus it owns all of its upcoming first-round selections. The Celtics have two picks in this year's first round (Nos. 6 and 17) and could use one (or both) as the centerpiece in a deal for Love.
The Wolves would almost certainly demand the No. 6 pick this year and could look a little further down the line for more trade sweeteners. The Celtics own the Brooklyn Nets' first-round picks in 2016 and 2018 (plus have the option to swap picks in 2017), which are not protected and could prove to be immensely valuable given the age of Brooklyn's current core.
With two of those picks as the primary building blocks, Boston could build the rest of its offer around one young prospect (Sullinger or Olynyk), one reliable vet (Bass or Green), and some financial relief (like Keith Bogans' non-guaranteed contract). If the Wolves hold out for more, the Celtics could even toss in the 2015 lottery protected pick they're owed from the Philadelphia 76ers, which will likely wind up being two second-round selections.
Minnesota could find better win-now offers elsewhere, but this team couldn't win now with Love. It has to take a big-picture look at its future, and no trade partner would make that easier than the Celtics.
So, would Boston actually part with so many picks for one player? Absolutely, for a premier talent like Love.
The Celtics could have a top-five point guard and power forward with the Rondo-Love tandem. A duo, by the way, that Bostonians caught a glimpse of over the weekend:
Love made a quick getaway to the city, a place he digested at quite an impressive rate.
"He stayed at a luxury hotel on Boylston Street, dined at an upscale restaurant in the Seaport District, grabbed lunch on the patio at a sports bar outside of Fenway Park, and attended a rooftop party at a hotel near Boston Common late Sunday," Baxter Holmes of the Boston Globe detailed.
It sounds like a typical vacation, and that's very possibly what it was. Still, in light of these swirling trade winds, it had a certain business feel to it:
Have also heard that Kevin Love's agent is with him at Fenway.— Baxter Holmes (@BaxterHolmes) June 1, 2014
Maybe that's diving too deep between the lines, but Love had to know what people would make of his unexpected appearance.
The trip gave a new level to the Love-to-Boston story, even providing a platform for Rondo to voice his support of the potential addition.
"We would be a lot better if we had a guy like Kevin [Love]," Rondo said, via Boston.com's Brian Robb. "He’s a range-shooting four. He’s going to help on the glass. Obviously we haven’t been the best on the glass in the last couple years, he’ll do a better job at that aspect. But this is all speculation."
It's all speculation for now, but perhaps that won't be the case for much longer.
Ainge has been angling for a quick-fix solution to his rebuild, which is why he's held onto Rondo as opposed to shipping out the floor general for even more assets. Love could make the Celtics instantly relevant in the Eastern Conference, and he's "open" to the idea of playing in Boston, according to Comcast SportsNet's Tim Welsh, via CSN's A. Sherrod Blakely.
If Love commits to a long-term future, then Rondo, who will be an unrestricted free agent next summer, could also do the same. Rondo has left his options open, but he doesn't sound like someone who wants out of his current home, via Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe:
Rondo said once again he wants to remain with #celtics long term— gary washburn (@GwashburnGlobe) June 2, 2014
Rondo on #celtics: “I'm comfortable. I have a beautiful home here. I love it. I don’t want to leave, but (being FA is) part of the process."— gary washburn (@GwashburnGlobe) June 2, 2014
Rondo and Love alone wouldn't lift the Celtics to the top of the Eastern Conference, but they would help this franchise restore its relevance.
After that, anything is possible. It's hard to think of many recruiting tools more powerful than a skilled, selfless combo like Rondo and Love.
The price might be high for Boston, but it wouldn't come close to the potential reward of bringing this dynamic duo together.
Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.