This all seems a little familiar, doesn't it?
The Boston Celtics have been stuck in a bit of a rut, and there's a star on the roster who is patiently waiting for his team to be a legitimate title contender again.
The Minnesota Timberwolves, meanwhile, are in danger of losing a transcendent talent named Kevin, and may look to trade him before that happens.
In 2014, will it be Kevin Love who follows a similar path?
For Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge to swing a deal for one of the league's greatest players, he'll need to empty the cupboard a bit and put all the assets out on the table. If Boston wants a star of Love's caliber, it's not going to come easy.
But there's reason for optimism, even if there isn't a young "can't miss" big man like Al Jefferson to dangle like Boston had in the Garnett deal.
Rajon Rondo, who is eligible to be a free agent in 2015 just like Love, seems to have faith at least. Here's what Rondo told Brian Robb at Boston.com:
“I trust a lot in Danny,” Rondo said. “He’s turned this thing around before. I have faith in him. I believe in Danny. I think we do need another big-time player. But that’s all his job. He’s working on that now and I completely have faith in him.”
Let's take a look at what it will take for Ainge to reward Rondo's faith, land Love and perhaps hang a few more banners in the rafters for the Celtics.
If Ainge is going to sell the farm in order to land Love, he'll need some sort of verbal commitment from Love that he'll re-sign in order to pull the trigger. It wouldn't make sense to trade off valuable draft picks and players only to rent Love for a year and then watch him bolt elsewhere.
And while there are no guarantees until Love signs his name on the dotted line, it will still be important to know that Love wants to be there.
Recent events have lent some credence to that being the case, as Love vacationed in Boston for a weekend and met briefly with Rondo at Fenway Park:
It's easy to read the tea leaves and assume that Love was scouting out a future city he may call home, but that's nothing more than conjecture at this point.
Minnesota Timberwolves team president Flip Saunders probably isn't the only person in Minnesota who would like to write off Love's Boston visit as a vacation and nothing more, as he explained to Baxter Holmes of The Boston Globe:
“The last I knew Kevin was under contract with us, and I expect him to be playing for us next year,” Saunders told reporters in Minneapolis on Sunday. “I don’t really dictate where guys go on vacation or what they do. They can go wherever they want to go.”
If Love tells Ainge that he'll re-sign long-term in Boston upon being acquired via trade, it should be all systems go on making an offer for him.
Discover What Minnesota Covets
One of the trickier aspects about trading for Love is that no one is quite sure what Minnesota would want in return. Are the Timberwolves looking for a headlining player in a deal? Are they looking to shed salary? Are they looking solely for great draft picks in order to start over?
It's just hard to say what the desired outcome of a Love trade will be for Minnesota. With the 2015 offseason and the prospect of losing Love via free agency looming over the proceedings, the Timberwolves know that time isn't on their side.
If the plan is to compete immediately after dealing Love by rolling with Nikola Pekovic, who was re-signed to a lengthy deal last offseason, and Ricky Rubio, who is in line for a big extension in his own right, then Boston might have to scramble a little bit. There just isn't a highly regarded talent on the roster who doesn't come with attached question marks or a big salary, and that could be a problem.
With that being said, the Celtics can provide the assets for Minnesota to do their own shopping in a trade, so to speak.
Here's Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports with more on Minnesota's thought process:
"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.
Boston has 10 first-round picks over the next five years, including multiple unprotected selections from the aging Brooklyn Nets. Along with the sixth pick in this year's draft, the Timberwolves could recoup at least part of the massive talent loss if they were active enough with their newly acquired trade chips.
Willing to Overpay?
Ainge has a reputation as being a negotiator who likes to ask for the world and then make you throw in the moon just for kicks. There's probably a reason why Rondo is still on the roster after surviving multiple trade deadlines, after all. Ainge always needs to win the deal.
To land Kevin Love while rival teams all line up to get him, Ainge might have to be willing to part with a little more than he's fully comfortable with. The market price is going to be insane here, as Love can fit with just about any team he's willing to re-sign with.
Is it worth it to cash in on draft picks and talent now for Love?
Here's what Rondo told Robb about what Love could bring:
“We would be a lot better if we had a guy like Kevin [Love]. 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. Nothing’s happened, nothing’s set in stone.”
Rondo continued: “We could talk about Kevin [Love] all day or we can insert Carmelo [Anthony’s] name in there all day. Nothing’s happened. We have a couple days left before the draft, things might shake up around that time. You never know. It’s still a long summer until the beginning of training camp.”
For the Celtics to land this kind of impact player, they'll need to overpay, even by the standards already set by the Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul trades, which were nearly identical situations in terms of a star entering his last year on contract.
In the Anthony deal, the Knicks had to give up three former first-round picks (Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari) as well as a future first-round pick. Essentially, the cost was four first-round selections.
In the Paul deal, the Clippers had to give up two former lottery picks (Eric Gordon and Al-Farouq Aminu), an expiring contract (Chris Kaman) and a future first-round pick.
Minnesota should demand a similar price for Love, particularly since there were no league vetoes limiting the number of suitors. Let's see what Boston will have to do to meet it.
Boston Receives: Kevin Love
Minnesota Receives: Jeff Green, Kelly Olynyk, Pick 6 of the 2014 draft and a 2016 unprotected first-round pick via Brooklyn.
If that seems like a lot, that's because it is.
Green isn't quite as good as his contract ($9.2 million in 2014-15 with a player option for 2015-16) or his reputation would lead you to believe, but he's a solid enough forward who can play a few different positions and help Minnesota with his athleticism.
Boston was high enough on Olynyk to trade up into the lottery to select him last year, and his ability to stretch the floor would be necessary next to Pekovic.
With the sixth pick in this year's draft, it seems likely that Minnesota would be able to draft a power forward to replace Love for the future. It's possible that Kentucky's Julius Randle or Indiana's Noah Vonleh will be available at that spot, and Vonleh in particular could be a steal for Minnesota with his length, mobility and projected shooting touch.
The 2016 unprotected first-round pick via Brooklyn is a huge piece as well. In the Anthony and Paul trades, both of the future picks had some protection on them. It's not hard to see a team as old, injury-prone and capped out as Brooklyn finishing with a high pick in the lottery, and from there, you never know where the balls may fall.
While this haul might be enough for Minnesota to accept, despite the fact they won't be gaining much future salary relief, it's important to keep in mind that Boston will likely be bidding against multiple other teams. The Chicago Bulls could make Taj Gibson available, the Houston Rockets could make Chandler Parsons available, and multiple teams could be willing to help Minnesota shed the future salaries of guys like Chase Budinger.
Could Boston's deal compete with that?
Again, it all likely depends on what Minnesota covets, but the sixth pick in this year's draft looks potentially great, which could put Boston ahead of other teams in the war to acquire Love.