What Every Team Interested in Kevin Love Has to Offer Minnesota Timberwolves
He asked for a full five-year max contract extension in 2012, via ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Chris Broussard, and Minnesota gave him a four-year deal with an escape clause after the third. That same summer, he told Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports simply, "I want to win." The Wolves have gone 71-93 in the two years since.
The Timberwolves can act as if they're ready to risk losing him for nothing next summer, but the basketball world knows better. Love knows better. Even Minnesota knows better.
Privately, a source told Sporting News' Sean Deveney, the Wolves are, "paving the way to make something happen sooner rather than later."
This is nothing more than damage control for Minnesota. The Timberwolves won't find equal value, but the less available that Love looks, the more his current employer can ask for in return.
With that in mind, the trade market can offer some assistance to Minnesota's future endeavors. Whether searching for win-now talent or future assets, the Timberwolves must take a long look at the best realistic trade chips potentially available from Love's many suitors.
New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers: Not Enough
The Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks figured they'd find themselves somewhere near the front of this race.
After all, both franchises looked among the best equipped to scratch Love's reported major market itch.
Love, a source told ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin, is enchanted with the thought of being "big time in a big city."
But getting to that big market is tricky (if not impossible) considering he's not in current control of his future. Even if he tried to strong-arm Minnesota by refusing to sign an extension with his next landing spot, there are still some potential trading partners said to be willing to gamble.
In other words, the Knicks and Lakers would still need to build an offer strong enough to wet the Wolves' appetite. It's hard to see that happening considering the state of their current assets.
The Lakers have the No. 7 pick in the upcoming draft, but other teams can offer a higher entry point into the annual talent grab. Outside of that pick, L.A. has more than $33 million owed to Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash for next season, via ShamSports.com, plus sideline celebration master Robert Sacre.
If Love wants a permanent home in Los Angeles or New York, he'll have to wait another year before finding it in free agency.
Boston Celtics: Treasure Trove of Picks
The Boston Celtics can offer the Timberwolves one of the more intriguing quantity-over-quality packages in the league.
In a superstars league, quantity ultimately trumps everything. But despite having current control over Love's future, Minnesota is not dealing from a position of strength. Not when the rest of the basketball world can see the expiration date on that control.
If the Timberwolves are forced to toss darts at potential stars, the Celtics can offer them as many throws as they'd like. In addition to its own picks, Boston could have as many as five extra first-round selections over the next five years, including a pair of unprotected picks in 2016 and 2018 from the aging Brooklyn Nets.
The Celtics landed a good-not-great slot in the current draft (sixth overall), which Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported they could offer to Minnesota in a deal for Love. That could still give the Timberwolves a shot at a second-tier prospect like Kentucky's Julius Randle or Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart.
From there, Boston could expand the offer with win-now pieces (Jeff Green and Brandon Bass), developing prospects (Jared Sullinger, Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk) or, most likely, a combination of the two.
There is no real "wow" factor to this package, other than its overall size. But "good enough" might prove to be the winning bid at this auction, and the Celtics could reach that bar.
Chicago Bulls: Nikola Mirotic
The Chicago Bulls will be playing a numbers game similar to that of the Celtics, only the Windy City's package will center around players and prospects as opposed to picks.
There are several potential options to "headline" this deal, but draft-and-stash prospect Nikola Mirotic could carry the most weight if the Timberwolves' approach these talks through a big-picture lens.
He's a 6'10" power forward with range (46.1 percent three-point shooting for Real Madrid this season), with the offensive versatility to play on the perimeter and interior. If there's a smooth transition into the post-Love era, this might be it.
Plus, there's the excitement of the unknown for the European import. The only book that's out on his current career is awfully impressive.
"He won the Euroleague Rising Star Award his first two seasons. ... He won the ACB MVP [in 2013]. ... He won the Copa del Rey de Baloncesto MVP in 2014," Bleacher Report's Kelly Scaletta noted. "Essentially, that’s the equivalent of the Rookie of the Year, MVP and Finals MVP of the league he plays in."
With European stars Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic already on the roster, perhaps the Wolves would embrace the international look that has worked wonders for the San Antonio Spurs.
Cleveland Cavaliers: 2014 No. 1 Pick
Perhaps fueled by Cleveland's past draft-night blunders or simply doing his due diligence with such a valuable asset in hand, new Cavaliers general manager David Griffin is taking an "open-minded" approach with the No. 1 overall selection, via Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer. Griffin's goal, via Schmitt Boyer, is "to get radically better much quicker."
ESPN Insider's Chad Ford reported that Love was of interest to the Cavaliers this week.
Considering the learning curve felt by most NBA rookies, even a top prospect in a draft as potentially stacked as this could need time to develop. That's not exactly what an apparently restless franchise would like to hear.
If the Cavs are set on finding a quick fix, it's hard to imagine many better options than Love. He finished the 2013-14 campaign fourth in scoring (26.1 points), third in rebounding (12.5) and third in player efficiency rating (26.9), via Basketball-Reference.com.
Considering his potential on-court production and possible impact on Irving's uncertain future, Love could be the perfect acquisition for the success-starved Cavaliers.
As for the Wolves, they'd have something potentially major to sell to their fans in the form of Jabari Parker's NBA-ready offense, Andrew Wiggins' freakish physical tools or Joel Embiid's drool-worthy potential as a two-way contributor.
Golden State Warriors: Klay Thompson
The Golden State Warriors have long enjoyed a favorable spot in the Love sweepstakes.
Sources told ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne that the Dubs, along with the Chicago Bulls, are on the short list of intriguing teams for Love.
The Warriors, winners of 98 games over the last two seasons, could give Love the successful environment is after. Interest should be just as strong on Golden State's end with a superstar running mate needed for Stephen Curry and new coach Steve Kerr's desire to add a stretch 4 to this roster, via Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News.
The sticking point appears to be Klay Thompson, a 6'7" shooting guard who could help fill two major needs for the Wolves: three-point sniping and perimeter defense.
Thompson averaged a career-high 18.4 points in 2013-14, while setting personal bests in field-goal (44.4) and three-point (41.7) shooting. He also flashed tremendous defensive versatility, relieving Curry of brutal point guard matchups or slowing down a scoring wing.
Although, a team source told Bay Area News Group's Marcus Thompson II that Golden State does not "want to give up Klay Thompson to land Love." Curry, while accepting the Kia Community Assist Seasonlong Award, told reporters it would be "huge" for the team to keep Thompson.
In other words, Minnesota should give Golden State a "take-it-or-leave-it" offer for Thompson. With Harrison Barnes' star fading, Draymond Green's ceiling having yet to be set and the Warriors lacking coveted draft considerations, the Wolves have to net Thompson if they send Love to the Bay.
Houston Rockets: Chandler Parsons
The Houston Rockets are back fishing in superstar waters for the third straight offseason.
After netting James Harden and Dwight Howard over the last two years, Houston has reasons to cast its line once again. Sources told Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports the Rockets are "determined" to create enough financial wiggle room to chase a third maximum-contract talent.
Houston is reportedly eyeing the free-agent market for that next superstar, but the trade market could prove much easier to navigate, particularly with a coveted chip like Chandler Parsons in Houston's arsenal. The 25-year-old set career bests in points (16.6), rebounds (5.5), assists (4.0) and player efficiency rating (15.9), via Basketball-Reference.com, all for the bargain rate of $926,500.
Parsons' days of budget production appear coming to an end, with both Wojnarowski and Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reporting that Houston is likely to decline his $964,750 player option for next season.
The move would make Parsons a restricted free agent, keeping him from the unrestricted market he would head to if he played out the final year of his contract.
Houston could chase a marquee free agent first, then re-sign Parsons to a substantially more lucrative deal. Or the Rockets could package him in a sign-and-trade for someone like Love, with Parsons' settled future proving to be a critical piece for his next employer.
The Rockets will try what they can to keep Parsons through this superstar search. But if Love is their primary target, it's hard to imagine the Wolves accepting a Parsons-less deal.
Phoenix Suns: Goran Dragic
Goran Dragic secured a spot on the All-NBA Third Team, via Bleacher Report's Howard Beck, meaning it could be possible for Minnesota to snag a decorated player in a potential deal for Love.
Dragic captured the league's Most Improved Player award by a landslide, dramatically picking up his game and that of his team during the 2013-14 campaign. He shattered his previous career best in scoring (20.3, up from 14.7) while finishing a steady three-point shot short of a 50/40/90 season (.505/.408/.760).
He also helped the Suns see a 23-game improvement in the win column.
So, why then would the Suns part ways with Dragic? It's hard to say if they would.
But ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne reported the Suns "have strong interest in trading for Love." That interest could lead to Phoenix dangling Dragic, as other potential offers could fall well short of the winning bid.
The Suns have a mini-army of picks (including the 14th, 18th and 27th selection in this year's draft) and prospects (including the Morris twins and 2013 first-rounders Alex Len and Archie Goodwin). But those assets feel more like sweeteners than centerpieces to a blockbuster deal.
If the Suns can secure a long-term commitment from Love, it might take Dragic to get something done.