There's a commonly held belief in the NBA that says it's impossible to receive fair value when trading a true superstar player.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have experienced that firsthand.
After 12 seasons with Kevin Garnett and zero Finals appearances, it became time for Minnesota to cash in. Garnett stuck with Minnesota far longer than most modern superstars would have, but no one blamed KG for wanting to leave after Minnesota failed to surround him with talent.
Now it's deja vu all over again in Minnesota. Another transcendent talent at power forward appears ready to bolt.
Kevin Love's situation is similar to Garnett's, albeit on a much lesser scale. The quality of players around Love, particularly last season, was better than just about every year of what Garnett had to deal with in his prime.
Love has also spent half the time Garnett did in Minnesota, but six straight years of missing the playoffs is no picnic any way you slice it. At least Garnett had a taste of success.
Semantics aside, the end result may end up being the same: If Love wants out and won't re-sign after this season, Minnesota might have no choice but to trade him instead of losing him outright.
Here's ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne with more:
Kevin Love has made it clear to the Timberwolves that he intends to become an unrestricted free agent after next season and has no interest in a contract extension to stay in Minnesota, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.
Although sources say Love has stopped short of demanding a trade, his position could effectively force the Timberwolves to deal the All-Star forward before next season -- or before the trade deadline in February 2015 at the latest -- if they hope to dodge the risk of losing him without compensation.
Due to the clear lack of leverage, history tells us that Minnesota will more than likely lose this deal. With the possible exception of the Carmelo Anthony trade, the team acquiring the superstar almost always wins in the end. The Chris Paul trade is a good example, and so is the Garnett deal.
While there was definitely a large contingency of heartbroken teams and fans screaming bloody murder over the deal, at least at the time, it looked like trading Garnett to the Boston Celtics was a pretty good deal for Minnesota, considering the circumstances.
"I'm confident I made the right decision here, even though that it was a difficult one," Wolves owner Glen Taylor told ESPN.com immediately after the trade went down.
"The past few seasons our on-court performance has been disappointing to our fans, myself, [owner] Glen Taylor and the entire organization," general manager/head coach Kevin McHale said, via the ESPN.com report. "Through this trade, we have obtained very talented, young players with a lot of potential, future flexibility with the salary cap and two future first-round NBA draft picks.
There really was a lot to like. In Al Jefferson, the Timberwolves received a controllable 22-year-old post-scoring maven coming off a year where he averaged 16 points, 11 boards and a 19.8 PER. Jefferson looked every bit the part of franchise big man. Even now, Minnesota would be awfully fortunate to receive a 22-year-old player who could put up numbers like that.
There was more than just Jefferson, though. Recent first-round picks like Gerald Green and Sebastian Telfair were included, both still young and oozing with athleticism and potential. Neither panned out for Minnesota (although Green has had a nice resurgence over the last few years), but at the time, they were intriguing prospects. Ryan Gomes and Theo Ratliff could be solid role players.
Aside from Jefferson and the other players, two first-round picks came in the Garnett trade as well. Both materialized in 2009, and David Kahn stamped his place in history by drafting Jonny Flynn after he already had taken Ricky Rubio. Wayne Ellington was the later pick.
If just one of those players (Green, Telfair, Flynn, Ellington) actually produced for Minnesota at the level they were expected to, perhaps we'd view the trade in a slightly different light.
Garnett hanging a banner for Boston would always swing favor that direction, but Minnesota could have had a nice core to work with for years and years. Instead, terrible drafting and coaching doomed the young group from the start. A losing culture can sink its teeth into a young player and never let go, and that was essentially what happened in Minnesota.
By the time the 2012-13 season came around, just five years later, no player from the 2007 Garnett trade was left on Minnesota's roster. All had been dealt or were out of the league.
Obviously, that's far from ideal or typical, but it's the type of thing that can happen when having to deal a star under these circumstances. Prospects don't always materialize, and draft picks don't always hit. Proven players like Jefferson sometimes aren't ready or capable of carrying a whole team on their shoulders, especially without a support system in place.
Still, with all that being said, Minnesota should be satisfied with a trade package like Garnett's in a deal for Love. Garnett was the better player than Love, of course, but Love's young age probably nullifies some of that value when it comes to a trade.
As trade assets, the two might not be very far apart, particularly if Love provides a guarantee that he'll re-sign with the team that acquires him via trade.
Think of it this way: a promising young player, two former first-round picks and two future first-round picks would look like something like this from a team like the Phoenix Suns:
Suns: Eric Bledsoe (sign and trade), Alex Len, Archie Goodwin, 14th pick in 2014 draft and a future first-round pick.
That's not a bad haul, right? If Len or Goodwin turn into players and the Timberwolves draft well, that's even a winnable trade. Rubio, Bledsoe and Nikola Pekovic would be an interesting core to build with, and maybe this deal vaults Minnesota into the playoff picture sooner rather than later.
Let's look at another potential trading partner, like the Chicago Bulls.
Bulls: Taj Gibson, Tony Snell, the 16th and 19th picks in the 2014 draft and a future first-round pick.
Gibson is one of the most underrated two-way forwards in basketball. Snell could potentially be a good offensive player down the line and the Timberwolves would have three first round picks to play with. Considering the placement of the picks, this is actually a little less than the deal the Wolves got for Garnett.
Again, the trade itself for Garnett wasn't all that bad—it was just mangled horribly down the line thanks to a mix of poor player development and bad drafting.
And really, that's kind of the point.
Franchises that aren't in position to retain and succeed with superstar players usually have flawed infrastructures or something unavoidable holding them back.
The good news, at least on that front, is that the primary culprit for Minnesota's failures over the last two seasons has primarily been injuries as opposed to the blatant mismanagement of the Kahn and Kurt Rambis years.
We don't know for sure that Flip Saunders will take better care of the franchise, or that another coach will actually develop young talent, but there's at least the hope that the Wolves are in better shape as an organization now than they were during both the Garnett deal and most of Love's career.
Perhaps armed with the experience of trading a star and a more competent management team, the Timberwolves can survive and thrive after a trade for Love, as improbable as it might seem.
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