8 Kevin Love Trades That Make Sense for Minnesota Timberwolves
At this point, it's general knowledge that the 25-year-old superstar will opt out of his contract at the end of the 2014-15 season. The question is no longer about if Love will stay in Minnesota. Now the only thing left to ask is, when will the T'Wolves trade their best player?
Because of that, Minnesota has lost most of its leverage in trade negotiations involving Love, but against most logic, it still has some bargaining advantages. There are plenty of teams vying for Love, and if a bidding war opens up, the Wolves can play those organizations against each other, and this seems like a situation that will have plenty of teams in the mix.
Though Love can become a free agent for the summer of 2015, we could see him opt into the final year of his current deal, pushing his free agency to 2016 in order to get a trade done. We saw Chris Paul pull that move in 2011 to finalize his trade to the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Wolves will see some good offers. They'll see some bad ones. Heck, they're going to see everything, and at the end of it, Love will probably be wearing a new jersey. So now, let's see exactly what some of these offers might look like.
The Bulls Package
Timberwolves receive: Carlos Boozer, Tony Snell, Reggie Bullock, rights to Nikola Mirotic, No. 16 overall pick in 2014, No. 19 overall pick in 2014, Bulls' 2016 first-round pick
Chicago Bulls receive: Kevin Love, Jamal Crawford
Los Angeles Clippers receive: Taj Gibson
This deal would probably turn the most heads of any possible Love trade if only because it involves a third team and the most big names. For it to happen, though, the Bulls would need to have a slight switch in philosophy.
Chicago has always been a defensive-minded team. With the additions of Love and Crawford, they'd be moving forward with the hope that Joakim Noah, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, and Tom Thibodeau, arguably the best defensive coach in the NBA, can hold down the D moving forward. With this deal, though, the Bulls would get their much-needed (and much-desired) offensive help.
The Clippers, meanwhile, get the third big man they have been searching for over the past 12 months, and interestingly, they would have to give up the Sixth Man of the Year and a young piece (Bullock) to get the guy who finished second in sixth man voting.
The Wolves, in this case, get a load of pieces.
Boozer is an expiring contract worth $16.8 million. Snell and Bullock could evolve into valuable defenders who can contribute on the perimeter. Mirotic, meanwhile, is one of the most interesting and exciting international prospects, a 6'10" power forward who can drain threes. Plus, three first-round picks for anyone ain't bad.
The Suns Package
Timberwolves receive: Channing Frye, Gerald Green, Markieff Morris, No. 14 overall pick in 2014, No. 18 overall pick in 2014, Suns' 2016 first-round pick
Phoenix Suns receive: Kevin Love
Could the Suns get Love to stay after a year in Phoenix? This deal may be more predicated on the Wolves star opting into 2015 than any other.
The Suns have loads of picks, three in the first round just this season, and unloading a couple wouldn't hurt a young team that won 47 games last year all that much, especially considering how neatly Love would fit into one of the NBA's most fluid offenses.
In a best-case scenario, maybe the Timberwolves could work out a different trade, trying to convince Eric Bledsoe, who is a restricted free agent, to sign a big deal and come to Minnesota in a sign-and-trade. But a backcourt of Bledsoe and Rubio, though a blast to watch and pesky defensively, may not have enough shooting to be successful.
Plus, that scenario would be predicated on Bledsoe wanting to head to Minny. To do that, the Wolves would likely have to max out the 24-year-old. All of this seems unlikely though, so we'll head to a more realistic scenario.
This package would be similar to the potential Bulls one. It's lots of pieces and lots of draft picks for Love, tons of coins to try to redeem the value of the dollar bill.
Minnesota gets a wonderful-shooting big man in Frye, a still young and still underrated Gerald Green and Markieff Morris, a 24-year-old who had an 18.4 player efficiency rating last season. But mainly, it gets picks. All those Suns picks.
The Cavaliers Package
Timberwolves receive: Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, Alonzo Gee, No. 1 overall pick in 2014
Cleveland Cavaliers receive: Kevin Love
Why do the Cavs want Kevin Love (aside from the fact that everyone who can want Kevin Love wants Kevin Love)? Because that's what Cleveland does. It lusts.
The Cavaliers have turned into the NBA's version of the six-year-old whose parents gave him $20 and left him alone in the candy shop.
First, never leave a six-year-old alone anywhere. Second, the six-year-old probably thinks $20 is a lot more than it is in the real world. Third, he will probably try to buy the whole store with it. And fourth, he'll eventually realize that $20 does not, in fact, buy you an entire store, and he'll start to whine for more candy until he gets another $20.
If Cleveland thinks it has a shot at LeBron James (or any other star for that matter), it'll try to pull off a Love deal or something similar to it. This is the same organization that gave up parts of its future for Luol Deng and Spencer Hawes rentals just so it could make a failed run at the No. 8 seed in a historically weak Eastern Conference.
That means losing the No. 1 overall pick in a loaded draft. It means giving away promising prospects like Thompson and Waiters.
Is there anything less fair than creating a hypothetical scenario and then ripping a team for that fake decision which it never even made? Probably not. I feel like Ray Romano's wife, but I don't care. This wouldn't be very out of character anyway, and it wouldn't be all too shocking if Cleveland gave up everything it could for Love, even though it won only 33 games last year.
The Cavs always think they're on the brink of contention. And they are; it's just contention for the No. 8 slot in the East. Minnesota could take advantage of that and get a nice haul for its star.
The Celtics Package
Timberwolves receive: Jeff Green, Kelly Olynyk, Jared Sullinger, No. 6 overall pick in 2014, No. 17 overall pick in 2014, Celtics' 2016 first-round pick
Boston Celtics receive: Kevin Love
There are a number of different ways the Celtics and Wolves could go about this deal. There's the proposed scenario above, for example. But the Boston roster is flexible enough to allow for some other guys to enter the mix as well.
Minnesota could work out a deal that involves Brandon Bass. It could demand Vitor Faverani or Phil Pressey. It would be hard to imagine how either of those guys could hold up a deal for a superstar.
If Boston wants Love, it could potentially make it happen, teaming up the power forward with a hopefully healthy Rajon Rondo. The Celtics have picks-a-plenty after the deal that sent Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Brooklyn Nets last summer, and if Brooklyn continues on the trajectory we expect, its draft picks, loads of which now belong to the Celtics, could end up in the lottery.
That means Boston can feel comfortable giving away its couple of picks this season, even with its rebuilding mindset. Love may not be able to win in Boston during the 2014-15 season, but considering the organization's history and a possible opt-in for 2015-16, you'd have to imagine the Celtics would be able to contend in the East with Rondo, Love and a smorgasbord of picks in years to come.
The Hornets Package
Timberwolves receive: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Cody Zeller, Gary Neal, No. 9 overall pick in 2014, No. 24 overall pick in 2014
Charlotte Hornets receive: Kevin Love
So, this probably won't happen, but wouldn't it be fun if it did?
The Wolves get last year's No. 4 overall pick in Zeller, a highly underrated 20-year-old talent in Kidd-Gilchrist and two draft picks in a stacked class. And with Kidd-Gilchrist, we really are talking about highly underrated.
Just because the guy was the No. 2 overall pick a couple years ago, we expect All-Star production right away. But that's not fair. It never was, and now basketball fans find themselves ignoring someone who is quickly becoming one of the NBA's best perimeter defenders. You could already argue he deserved a spot on the All-Defensive Team this past season.
Love, meanwhile, gets to team up with his former frontcourt mate in Al Jefferson to form what could be the best offensive frontcourt in the NBA. Think about how much skill a Big Al-K. Love combo would have.
Of course, that wouldn't exactly be the best defensive combination (that's surely a reason the Wolves didn't move forward with that frontcourt before trading Jefferson to the Utah Jazz), but the artists formerly known as the Bobcats were able to finish with the No. 6-ranked defense this past season, and that was while boasting a starting frontcourt of Jefferson and Josh McRoberts.
Sure, the newly named Hornets would be losing their best perimeter defender in this deal, but c'mon, have some spirit. This team could be so much fun with Love on its roster. Besides, the fans in Charlotte deserve to see something good happen to them.
The Rockets Package
Timberwolves receive: Omer Asik, Donatas Motiejunas, Chandler Parsons, Rockets' 2015 first-round pick
Houston Rockets receive: Kevin Love
Asik is in such an odd position. His salary and his cap number don't match.
Remember those poison pills which helped the Rockets sign Asik and Jeremy Lin a few years back? Well, now they may be coming back to bite them in the trade market.
Whoever employs Asik has to pay just under $15 million for next season, but only $8.4 million of that salary counts against the cap. If the Timberwolves are willing to give up that kind of cash, someone who can provide defense and rebounding at an elite level would be a heck of a bargain for that cap number.
Parsons, though, would be the major pull in this deal. A 25-year-old, fourth-year player still on a second-round rookie contract has major value, and though he hits the free-agent market in the summer of 2015, Minnesota would have a year to convince him to stay while holding the privilege of offering him the most money.
The Rockets, meanwhile, would get the best version of the stretch 4 they have been hoping to acquire these past couple years. A Big 3 of James Harden, Dwight Howard and Love could rival any other in basketball, and though Love wouldn't help with Houston's main problem from this past season, perimeter defense, he could be a major cog in turning the Rockets' offense into the best attack in the league.
The Thunder Package
Timberwolves receive: Serge Ibaka, Jeremy Lamb, Thunder's first-round pick in 2015
Oklahoma City Thunder receive: Kevin Love
So, you're telling me this isn't realistic? I don't care.
Just imagine the scoring a forward combination of Love and Kevin Durant could do. Think about the chemistry Love could develop with Russell Westbrook, his former teammate at UCLA. We think Westbrook and Ibaka can read each other? Just think about if Ibaka had that shooting stroke all the way out to three around the arc.
A deal like this would immensely hurt the Thunder defense. They would have to pair it with another trade to bring in a defensive-minded center, maybe packaging Kendrick Perkins' expiring deal and a pick for someone of value (and they would probably have to prioritize defense with their mid-level and bi-annual exceptions), but think about the offense this team could have.
On the other side, the Wolves get back a First-Team All-Defense power forward who is going to be a top-notch player for years to come. People forget Ibaka isn't even in his prime yet. The guy's still only 24 years old.
He's going to improve, and he may be able to produce more if he finds himself higher on the offensive totem poll.
There's no reason a Ricky Rubio-Ibaka pick-and-roll couldn't work, and Lamb could be a guy to grow behind Kevin Martin. This package may not have the highest ceiling, but it surely is the safest, considering the Wolves can be sure they are getting an All-Star caliber performer.
The Warriors Package
Timberwolves receive: David Lee, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Warriors' 2016 first-round pick
Golden State Warriors receive: Kevin Love, Kevin Martin
This is probably the most controversial package the Wolves could get for Love. Ask some, and it's the best deal possible. Go to others, and it's merely a decent pull.
The $30.5 million over two years remaining on Lee's deal definitely qualifies as a turnoff. Thompson, though he is a swishy shooter and strong defender, doesn't have as many fans as you may think in the analytics community. You can point to his 14.3 PER (league average is 15.0) from this past year to start that conversation. Barnes, meanwhile, hasn't shown a ton of progression over his first two NBA seasons.
All that said, this package is part of the heart of a team that won 51 games this past season.
Lee is a possible 20-and-10 guy on any given night. Thompson has already shown signs of becoming a better passer and ball-handler and is obviously one of the best shooters in the league at the ripe age of 24. Barnes is a quality, young forward with potential. And then there's that always enticing first-round pick.
On the Warriors' side, the Dubs don't lose all their shooting, as they get Martin back, and how can you possibly pass up a Love-Stephen Curry combination? Would anyone else have a pick-and-pop game that could even rival theirs?
Westbrook and Ibaka? LeBron James and Chris Bosh? But those guys can't shoot like Curry and Love.
It would be gorgeous, such a beautiful platter of pick-and-pop edibles you wouldn't even want to eat it—it's too pretty to mess up. Maybe we should get on this. Yeah, let's make this one happen...
Fred Katz averaged almost one point per game in fifth grade, but he maintains that his per-36-minute numbers were astonishing. Find more of his work at RotoWire.com, WashingtonPost.com or on ESPN's TrueHoop Network at ClipperBlog.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredKatz.