When a star like Minnesota Timberwolves Kevin Love becomes available, the suitors understandably come out in droves.
Even if it's natural to covet such an elite talent, it's a little troubling that the Denver Nuggets don't seem to recognize where they stand as a franchise or what the plan going forward should be.
That's not to say that chasing Love is necessarily a bad idea. The Nuggets have always lacked a true star, and Love is one of the best scorers and rebounders in all of basketball.
It seems unlikely that the Nuggets have the pieces to acquire Love, however, and it seems even more unlikely that Love would agree to sign on long-term. Even if the Nuggets did pull off the impossible and acquire Love, would they have enough left to retain him? Would the roster around Love be good enough to convince him to stay?
As Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post explains, there's little to lose by entering the discussion:
Yes, if the Nuggets acquired Love, he could conceivably bolt after one season as a free agent. Or the Nuggets could prove to Love that they are serious about building a title-contending team around him.
Would it be a gamble? Without a doubt.
But what's the worse that could happen? Love dumps Denver in 2015 and the Nuggets fail to win the NBA championship for the foreseeable future, which would be no worse than what's happened every year since the franchise joined the league 38 years ago.
As currently constructed, it's hard to imagine the Nuggets doing anything substantial in the playoffs. This is a mediocre team lacking star talent, with multiple players who are either recovering from major injuries or who are simply injury prone.
The worst of it, however, is that the roster happens to be very expensive. The Nuggets have virtually no cap flexibility until 2016, and some of their biggest players (JaVale McGee, Danilo Gallinari) have only a sliver of trade value at this point. Denver is kind of stuck in no man's land here: too good to tank, too limited in terms of assets to add meaningful talent.
All is not lost though. The Nuggets to do have a nice piece with the 11th pick in the draft and the rights to swap picks with the New York Knicks in 2016, a residual from the Carmelo Anthony trade that started Denver down this track.
Ty Lawson is the best piece, but it's hard to imagine Minnesota having any interest with Ricky Rubio already on their roster.
Kenneth Faried is a moderately attractive young trade piece, as he still has a year left on his rookie deal and has the potential to be a really nice third big man for a playoff team. Wilson Chandler is a solid 3-and-D small forward on a reasonable contract, health concerns aside. Evan Fournier has the potential to be a decent shooting guard going forward.
Problem is, when you consider all the teams who could potentially be in the mix to acquire Love, Denver would need to provide Minnesota with just about every valuable asset they have in order to outbid every other team for his services.
Sources: in addition to Wilson Chandler and Kenneth Faried, Denver offering Minnesota a player they would acquire (Arron Afflalo) for Love.— Steve Bulpett (@SteveBHoop) June 19, 2014
While losing current talent isn't nearly as much of a concern, trading multiple draft picks certainly would be. Besides, acquiring Love is only half the job here, as Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune explains:
The question with the Nuggets is would Love re-sign there long term. Sacramento apparently is willing to deal without an assurance that Love will stay there long term. Maybe the Nuggets are willing, too.
The Nuggets can sacrifice future assets for Love, but we've seen them get burned in a deal like this before. The Nuggets gave up a 2014 first-round pick for Andre Iguodala in 2012, but he left in free agency via a sign-and-trade. Now the Nuggets have Randy Foye instead of the 12th pick in this year's draft.
Of course, the price for Iguodala was considerably less than what Love will cost. We're likely talking multiple first-round picks here for what almost surely would be a one season rental. Love is great, but the Nuggets might not be able to survive his departure.
The worry here is that this mentality of trading future assets for current talent doesn't just apply to stars like Love. Here's Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post:
The Nuggets refused comment Wednesday regarding specific interest in Love, but team management has repeatedly stressed it is willing to trade its first-round draft choice, a No. 11 pick, and do whatever is necessary to add an impact player this off-season.
"If we are involved in trade discussions," general manager Tim Connelly recently told me with a laugh, "I want you guys in the media to be the last to know."
The Nuggets might have a better chance lucking into a major star at pick 11 than being able to find one willing to stay long-term via trade. Most teams draft their own stars, and being outside of the top-five doesn't necessarily mean you can't find elite talent. Paul George was the 10th pick in the draft. It's rare, for sure, but not impossible.
Trading for Love and keeping him long-term certainly seems much more improbable than finding a prospect with gobs of potential in this deep draft. UCLA guard Zach LaVine has plenty of raw ability. Ditto for a guy like Arizona forward Aaron Gordon.
Finding controllable young players with potential to become stars should be the focus for Denver's front office; not chasing stars they have virtually no chance of realistically acquiring and retaining.
Move Chandler, Gallinari, McGee, J.J. Hickson or anyone else who isn't critical to the future for picks who potentially could be, shed salary and rebuild the roster. So long as the Nuggets keep holding on to the idea that they're close to being serious contenders, it's hard to imagine they'll ever really become one.
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