Ranking the Best Potential Offers Timberwolves Could Get in Kevin Love Trade
Antes are being officially upped in the Kevin Love trade talks, as the potential price tag is starting to better reflect the caliber of player up for auction.
Love, already a two-time All-NBA selection, won't celebrate his 26th birthday until September. He's either in his prime or still working toward it, and the Minnesota Timberwolves seem to fully appreciate his value.
The Wolves are going to trade Love at some point. That's been clear since the superstar stretch 4 informed them that he plans to opt out of his current contract next summer and "has no interest in a contract extension" from them, as ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne reported in May.
Even if forced to act, though, the Timberwolves aren't going to settle for a pennies-on-the-dollar return. They know what they want—"two or three guys that can help them win now" a league source told Baxter Holmes of The Boston Globe—and appear ready to wait for someone to pay that cost.
So, which of the many reported Love suitors are equipped to build the best trade packages?
With Minnesota's desire to compete now, the best offers will feature multiple proven commodities. Teams that can offer present help plus a piece or two for the future should position themselves at or near the front of the pack.
For those clubs willingly tangled up in the NBA's Love Affair, these are the strongest hands they could play.
6. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cleveland Cavaliers have plenty of reasons to pursue Kevin Love.
He'd be a dynamic pick-and-choose partner (roll, pop, drive, shoot) with All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving. Love's versatility could also be a powerful weapon if paired with offensive mastermind David Blatt, who Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported has been offered the team's head coaching position.
The Cavs also have a potential game-changing trade chip with the No. 1 overall selection in the 2014 draft. Whether the Wolves want size (Joel Embiid), athleticism (Andrew Wiggins) or NBA-ready offense (Jabari Parker), the top of the draft board could provide it.
What Cleveland doesn't have, though, is a mutual return of that interest from Love, according to ESPN Boston's Jackie MacMullan. Therefore, the Cavs also have little, or no, motivation to flip such a valuable asset for what could be a one-year rental of Love.
That's simply too big of a gamble to take. A more likely offer from the Cavaliers, put together by SI.com's Rob Mahoney, would include Anderson Varejao, Dion Waiters, Anthony Bennett, Tristan Thompson and a top-10 protected first-round pick in 2016.
While that should be enough to buy Cleveland a ticket to the Love race, that's the extent of what this offer could do. It's severely lacking in quality and not even overly impressive on the quantity side considering the forgettable faces involved.
5. Boston Celtics
Depending on the source, the Boston Celtics are either heavy favorites in this race or the longest of long shots.
ESPN Insider Chad Ford (subscription required) said "the package the Celtics are offering is probably the best" that Minnesota will get. Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald heard from sources that Boston's offer "isn't nearly the best the Timberwolves have received — or expect to receive."
Boston's position among the Love dreamers seems about as clear as mud. Swirling trade winds aren't typically easy to read, but these reported swings in position are as extreme as they come.
The Celtics have an impressive asset collection, but it doesn't hold the same weight in this discussion as it would in others. Timberwolves team president Flip Saunders, who also recently assumed the coaching duties, wants players to help him compete right away. Boston's biggest trade chips could be years away from contributing.
A source told Bulpett the Celtics have offered both their first-rounders in this year's draft (Nos. 6 and 17), face-up big Kelly Olynyk and "one of their own future No. 1 picks." In Saunders' eyes, that's plenty of question marks with the lone certainty being a 7-footer who shot 46.6 percent from the field as a rookie.
There's plenty of intrigue, but intrigue seems to rank pretty low on Saunders' wish list. Adding a veteran like Jeff Green or Brandon Bass could help, but even that might not move the Celtics among the real favorites in this field.
4. Denver Nuggets
Perhaps the freshest face of the bunch, the Denver Nuggets have wasted little time climbing the ranks of Love's suitors.
The fact that they can help Minnesota both now and later should buy them a long chat with Saunders. In fact, The Boston Globe's Baxter Holmes, after speaking with league sources, listed the Nuggets as the third-most likely team to land Love.
According to ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard, the Nuggets have offered Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler plus the No. 11 pick in this year's draft for Love and scoring guard Kevin Martin. As Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune noted, "the question with the Nuggets is would Love re-sign there long term."
There's also the matter of how important the answer to that question is for the Nuggets. Maybe they would deem a player of Love's ilk worthy of taking a one-year gamble, especially if they feel they'd have enough left to give him the kind of success he hasn't had in Minnesota.
If the Nuggets are interested in Love, Minnesota should be interested in what Denver has reportedly put on the table.
Faried plays with a ton of energy and appears to be scratching the surface of his offensive potential after scoring a career-best 13.7 points a night this season. The 24-year-old also has another season left on his rookie-scale contract, giving the Wolves control of his financial future. Chandler has the versatility to play on the perimeter or the post, and he's only 27 years old.
Both could help the Timberwolves today, while Faried and the pick could factor into Minnesota's plans for tomorrow.
3. Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns could play a major part in these trade talks. They have the pieces to get something done—the question is whether they have the motivation to do so.
There's interest in Love on the Suns' end, according to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports. The scribe also noted that the team's biggest trade chips are explosive guards Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, although it's tough to tell if the Suns would move either one.
Stein and Shelburne linked the Suns to Love in their initial report, but noted the big man's "interest in joining the Suns is unclear."
Phoenix should save its biggest trade guns until that part becomes clear. If they could get some type of commitment from Love, though, the Suns have the tools to scratch a number of itches for Minnesota.
Either Dragic, the Most Improved Player award-winner in 2013-14, or Bledsoe, a restricted free agent, could headline a strong win-now package for Saunders. Channing Frye and perhaps one of the Morris twins (Markieff and Marcus) could be added to give Minnesota plenty to compete with next season.
Should the Wolves look further down the road, the Suns could help with that, too. They have three first-round picks in the upcoming draft (Nos. 14, 18 and 27) along with 2013 first-rounders Archie Goodwin and Alex Len.
The Suns don't need to force the issue by dealing for Love, but the option should be available to them if they decide he's worth the investment.
2. Chicago Bulls
The Chicago Bulls seem determined to land a superstar over the summer. The only question is which one they want to pursue.
Long said to be on Love's radar—and to have him on theirs—the Bulls are one of the best equipped clubs to help the Timberwolves maintain their competitiveness. Chicago could go a number of different ways with its offer to Minnesota, all of which would result in the arrival of win-now assistance.
Comcast SportsNet's Kevin Anderson said the Bulls could ship out Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, both of their 2014 first-round picks (Nos. 16 and 19) and the rights to European prospect Nikola Mirotic. Sharpshooter Mike Dunleavy and power forward Carlos Boozer are other names that could get involved in Chicago's pursuit.
That's assuming, of course, the Bulls will in fact go all-in on Love. The Bulls are also reportedly among the frontrunners to acquire New York Knicks scoring machine Carmelo Anthony, league sources told Wojnarowski.
If Love emerges as their target, though, the Bulls should have no problem getting Saunders' attention.
Butler is a blossoming two-way wing, whose basement seems to be a suffocating perimeter defender. Gibson is coming off the best scoring season of his career (13.0) and could be a starting gig away from averaging a double-double. Even the embattled Boozer still managed 13.7 points and 8.3 boards this season.
Throw in a building block for the future (Mirotic, draft picks or both), and this is almost as good as it can get for the Wolves. It could be a missing a wow factor, though, leaving it as just the second most attractive offer the Timberwolves could hear.
1. Golden State Warriors
In rising swingman Klay Thompson, the Golden State Warriors have the most talented player connected to the Love trade talks.
As long as Thompson is actually connected to the talks, that is. Opinions seem to be split on the matter.
ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported Thursday the Warriors had "greatly increased their chances of winning the Love sweepstakes by making Thompson available to the Wolves in trade talks." Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News later reported that "a Warriors source disputes the idea" that Thompson is available in the trade talks.
If the Dubs would part with Thompson, in a package that would definitely include former All-Star David Lee in addition to either a future first-round pick or forward Harrison Barnes, they'd have the best offer on the market.
Thompson is best known for the three-point cannon he's flashed as Stephen Curry's "Splash Brother." The career 41.0 percent three-point shooter is more than a sharpshooter, though. He's also a long, strong defensive presence who handled the toughest backcourt assignments on that end of the floor.
Lee seems the type of proven producer that Saunders is after, following a 2013-14 campaign when he averaged 18.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. Barnes has struggled with consistency, but the 22-year-old has elite athleticism and an instinctive feel for the game.
The Warriors unquestionably have the strongest hand at the table. They just have to decide if they're willing to play it.