Facing a massive rebuild, the Los Angeles Lakers have been eying Kevin Love as their cornerstone franchise player of the future. Now that the Minnesota Timberwolves are stepping up efforts to get something back in a trade for their disenchanted star, however, the Lakers’ hopes are dwindling.
Do the Lakers still have a prayer in the race? Sure, but it’s not much more than that. On the bright side, they may still be able to profit off a deal featuring Love as its centerpiece—it just wouldn't result in the All-Star returning to his native city.
Instead, the Lakers could wind up with Golden State Warriors sharpshooter Klay Thompson as part of a larger three-way trade that would send Love to the Bay Area.
According to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, the deal would involve the Lakers parting with their No. 7 pick in the upcoming NBA draft—that selection would go to the Timberwolves. The talks have since hit a snag.
“The Lakers were interested," Bresnahan writes, "but the deal was put on hold because of a difference in opinion within the Warriors' organization whether to keep Thompson while trying to obtain Love.”
Thompson would be a great get for the Lakers—as long as he’s willing to sign an extension. The three-year shooting guard will be a restricted free agent after next season. Not only can he light up the scoreboard—averaging 18.4 points and .414 from behind the arc this season—he’s also a tenacious defender.
Now that the trade is at least temporarily in limbo, can the dynamics possibly shift? Is there any way the Lakers can move back into a position to go for the ultimate goal in the Summer of Love?
The problem is that time is not on the side of Los Angeles. The Timberwolves want to avoid letting Love walk at the end of next season without getting anything in return. It’s to their benefit to work a trade now while his stock is at an all-time high.
Among other teams in the mix are the Boston Celtics. According to Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald, the Celtics have offered the Nos. 6 and 17 picks in this year’s draft, Kelly Olynyk and a future No. 1 pick for Love.
That’s way more than the Lakers can come up with. They don’t have a lot of assets to move, having already traded future draft picks to both the Orlando Magic and Phoenix Suns during the Dwight Howard and Steve Nash transactions.
With only Kobe Bryant, the chronically injured Nash and utility center Robert Sacre under contract for next season, Los Angeles is limited in what it can offer Minnesota.
Any thoughts of trading Bryant can be summarily dismissed—the Lakers won’t part with the longtime cornerstone of their franchise, and even if they wanted to, the five-time NBA champion has a no-trade clause.
That leaves Nash’s expiring contract, which isn't much practical use for the Timberwolves, and Sacre—a hardworking sort with negligible worth in a blockbuster deal.
Are there no other pathways to nabbing Love? One possibility would include a combination of their No. 7 pick and free agent Pau Gasol, who would have to agree to a sign-and-trade. The Timberwolves tried to land the two-time champion in the past. Would they still want him now, and more importantly, would Gasol have any interest in heading to Minnesota?
The last part is questionable. The Timberwolves finished far out of the playoffs in the Western Conference this past season, and Gasol recently indicated to Spanish website Marca.com (via James Barragan of the Los Angeles Times) that he "will give priority to title contenders" during the upcoming free-agency period.
At the end of the day, the Lakers’ best hope for landing Love is still the summer of 2015. They can make a strong contract offer without any other encumbrances. By then, however, it might be too late.
Perhaps the best L.A. can hope for is to be a third party with the Warriors and Timberwolves, landing Thompson as a consolation prize.
It could be a solid building block for the future; then again, so is a No. 7 draft pick.