Minnesota Timberwolves Have No Reason to Rush Any Kevin Love Trade

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistJune 24, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - NOVEMBER 27:  Kevin Love #42 of the Minnesota Timberwolves stands on by the bench waiting to get in against the Denver Nuggets on November 27, 2013 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jordan Johnson/Getty Images

The world seems to be forgetting that the Minnesota Timberwolves hold all the leverage in any Kevin Love trade. 

Even though the big man has been in the news with a new rumor for what seems like every day of the still-young offseason, nothing is guaranteed to happen. Which is exactly why—thus far, at least—each and every rumor gets shot down. 

The Boston Celtics were widely considered a favorite, especially after Love visited Beantown during his time off. But as Steve Bulpett recently wrote for the Boston Herald: "Things have grown quiet between the Celtics and Minnesota on the Kevin Love front."

The Golden State Warriors were going to put together a package that centered around Klay Thompson, but that rumor has been squashed as well: 

Name a team out of a mix that includes the Denver Nuggets, Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns. Each and every team birthed a rumor that has been killed, and Love remains a member of the 'Wolves. 

Why? Because there's no rush. 

"They [the Timberwolves] want to win now," a league source told the Boston Globe's Baxter Holmes. "They want to be competitive now, with or without Kevin. These draft picks aren’t going to do that. So if they’re going to move Kevin, they’re going to get two or three guys that can help them win now."

If the right deal had entered the discussion, Flip Saunders surely would've pulled the trigger for Minnesota by now. So logically, that right deal hasn't presented itself quite yet. 

Until it does, there's no reason for Minnesota to act like it's in any sort of hurry. After all, it's in the team's best interest to wait before dealing him. 

Quite frankly, the Timberwolves should've won plenty more games than they did during the 2013-14 season. 

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 30:  Kevin Love #42 of the Minnesota Timberwolves boxes out Shawn Marion #0 of the Dallas Mavericks on December 30, 2013 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by d
Jordan Johnson/Getty Images

Basketball-Reference.com keeps track of Pythagorean wins, which calculate a team's expected win-loss record based on the margin of victory. For Minnesota, which posted a 40-42 record last year, the Pythagorean expectation was a 48-34 campaign, eight wins better than the actual mark. 

Not only were those 48 expected wins the No. 10 record in the league, but they would've been enough for the 'Wolves to sneak into the playoffs as the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference, thereby ending Love's career-long playoff drought. 

Why is this relevant? Because Minnesota is only going to get better next year, assuming Love is still on the roster. 

Dante Cunningham, Robbie Hummel and A.J. Price are the only players hitting free agency, and Hummel is of the restricted variety, meaning Saunders can elect to bring him back by matching any offer sheet he happens to sign. Sure, the team is already capped out heading into the offseason, but the whole roster is already compiled.

And it's going to improve. 

More playing time for Gorgui Dieng will aid the team's rim-protection woes. Shabazz Muhammad and a healthy Chase Budinger are going to help Minnesota gain positive play from the wings. Ricky Rubio should only get better, and every offseason offers hope that he'll figure out how to shoot a basketball with any semblance of consistency. 

Apr 16, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio (9) dribbles against the Utah Jazz at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Then you can add in the No. 13, No. 40, No. 44 and No. 53 picks in a deep 2014 NBA draft. 

So long as Love remains, there's no way for this roster to take a step backward. Everything points toward improvement, and a regression to the mean—in terms of luck—will aid the perceived progress as well. 

And winning, as we've seen so many times before, is the ultimate panacea in the Association. 

Think back to this past offseason, when LaMarcus Aldridge was making it clear that he wanted a trade. Here's Jason Quick of The Oregonian

Throughout this summer, there have been rumors the Trail Blazers might trade LaMarcus Aldridge, and I’m not the least bit surprised.

Not that I believe general manager Neil Olshey is looking to move the star power forward. But I believe Aldridge wants out.

Will it result in a trade during Thursday’s NBA Draft?

I doubt it, unless it includes Portland getting either Atlanta’s Al Horford, New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, New Jersey’s Brook Lopez, or the ClippersBlake Griffin.

Sound similar? If not, how about this part? 

Aldridge has two years remaining on his contract in Portland. He has no leverage to demand a trade right now. But he will after this season, when he can enter his final season in Portland with a threat to walk into free agency, leaving the Blazers with nothing in return, except for some salary cap relief.

At this point, you should be noting the nearly identical nature of the situations. After all, both revolve around a star power forward wanting out—maybe wanting out, in Aldridge's case—and only having leverage because he can eventually enter a final season with the team, threatening to leave them with nothing rather than something. 

For Aldridge, that was two seasons after the rumors. For Love, it's the offseason after this one. 

Jan 25, 2014; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) drives to the basket against Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love (42) during the first quarter at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldye

But the Portland Trail Blazers big man had a positive outcome to his situation. He led the Rip City revival, steering the Blazers into the postseason and past the Houston Rockets in the opening round, asserting himself as a truly dominant player and fringe MVP candidate in the process. 

Aldridge had never appeared on an MVP ballot before; in 2013-14, he finished 10th.

Now, Portland head coach Terry Stotts can provide some retroactive context for Aldridge's situation, per Sean Deveney of SportingNews.com:

He wasn’t happy with the fact that we didn’t make the playoffs and we lost 13 in a row, and nobody was. He is a competitor and wanted to be part of a winning environment. That was his only thing.

If you go back, anytime he was quoted, that is what he said. A lot of it is speculation and there were never any comments from him about being traded. He just—the season ended with a 13-game losing streak, and no one is going to feel good about that.

Again, sound familiar? Maybe not the 13-game losing streak, but certainly the part about not making the playoffs. 

"It has been great for me," Aldridge told Deveney in February, even before a playoff spot was clinched. "We definitely worked hard and put ourselves in a good position. I thought everybody came back better this year and I am happy with the way things are looking now. If we finish up strong, anything is possible."

There's only one way to guarantee Love failing to speak similar words in February, 2015—trading him before Minnesota has a chance to make good on its potential. 

All it takes is one winning season, and Love might reward the franchise for the faith it's continued to place in him. After all, there's enough young talent on Minnesota's roster for this team to be competitive year in and year out. 

Will the offers for Love really decline if a deal isn't struck prior to the draft? 

Absolutely not. 

If anything, the return might rise, as teams actually know they're going to be in contention for a 2015 championship. That's the point of the trade deadline, after all. It allows teams to evaluate where they stand and become either buyers or sellers. 

OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 14: Kevin Love #42 of the Minnesota Timberwolves during a game against the Golden State Warriors on April 14, 2014 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or
Rocky Widner/Getty Images

Minnesota, should it hold onto Love until the deadline, will receive offers that are—at the very least—comparable to the ones it's getting at this very moment. 

Essentially, Saunders and the rest of the front office have two options. 

Behind the first door, Minnesota has the ability to settle for a less-than-ideal trade this summer, jump starting the rebuilding process and leaving absolutely no possibility that Love escapes for nothing. 

But behind the second one, the team can hope to change its fortune, convincing the superstar forward that this is a good location for him after all. And if that doesn't work, it can still make what should be a comparable deal. After all, the market for a bona fide superstar and top-15 player in this league—if not a top-10 guy—is never going to dry up. 

Barring a Godfather offer in the coming weeks, there's no reason to avoid the latter option. 


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