Hello, friend. Would you like another article discussing Kevin Love without a significant update on when or where he might be traded? Well, I've got the piece to satiate the obviously barren wasteland that is the Love rumor mill.
What we know is that the Timberwolves are essentially down to three teams: Cleveland, Chicago and Golden State. A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN New England reported the Celtics have come to grips with the fact the Love market has spiraled well out of their price range. Which, of course, anyone with a working neocortex could have figured out weeks ago.
Otherwise, we're left with a series of contradictory leaks from camps pushing agendas to reporters who are just trying to do their jobs. One minute Andrew Wiggins is off the table. The next, the Cavaliers have reconsidered. The Bulls are out of it. Then the Bulls are back in the running. The Warriors don't want to add Klay Thompson—except maybe they've reconsidered.
Until a trade is finalized, the rumor mill is only going to become more nauseating. With LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and nearly every other major free agent signed—shouts to Greg Monroe and Eric Bledsoe for holding down the fort—Love is the only story remaining to cover. It's going to drag on in the same overwrought fashion as the Dwightmare, Melodrama, et al. of years past.
As long as we can all agree to call this the Love Triangle, I've done all I can.
In the effort of thrusting the process forward, let's throw all the chips on the table. Let's take the realistic parts being thrown about in rumored trades and assess the pros and cons from Minnesota's perspective. Put on your contradiction hats and delve in.
Golden State Warriors
Let's Be Negative
What are the Timberwolves really receiving in this trade? Thompson is the centerpiece. He's a good young player at one of the league's two shallowest positions, someone who can drain the holy hell out of some threes and play solid perimeter defense.
Realistically, though, Golden State should have had this deal in the bag before LeBron James even re-signed with the Cavaliers.
Thompson is a fine player, but he and Love are in two completely different stratospheres. Love is the best power forward in basketball and one of the league's best half-dozen players by any measure. He's a transformative talent who can make the Warriors a title contender. Thompson probably tops out as the third- or fourth-best player at his position, and it'd take a historical leap for him to become a top-10 guy.
Barnes' trade value has never been lower. He's coming off a miserable sophomore season that wiped away the positive vibes from his rookie season and replaced them with the same criticisms that marred his college career. Imagine Barnes' rookie season as Kevin Smith's Clerks and his second year as everything Kevin Smith has done after Clerks. His numbers flatlined or regressed in every meaningful category, and he never seemed comfortable accepting his role after Andre Iguodala came over.
Lee is a fine offensive player on an ugly contract. The Warriors and Wolves need him to be in the trade for salary purposes. He's already 31 years old and has had surgeries each of the last three summers. Too often Lee goes underrated for what the does in Golden State's offense, but he's not a legitimate trade chip.
To recap: The Warriors are offering a pretty good shooting guard due a max contract extension, a 22-year-old forward who doesn't enamor scouts and an aging forward with an affinity for the scalpel. For Kevin Love.
If Golden State loses this race, yikes, Bob Myers.
Let's Be Positive
Look who is sitting on the bench. The man you see is Flip Saunders, a 59-year-old man with a lower career winning percentage than Del Harris who tripped, fell and landed into a position to make himself perhaps the most powerful individual in the NBA. He's the coach, president of basketball operations and part-owner of the Timberwolves.
Saunders is so powerful that he'll probably select the fabric placed over tables at his press conference announcing the Love trade.
"This matters why?" you ask. Let's reemphasize the coach part of the equation. Saunders did not step down from a cushy front-office gig and place considerable risk on his coaching legacy in Minnesota to go 25-57. If he wanted to be terrible, it would have been much less of a headache to hire an unproven assistant off someone's bench and then fire him when things went to hell.
The Warriors' potential offer has long been Saunders' favorite because it allows him to compete immediately. Lee can give him 75 percent of Love's offensive production. He's an excellent passer from the high post, a solid rebounder and can stretch the floor with his mid-range jumper. Like Love, he also offers next to zero rim protection.
Thompson is a perfect fit next to Ricky Rubio. He's increased his scoring average in each of his three NBA seasons, has shot 40-plus percent in every campaign and has been a grinder from the moment he entered the league. No one thought Thompson would ever be able to capably defend point guards when he came out of college. He's a pretty good dude to have around in today's NBA.
Barnes, for all his flaws, is still 22. He wasn't comfortable in a role that fluctuated from night to night. Mark Jackson didn't get him enough opportunities to play the small-ball power forward, a role in which he flourished during the 2013 playoffs.
Saunders wants to win. The Warriors can help him do just that.
(*Whether the Warriors are actually making Thompson available is up for debate. Numerous other reports have said Thompson is unavailable. We're working under the assumption he is in this case because, frankly, that's the only way Golden State has a chance.)
What They're Offering: Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, a future first-round pick (per ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard)
Let's Be Negative
Full disclosure: It's difficult for me to argue against this trade from either team's perspective. Landing two No. 1 overall picks in the same trade is an unprecedented haul for the Wolves, who should probably look at superstar-featuring deals of years past before getting persnickety. Cleveland solidifies its own Big Three with Love and instantly becomes the perennial Eastern Conference favorite.
The devil's advocate point of view goes as follows: That's a lot of uncertainty the Wolves are acquiring. Bennett is coming off perhaps the worst season for a No. 1 overall pick in NBA history. Wiggins was the most hyped draft prospect coming out of high school since LeBron James. His one season at Kansas proved why there is one and only one LeBron James.
The future pick Minny would get from Cleveland will land somewhere in the 25-30 range—not great value in a so-so 2015 draft.
Not to go all Mike Singletary here, but Saunders wants to win. Rookie Wiggins + question-mark Bennett + Western Conference = Death. Saunders went through a miserable rebuilding situation in his last coaching run in Washington. The Wolves struggled to reach 40 wins with Love last season. It's going to get pretty ugly without him.
That's about all I got, folks.
Let's Be Positive
Two. Number one. Overall. Picks.
The last time a player was taken with the top pick and then traded before ever playing a game for that franchise was Chris Webber in 1994. The last time a No. 1 overall pick was taken and played just one season with his initial franchise was Pervis Ellison in 1990. The last time two No. 1 overall picks were packaged together, both within the first two years of their respective careers?
Teams do not give up on these assets easily. Kwame Brown got four full seasons with the Wizards before they shipped him to Los Angeles. Michael Olowokandi played five seasons with the Clippers prior to his departure. This is easily the best long-term trade on the table for the Wolves at this point, and it will say a lot about how Saunders is choosing to run the organization if he ships Love to Golden State rather than pull the trigger.
Bennett was a disaster last season, but there were positive signs all over the place at Las Vegas Summer League. He's hired a personal trainer, dropped a ton of weight already and looked like a completely different player. He averaged 13.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, garnering more compliments than criticisms for the first time in his pro career.
"He's playing with a chip on his shoulder right now, showing and proving to everybody that he deserved that No. 1 pick last year," Wiggins told James Herbert of CBS Sports. "He's just gonna stay killin'."
I'm not sure that Bennett will be an All-Star. I just came away from Vegas pretty sure he's going to carve out a niche for himself in this league. That's more than what anyone was saying in March, a time in which he was considered a pizza burn on the roof of the world's mouth. Bennett's commitment to getting better and into shape is promising.
Wiggins, of course, is the blue-chipper here. He had an up-and-down season at Kansas and probably wouldn't have been the top overall selection had Joel Embiid not been injured. Still. It took roughly 12 seconds in warm-ups in Vegas to see why he was so highly touted coming out of high school.
Wiggins is an otherworldly athletic freak. His running stride is fluid and powerful. His vertical leaps look effortless until you realize he's not even nearing his apex at a point when others would already be descending. He moves beautifully from side to side, helping him project as perhaps the best individual defender in this class.
The jumper needs a good deal of work, and Wiggins can go missing in action at times offensively. But dude. Seriously. The offers aren't getting any better than this.
What They're Offering: Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic, Doug McDermott, possibly more (per Chris Sheridan of Sheridan Hoops)
Let's Be Negative
The criticism here is a combination of the two aforementioned offers. Mirotic, Gibson and McDermott is a solid haul but looks like a classic quarters-for-a-dollar offer.
Gibson is one of the best defensive forwards in the league and is on a cheap contract. He's also been a bench guy for nearly his entire career, has never played 30 minutes per game in a season and just turned 29.
If the goal is to continue winning immediately, I'm not sure Gibson is a better option than Lee. The Wolves sans Love are losing a major source of their offense, a side of the floor Gibson isn't going to help prop up.
Mirotic and McDermott theoretically supply that scoring punch. McDermott is a sweet-shooting forward who was the best player in college basketball each of the last two seasons. Mirotic was the 2013 Spanish League MVP and comes stateside with the most hype for an international prospect in a very, very long time.
Both men have played as much NBA basketball as you or I. Neither possess the upside of Wiggins, who might be a top-five player in three or four years. If the Cavaliers called and offered Wiggins straight up for Mirotic and McDermott, Chicago general manager Gar Forman would have to wait four days to get back because he will have fainted, hit his head and been diagnosed with a concussion in all the excitement.
I've watched enough tape on Mirotic and McDermott to believe both will be good. But Thompson isn't much older than either guy and has already displayed his talents for three years on the NBA level. The Chicago deal has too much tricky water to navigate.
Let's Be Positive
We're splitting the difference. The Bulls' offer is a 75 percent return on the Golden State trade and a 75 percent return on the Cleveland trade rolled into one semi-enticing package.
Minnesota was the worst rim-protecting team in the league last season. Neither Love nor Nikola Pekovic can defend near the basket with any consistency, and Rick Adelman flipped the Gorgui Dieng switch too late to make a real difference. Having Dieng or Gibson on the floor at all times gives Saunders a rim protector to play with Mirotic and Pekovic, who'd then be free to keep their focus on offense.
The Mirotic component is interesting because no one knows how good he's going to be. He might have been the best player in European basketball last year. He can stretch beyond the three-point line, has some nifty moves near the basket and is far more athletic than you'd initially expect.
While defense won't be a strength, Mirotic is a heady player who puts in a ton of effort. There's a real chance he winds up as a long-term starter in the NBA.
McDermott was a revelation at Summer League, displaying the beautiful jumper and solid post moves against smaller defenders that turned him into the National Player of the Year. He averaged 18 points per game, flashed some impressive passing skills and even turned some heads defensively.
In the predraft process, McDermott became synonymous with the word "safe." His shooting ability, intangibles and rebounding prowess made it clear that somehow, some way he'd find a niche in the NBA. Summer League opened up the possibility that it might be more than that.
Mirotic and McDermott are also able to slide into an NBA rotation immediately. The Bulls are expecting both to be major contributors as they push for an Eastern Conference championship, and Saunders could slide them into similar roles in Minnesota. It's possible that the Chicago trio can keep the Wolves in the 40-45-win range next season.
But who is that really benefiting?
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