The Minnesota Timberwolves have enjoyed a front row seat for every second of Kevin Love's NBA brilliance. They know as well as anyone this league doesn't have a carbon copy of the sweet-shooting double-double machine.
That's perhaps why this summer's biggest "Love affair" has rarely included mention of a potential replacement. With Love anxiously awaiting his inevitable exit, the Timberwolves have searched through the trade market for the best players available, with wings Andrew Wiggins and Klay Thompson reportedly sitting atop their wish list.
Of course, when Love does receive his ticket out of town, the Timberwolves will need someone to fill his spot in president-coach Flip Saunders' rotation. And it appears that someone could be Philadelphia 76ers swingman Thaddeus Young, a solid starter on a team that has no need for such a player at the moment.
According to ESPN.com's Marc Stein, the Timberwolves have started exploring the possibility of bringing in Young to help offset the loss of Love:
The Minnesota Timberwolves have expressed interest in Philadelphia 76ers power forward Thaddeus Young as a potential replacement for Kevin Love, according to sources close to the situation.
Sources told ESPN.com that the Wolves, while continuing to discuss trade proposals that would send Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers, have been exploring their options for acquiring Young from the Sixers, either through a separate transaction or as part of an expanded Love trade.
Whether Philadelphia proves willing to part with Young, though, remains to be seen.
The last sentence of Stein's report isn't nearly as dramatic as it sounds. Young is a more than serviceable player, and in Philly's loss-embracing world, that makes him expendable for the right price.
"They’re willing," wrote NBC Sports' Kurt Helin. "They have been for a while, they just want the right mix of young players and/or picks in return. The Sixers are a rebuilding team acquiring young assets...and they want more they can put in that mix. Minnesota has picks and assets Philly could want."
Getting Young to Minnesota won't be painless, but it certainly feels doable.
This isn't even the first time his name has been tied to these sweepstakes, nor the first glance given to him by the Timberwolves, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press:
Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie has said he expects Young to be with the team next season, via Comcast SportsNet's John Gonzalez, and that desire might be legitimate.
Young has taken Philly's dramatic free fall—the Sixers had a .530 winning percentage in 2011-12 and only a .232 mark last season—in stride. He give the Sixers a steady source of production last season (17.9 points, 6.0 boards), excelling in head coach Brett Brown's uptempo system (the Sixers averaged a league-high 101.6 possessions per 48 minutes, via NBA.com).
Still, Philly's primary concern isn't today or even tomorrow.
The Sixers spent the No. 3 draft pick on Joel Embiid with the knowledge he could be sidelined the next five to eight months by a stress fracture in his right foot. They flipped the 10th overall pick for stretch forward Dario Saric, who won't be coming stateside "for a minimum of two years," a source told ESPN.com's Chad Ford.
Philly sees value differently than most. If it can turn Young into a decent piece for the future, it shouldn't have any trouble pulling the trigger on that deal.
As for the Timberwolves, their interest in Wiggins hasn't changed Saunders' desire to find win-now talent.
"They want to be competitive now, with or without Kevin," a league source told Baxter Holmes of The Boston Globe. "... So if they're going to move Kevin, they're going to get two or three guys that can help them win now."
Young isn't Love. Their stat sheets are far enough apart—even with Young suiting up for the undermanned, stat-padding Sixers last season—that the former probably wouldn't even make that claim.
|The Statistical Canyon Between Kevin Love and Thaddeus Young|
However, the Wolves aren't searching for Kevin Love 2.0. They know that player doesn't exist.
What Minnesota wants is someone who can contribute right away. And Young is more than ready for that challenge.
"Minnesota apparently doesn't want to go into tank mode after dealing Love," wrote CBS Sports' James Herbert. "You can question the Wolves' strategy here, but you can't really question them targeting Young as a means of executing it."
Especially when Young can provide a lift in the present and the future.
The 26-year-old has two years and $19.3 million left on his current contract, including a player option for 2015-16, via ShamSports.com. The Wolves might not be getting an All-Star, but they could have their power forward position settled for years to come.
Assuming the Wolves pick up Wiggins along the way, they'll be more than ready to run next season. Ricky Rubio is a magician in the open court, and rookie Zach LaVine might have been Wiggins' biggest threat for the title of best athlete in the 2014 draft class.
With Shabazz Muhammad, Corey Brewer, Chase Budinger and Gorgui Dieng already on board, Minnesota can trot out a lineup heavy in athleticism, and the speedy Young would fit right into that approach.
Nearly 19 percent of the offensive plays Young finished last season were out in transition, via Synergy Sports (subscription required). The Wolves had the fourth-fastest pace in 2013-14 (99.8 possessions per 48 minutes, via NBA.com), and their tempo could increase as their collection of athletes expands.
Minnesota's interest in Young makes a lot of sense, provided the necessary dominoes drop before he's moved. That means Love joining Kyrie Irving and LeBron James in Cleveland, with the drool-worthy Wiggins heading to the Gopher State.
Wiggins, who recently put pen to paper on his rookie deal, cannot be moved before August 23. However, progress can be made on the trade front before that time, and Young's emergence as a Love "replacement" for Minnesota could be one of the final hurdles these teams need to clear.
The Timberwolves' present and future depends on getting this right. And that means not only maximizing Love's value on the trade market but also identifying someone to fill the spot he'll leave behind.
Young can be that player. He can be the key to basketball's next summer blockbuster.