With the February 19th NBA trade deadline starting to loom large, this is the time of year when swap talks really heat up, and though Carmelo Anthony is the biggest name in trade rumors, other studs such as Kevin Love have become topics of speculation.
The Minnesota Timberwolves' power forward has taken the league by storm, posting 21.2 points, 15.7 rebounds, top five PER, 33 double-doubles, and five ridiculous 20-20 outings, not to mention the NBA's first 30 point, 30 rebound game in 28 years!
Unfortunately, he's doing all this for the 9-29 T-Wolves.
Love is redefining the term bottom feeder, gobbling up boards for a hopeless cellar dweller.
In the song "Guns & Roses," Jay-Z raps, "Even a garbage can gets a steak." Love proves that a garbage man can eat steak every night, but he might as well be living in the street.
Due to his consistent exploits, Love has managed to escape the obscurity of the Twin Cities and now boasts fans around the country, especially in NBA front offices everywhere. Who wouldn't like a hard-working, self-effacing, always-hustling, team-oriented rebound machine?
Ergo, Love's name has surfaced as a player who could possibly turn a playoff team into a legitimate contender, a guy who could be the final piece to the puzzle.
Minnesota would be crazy to trade him. Although they have been in rebuilding mode ever since Kevin Garnett left in 2007, they haven't been able to construct a basic foundation. Kevin Love is an essential building block, even a cornerstone, for a potentially glorious future.
The Timberwolves should try to retain him at any cost and do all they can to prompt him to sign an extension.
However, Minnesota's General Manager David Kahn has repeatedly demonstrated questionable judgment. He selected three point guards in the first 18 picks of the 2009 draft and gave the inimitable Darko Milicic a $20 million deal.
Who knows what he might do next? Let's also remind ourselves that Love might want out of the Frigid North.
If the Love don't fit, teams will be fighting to grab him as tenaciously as he battles for each missed shot. Here are his best options...
(Disclaimer: These trades are primarily beneficial for Love and his potential destinations. The other teams would almost surely need to throw in a draft pick or two. Again, Minnesota would be crazy to make some of these moves.)
As usual, the Popovich-Duncan train keeps chugging along: 11 straight 50-win seasons, and at 32-6, they're almost assuredly going to add another year to that streak. Amazingly, they've done it with Duncan playing the fewest minutes of his career.
Still, the San Antonio Spurs haven't been serious championship threats since the Lakers acquired Pau Gasol.
Despite the torrid start, the Spurs might need a little extra oomph to win the competitive Western Conference. Pairing Kevin Love with Timmy up front would probably do the trick.
With all due respect to DeJuan Blair, yet another fantastic RC Buford draft pick, he's not quite on Love's level.
Possible trade: Love for George Hill, DeJuan Blair and Tiago Splitter; T-Wolves get two promising big guys for one, as well as a rising combo guard.
Two weeks ago, the Dallas Mavericks would not have been on this list. They were cruising, destroying teams left and right—at one point winning 16 of 17 games—and taking specific advantage of their considerable depth.
Two injuries and several losses later, it's almost panic time for the Mavs.
Though Dirk Nowitzki should be back soon, Caron Butler is out for the season, which leaves Dallas rather thin up front. As much as I like Brian Cardinal, the custodian is receiving way too many minutes.
Kevin Love would bolster their front line and make them contenders yet again.
Possible trade: Love for Caron Butler (who owns an expiring contract). Or Love for young talent like Roddy Beaubois and Dominique Jones.
Although all Carmelo Anthony rumors are now firmly focused on the proposed three-way deal between the Denver Nuggets, New Jersey Nets and Detroit Pistons, that trade is far from finalized. Apparently the Nets only want to acquire the superstar small forward if he agrees to a long-term extension, but 'Melo reportedly has no interest in doing so.
So why don't the Nuggets look elsewhere? If Denver is going into rebuilding mode, then Kevin Love would be a perfect target.
Though the Nuggets probably couldn't make much noise in the West without Carmelo, they're not devoid of other talent. Replacing Anthony with Love and some other talented guys, Denver would definitely have a bright future.
Possible trade: Love and Wesley Johnson for Carmelo.
Portland has supposedly been on the cusp of greatness for several years now, but they haven't made the jump to the league's elite echelon.
Blame what you will—Brandon Roy's knee issues, LaMarcus Aldridge's lack of improvement, Greg Oden's serious injuries—but the Trail Blazers are now just a .500 team fighting for a playoff spot.
They could really use more depth among their big men, and Kevin Love could help immensely. It is doubtful they could they reach the Finals, but the fans in Portland are excited again and deserve the front office's best effort.
The only question is, would Love or Aldridge start?
Possible trade: Love For Nic Batum and Rudy Fernandez. Perhaps Fernandez could coax fellow Spaniard Ricky Rubio to finally grace Minnesota with his presence.
This move would make a ton of sense for New York. After years of laughable futility, the Knicks are actually good again.
Amar'e Stoudemire has been a monster, but he needs assistance down low. The Knicks are 25th in the league in rebounding differential, a weakness that Kevin Love would immediately improve.
A Knicks team with Love could definitely win a playoff series (or even two).
Then if New York were to obtain Carmelo this offseason, they would suddenly be a championship contender.
Possible trade: Love for Danilo Gallinari and Eddy Curry (who owns an expiring contract).
Toronto has a huge hole at power forward. Giving Amir Johnson such a huge contract during the offseason (5 years, $34 million) was a ridiculous decision.
Johnson does not have the tools, at least not right now, to be a starting forward in the NBA, even for a terrible team. He needs to return to his role as energy guy off the bench.
Despite a 13-24 record, the Raptors are in the playoff hunt. Kevin Love could jump right into the four spot and put Toronto over the hump.
Possible trade: Love for Peja Stojakovic (who owns an expiring contract).
Charlotte is another team battling to reach the postseason, and they've been maddeningly inconsistent.
The addition of Kevin Love would be more than enough to propel them into the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. Boris Diaw is not a bad player, but Love is certainly an upgrade.
Gerald Wallace, Stephen Jackson and Love would be a nice trio, one that could even make a series tough for one of the beasts of the East.
Possible trade: Love for Tyrus Thomas and Nazr Mohammed (who owns an expiring contract).
Here is yet another middling Eastern Conference team playing for the right to get demolished by Miami, Boston, or Orlando in the first round of the playoffs.
But Indiana is a little bit different.
The Pacers have committed to rebuilding, and they seem to have a decent plan. Danny Granger, Darren Collison and Roy Hibbert are a sound foundation. However, the power forward tandem of Tyler Hansbrough and Josh McRoberts are not good enough.
Kevin Love would complement the Pacers' starters very well and help ameliorate Indiana's rebounding struggles.
Possible trade: Love for Tyler Hansbrough and TJ Ford (who owns an expiring contract).
What is it with the Eastern Conference and all these average squads with below-average power forwards. The Bucks also fit the description exactly.
Andrew Bogut and Brandon Jennings are future All-Stars. Carlos Delfino, John Salmons and Corey Maggette can light up the scoreboard in a hurry. There's hope in Milwaukee.
Just like the Raptors, Bobcats, and Pacers, the Bucks need someone new at the four. With Kevin Love starting, Ersan Ilyasova and Drew Gooden could go back to being backups.
Possible trade: Love, Darko Milicic and Corey Brewer for Salmons and Michael Redd (who owns an expiring contract).
The Orlando Magic are on a roll. They've won 9 straight games—seven by double digits—including victories over San Antonio, Boston, New York and Dallas.
The blockbuster trades with Phoenix and Washington have clearly reinvigorated Stan Van Gundy's squad. Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Gilbert Arenas have been perfect fits, so should they risk ruining a good thing?
Definitely. Despite the recent success, this current Magic team might not be quite good enough to compete with Miami and Boston in the playoffs. Though Brandon Bass has been solid, he's not yet a legitimate starter on a championship team.
That's where Kevin Love comes in. Adding Love to the Magic would instantly make this team incredibly dangerous.
Love and Dwight Howard would dominate the boards, Love can step out and stretch the defense, and Howard could hide his defensive flaws.
Possible trade: Love for Jason Richardson (who owns an expiring contract).