Now we know the Minnesota Timberwolves have hit the point where they must face reality and consider trading forward Kevin Love. President Flip Saunders must at the least listen to offers, and if he finds an acceptable deal he’ll have to allow Love to sign off on a move — a team dolling out an arm and a leg for the All-Star would need assurance he would sign a long-term deal with them.
That two-step process involves the Phoenix Suns, but there will be a line out the T-Wolves’ front door ready to offer trade proposals. Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the Boston Celtics and Houston Rockets will chase after Love, adding to ESPN’s Marc Stein earlier report that the Chicago Bulls and Golden State Warriors join the Suns, Lakers and Celtics in the race. So what are the Timberwolves looking for, and what can the candidates to land Love offer the forward?
What the ‘Wolves would want: It’s unclear if the Timberwolves are insistent upon a high first round pick, but the Suns do have enough picks to package them into a more tempting first-round choice this year or next. Salary-wise, the Suns could deal a combination including the Morris twins, Miles Plumlee or either of Alex Len or Archie Goodwin — though the latter would be done more reluctantly. It’s unclear if Minnesota would somehow try to force the Suns to part with one of their two star guards in any deal.
What would lure Love: The Oregon kid would get away from the cold and the wet, for one. On the basketball side of things, Love would fit right into an offense that utilizes the pick-and-roll to his strengths, spreads the court and could use a big man to pass out of the post. If Phoenix can convince him he was the missing piece to make the squad an elite contender, which isn’t a hard argument, it could be intriguing for a player who is desperate to taste the playoffs.
Why not?: Other teams have more seasoned playoff rosters, and Love may want to play with another more established star such as Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Stephen Curry or Derrick Rose.
Golden State Warriors
What the ‘Wolves would want: Certainly, it would make sense for the Warriors to trade Harrison Barnes since his development opportunities have been put aside to play Andre Iguodala and win now. David Lee would be expendable at power forward as a similar offensive threat to Love.
What would lure Love: Steve Kerr could plug Love in immediately and the Warriors would be considered to have upgraded in a very deep Western Conference. They would join San Antonio, Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Clippers as the class of the conference.
Why not?: If the T-Wolves want to acquire draft picks, working out a deal with Golden State might be tough. Barnes is a nice grab and can develop, and while Lee would fit well with Nikola Pekovic, he’s 31 years old. Minnesota can probably get better offers, or it would at least need to get another team involved in a trade. Additionally, the Warriors would have to make major maneuvers to open up cap space.
What the ‘Wolves would want: Houston has long been dangling Omer Asik as a trade asset, and the same goes for Jeremy Lin. The Timberwolves would probably also want to acquire small forward Chandler Parsons, according to Wojnarowski.
What would lure Love: Winning. A Dwight Howard-Kevin Love frontcourt could be hell to stop, and Love is familiar and friendly with former T-Wolves executive and coach Kevin McHale, according to Wojnarowski. Playing with James Harden wouldn’t be the worst thing either.
Why not?: Like the Warriors, the Rockets don’t have a lot of draft assets to swing a deal in their favor but they do have a talented big man — though Asik and Pekovic probably wouldn’t go well — and a versatile swingman. Houston would also need to adjust its roster to allow for another very big contract.
What the ‘Wolves would want: It’s hard to conceive how such a deal would work for the T-Wolves. Chicago has some intriguing young swingmen in Jimmy Butler and Tony Snell but nothing seems super appealing from the Bulls roster alone.
What would lure Love: Playing with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah is enough to tempt Love. He and Rose would be a terror on the pick-and-roll, and the Bulls’ stellar defense would mask Love’s deficiencies on that end.
Why not?: Minnesota might not be impressed with a Chicago offer, and Love might have to be sold on how coach Tom Thibodeau would utilize him; the latter, however, would probably be an easy hurdle to overcome. Financially, the Bulls would open up a bit of cap space by amnestying Carlos Boozer.
What the ‘Wolves would want: The T-Wolves certainly would want this year’s lottery pick from the Celtics, plus future draft compensation. Minnesota could also shed unnecessary salary since Boston has salary cap space.
What would lure Love: The ability to team with Rajon Rondo would be similar to Love’s teaming with Ricky Rubio, and the tradition of winning in Boston can sell itself.
Why not?: Boston head coach Brad Stevens is still new to the game, and Love would need to be confident that the Celtics can become a threat in the Eastern Conference sooner rather than later. It’s also a question of whether Minnesota wants known trade pieces — as in proven NBA players — to come back in a Love deal.
Los Angeles Lakers
What the ‘Wolves would want: First round picks. And that’s about it.
What would lure Love: Though the Lakers’ future is a black hole, a tandem of Love and an aging Kobe Bryant could still be somewhat enticing. Los Angeles has the ability to do quite a bit in the future, and one would think Love would have to at least think about learning from Bryant.
Why not?: There’s too much unknown in the near future, and that’s even discounting the risk of Bryant’s body failing him in the final two years of his contract.
Why would Love stay? If Minnesota can hire a head coach that knows how to utilize Love and the unique talent around him, there’s still a shot the T-Wolves can quickly turn themselves into a playoff contender. That’s a big if. Love may miss out on a five-year deal, and around $15 million over two years, if he becomes a free agent and loses his bird rights by staying in Minnesota next season, but unrestricted free agency wouldn’t be the worst thing. He could ride this year out and have all the decision-making in his own hands.