The news here is not that the Phoenix Suns would be interested in Kevin Love.
It’s that the Minnesota Timberwolves have just now begun to consider dealing their All-Star forward.
For a long time now, Suns general manager Ryan McDonough has openly expressed his desire to trade for an All-NBA caliber player, and he reaffirmed that stance Thursday in a live interview with ESPN at the NBA Draft Combine.
Love, next to Kyrie Irving, is a young All-Star who is reportedly unhappy about his current situation, and because a contract extension with the T-Wolves is out of the question, he was an obvious player who could be dealt before becoming a free agent.
But not until Saturday did the Kevin Love trade rumors indicate that the T-Wolves would listen to pitches. Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski and ESPN’s Marc Stein report that the Timberwolves and president Flip Saunders are beginning to lean toward fielding calls about their star now that’s it’s clear he won’t sign an extension beyond the 2014-15 season.
“For the first time, [Saunders] sounds like looking at deals for [Love] is an option,” one rival executive told Yahoo Sports.
Both reporters expect Phoenix to make a push to land Love. The franchise is waist deep in first round draft picks this year and next, and the idea is to win now.
Winning now is Love’s first priority, according to Stein.
That hasn’t happened during his six years in Minnesota. Stein admits there is no telling how Love feels about Phoenix, which won 48 games this past season, but the Suns are seemingly a perfect set up for the forward, who could stretch the floor but also create offense out of the post.
As it stands, however, the Bulls and Warriors could be the two most enticing options if Love has his choice.
Love reportedly has interest in landing in big markets like Chicago, New York or Los Angeles, but it’s a wonder if the Bulls, Knicks or Lakers would have any way of working out a trade — the Lakers do have an enticing high-lottery pick this year. Minnesota could create quite a bidding war for Love, and it’s teams like Phoenix and Boston that have more assets to exchange. The Golden State Warriors, under newly-hired coach Steve Kerr, are also in the running and could offer a winning situation and a very appealing package to the T-Wolves around reserve small forward Harrison Barnes and power forward David Lee, Stein reports.
Minnesota has been hesitant to discuss trades involving Love and can offer him a longer contract to the extent of $30 million more than any other team if Love reaches free agency after the 2014-15 season. But if they want to get something in return, the trade route might be the best decision.
Much more will be known about specifics following Tuesday’s NBA Draft Lottery. If the Lakers or Celtics secure high first-round picks as expected, that could be enticing for the T-Wolves.
Any team that would be in the running to acquire Love via trade would certainly need a commitment from the forward to sign a long-term contract extension that could total $100 million over five years.
Whatever happens, it’ll have to be a two-way street.
Love is in control here and won’t land where he doesn’t want to. And the T-Wolves won’t make a move unless it really helps them. The Lakers and Knicks — maybe even the Bulls unless they part with a few key players — seemingly don’t have enough to pull off a deal unless they get tricky and urge other teams with better assets to get involved. Those teams, amongst many others, would be in fine shape during free agency, but the good news for a team like the Suns is that Minnesota might not want it to come to that.
This is why the Suns’ refusal to tank a la the Philadelphia 76ers paid off. A surprising run in 2013-14 may have cost the Suns a high draft pick that could help them acquire Love, but Phoenix could package two mid-first-round picks to acquire a top-5 selection if that’s a necessity. Most of all, the Suns might have sold a winning attitude this year when they went 2-1 against Minnesota and became the surprise of the league.