Culture of Hoops

Top 5 Kevin Love Trade Scenarios for Minnesota Timberwolves

Image courtesy of nikk_la/Flickr.

Image courtesy of nikk_la/Flickr.

Since Kevin Love has turned down the Minnesota Timberwolves’ contract extension proposal, the T-Wolves are now left with no choice, but to start shopping their NBA All-Star player or risk losing him without any compensation.

Here are the five most likely scenarios for Minnesota:

Boston Celtics
In recent weeks, Boston was considered a longshot in the Kevin Love Sweepstakes. However, in the past few days, the Celtics have moved up the ladder of frontrunners to land his services. As reported by Yahoo! on May 18:

Still, Boston is the sleeper gathering momentum in a process that is still beginning to unfold… Boston has multiple picks to offer in the next several years as part of a total package for Love, as well as the salary cap space to perhaps take back an unwanted contract from Minnesota.

If the current draft positions hold, the Celtics own the fifth pick this year, which could be tantalizing to a team like Minnesota because of the depth of this year’s pool of rookies. The Boston Celtics have acquired first round picks from other teams like the Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Clippers, which they can add to the deal. Financially, this deal is sound for Minnesota if they mix in the right pieces.

Here’s one try:

Celtics give up Brandon Bass, Jeff Green, Joel Anthony and Jared Sullinger, plus their 2014 first round NBA Draft pick. They can add one more future first-rounder also as icing on the cake. The Timberwolves give up Kevin Love, Chase Budinger and Luc Mbah Moute.

In giving up Moute and Budinger, the Wolves are able to unload $9.3 million in salaries, because Boston has the cap space. On the other hand, Bass ($6.9 million) and Joel Anthony ($3.8 million) are off the books after next season. Jeff Green ($9.45 million) will be off in 2016, and Sullinger has a team option in 2016. While Green and Sullinger are assets that Minnesota could use next season, they can ship them out in 2016 if they want. However, these are the incidentals of the trade. The key is the high draft pick come June.

Yahoo! adds that a personal relationship could also be a factor going for Boston:

Love’s agent, Jeff Schwartz, and Ainge have a strong relationship and a good working history. Ainge helped another Schwartz client, Paul Pierce, get to a preferred trade destination in Brooklyn a year ago.

Lastly, the Celtics have the advantage over the other top suitors because they are in the Eastern Conference. While Minnesota is looking for valuable assets in exchange for Kevin Love, they would prefer trading him to a team that they won’t have to potentially face until the NBA Finals. The Wolves know firsthand the damage that Love can do to the opposition.

Houston Rockets

The Houston Rockets have also been considered as a legitimate destination for Kevin Love. According to Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski:

The Houston Rockets also plan to make a run at a trade for Love, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Officials believe Love’s close relationship and respect for coach Kevin McHale could give the Rockets an edge.

Houston doesn’t have the draft picks to offer Minnesota, but does have appealing young players in Chandler Parsons and Omer Asik to include in packages. McHale acquired Love for the T-wolves with a draft-night trade and coached him. Beyond McHale, Houston could offer Love an immediate chance to be part of a contender.

The Rockets will have to ship out Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin to unload their total $16.6 million salary. The Rockets don’t have any draft picks, so they should be including Chandler Parsons and/or Terrence Jones in the mix. The key pickups for the Wolves would be Parsons and/or Jones because these are two young and talented forwards who can contribute for Minnesota. Asik and Lin are financial pieces, because their total of $16.6 million would be off the books after 2015. Minnesota gives up Love and disposes of Chase Budinger’s contract. That would give Minnesota financial muscle in the offseason of 2015 to seek blue chip free agents.

While having Lin seems to duplicate Ricky Rubio, Linsanity could always be an energy spark for the Wolves, and Asik would give them a more dominating presence in the shaded lane. And with Terrence Jones, the Minnesota Timberwolves frontline would be solid enough to compete with the tough Western Conference. Chandler Parsons would also give them the versatility at the swingman position.

It’s true that the Kevins shared a special bond in Minnesota. The head coach of the Houston Rockets, Kevin McHale, was also a power forward when he was with the Celtics. McHale coached Love at Minnesota, and the younger Kevin said this in 2009 to

“Growing up watching him and now I’m playing for him; it’s been tremendous for me,” Love said. “Every time he speaks, I listen. He has helped me a lot.”

The Rockets hope that five years after that interview, Love would still listen to McHale, and Houston will be an immediate title contender if Kevin Love goes there.

Chicago Bulls
ESPN reported that Chicago is one of the top destinations that Kevin Love actually wants to go to:

Sources told that the Golden State Warriors and Chicago Bulls are among the potential trade destinations that intrigue Love.

Love has a reason to be intrigued because Chicago is a contender and they reached the playoffs without Derrick Rose, who was injured, and Luol Deng, who was traded. The Bulls would probably have to give up Taj Gibson, Mike Dunleavy Jr. and their two first round picks for 2014. On the other hand, Minnesota would give up only Kevin Love.

If Minnesota is looking to get cap space, Chicago is not the team to dance with. Taj Gibson is locked up for another three seasons and will make $8 million next season, $8.5 million in 2016 and $8.95 million in 2017. Dunleavy has one year left and it’s worth $3.32 million.

That being said, if the Wolves are looking for immediate impact and future players, they’re talking to the right city. Chicago has both veteran contributors and draft picks to offer Minnesota.

Gibson’s 2014 regular season averages were 13.0 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game, while playing all 82 games. Mike Dunleavy is 33 years old, but he still had a very healthy and productive 2014 season when he played all 82 games and averaged 11.3 points along with 4.2 rebounds per game. The Bulls also own two first round picks, numbers 16 and 19. They can always add these two top 20 picks to the deal.

Kevin Love and Derrick Rose are known to be good friends. They even worked out together during the offseason. Love and Rose are two words that go together in romance. Maybe Kevin and Derrick will translate into basketball romance and a perfect marriage in Chicago.

Los Angeles Lakers

Yahoo!’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on May 18:

Boston and Los Angeles plan to make high-lottery picks in the 2014 NBA draft available in offers for Love.

Both the Lakers and Celtics have lottery picks in the upcoming 2014 NBA Draft. Although Boston has the higher chance of landing a top three pick, Kevin Love might not be interested in the rebuilding situation in Boston. However, the case with the Lakers is different.

Kobe Bryant returns to action with Steve Nash next season. If by luck the Lakers get any of the top three picks, then they can dangle that to the Timberwolves mano y mano for Kevin Love. The T-Wolves are then guaranteed of getting their next franchise player with any of Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker.

Another scenario in LA would be if the Lakers get a pick between 4-10 (most likely the #6 pick). The Lakers can re-sign Pau Gasol, and then trade him alongside the top 10 pick for Kevin Love. This is another win-win situation for the Timberwolves as their other young star Ricky Rubio will have the opportunity to play with his Spanish “big brother” teammate Pau Gasol, in the NBA.

We all know Kevin Love is painted purple and gold. Love was born in Santa Monica, California, while his father Stan played for the Lakers. Kevin starred at UCLA in college and he played high school ball for the Oswego Lakers. Last January 9, Ken Berger of CBS Sports reported that one Eastern Conference executive said that, “Everyone knows he (Kevin Love) wants to go to the Lakers.”

One of the concerns about Kevin Love is whether he will re-sign with the team that he will be traded to. That is obviously not problem with the Lakers.

Golden State Warriors

The Warriors should be the top trade destination for Kevin Love. They can provide the Timberwolves the best compensation for a star of Love’s caliber. He’s said to be intrigued with the Warriors, as well with the Bulls, hence, re-signing him next year won’t be a problem here either.

Here’s the offer: Harrison Barnes, David Lee and the 2014 first round pick for Kevin Love. This is the best offer that Minnesota can ever get for Kevin Love. Look at their 2014 regular season stats:

  Points Rebounds Assists Blocks Steals
Harrison Barnes 9.5 4.0 1.5 0.26 0.86
David Lee 18.2 9.3 2.1 0.38 0.70
Total 27.7 13.3 3.6 0.64 1.56
Kevin Love 26.1 12.5 4.4 0.50 0.80

The only statistic that suffers for Minnesota in this deal would be the 2.5 three-point field goals per game that Kevin Love makes. Apart from that, this is as good as it can get for the Wolves.

Like Kevin Love, David Lee is a double-double machine as a power forward. He can immediately replace Kevin Love in the four spot and make a difference. With Harrison Barnes, the Wolves get a young swingman with a lot of upside. Barnes is a versatile scorer who can score from the inside and outside. He also has three-point range and has shown that he can take over games with his scoring. Barnes is the kind of player that the Wolves never had in their franchise’s history. He may have the opportunity to blossom as a star in Minnesota.

Lastly, both Lee and Barnes have playoff experience, which the Wolves badly need. If this rebuilding takes them to the postseason in 2015, these two Warriors should come in very handy for Minnesota.

The jury on Kevin Love’s destination is still cloudy right now, but as draft day comes, the picture will be clearer. One thing is for sure, one of these cities will be falling in love with Kevin Love.

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