Kevin Love Destinations
One of the bigger stories this off-season will be where Kevin Love will be playing basketball next season. The most often discussed rumor to date is that he will finish out next season in Minnesota and then sign with the Lakers in 2015 when he can opt out of the last year of his contract. The rumor makes sense for a myriad of reasons, but there are others out there that believe Love is open to playing for another team if they are a contender or have one all-star already in place to pair with him. With that belief has come the usual list of suspects like the Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, Houston Rockets, Boston Celtics, and Phoenix Suns as possible landing spots for the power forward. Each team on the list has varying assets to offer the Wolves if they are forced to trade Love. Here’s a brief breakdown on what each of the teams mentioned could offer.
The Bulls current assets include two mid first round picks in the 2014 draft, emerging power forward Taj Gibson (signed to a very reasonable contract for the next 3 years), the mysterious Nikoli Mirotic, Jimmy Butler, Carlos Boozer’s expiring contract, a Sacramento pick that MIGHT become a first round pick, and last year’s first round pick Tony Snell. If Chicago offers their two first round picks and Taj Gibson is that going be enough to convince the Wolves to trade away arguably the best power forward in the NBA?
New York Knicks
I’m sure the Knicks are interested in acquiring Love. Every team in the NBA is interested in acquiring Kevin Love. But all the Knicks can really offer Love is a premier destination, which looks to be less and less important to players. The Knicks have no real assets to offer the Wolves other than Tim Hardaway Jr. and Iman Shumpert. Both are nice players, but neither look like future stars. Maybe more importantly though is the Knicks’ front office is a colossus of fuck all. Just last night Tyson Chandler questioned whether or not he wanted any part of the Knicks future, and at this point besides more guaranteed money I don’t know why Anthony would stick around. Jimmy Dolan can continue to dream, but unless he can black mail the entire league I don’t see how or why Kevin Love would continue his career in NYC.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers are another premier destination, and where Love played his college ball. I’m not totally sure, but I believe he even calls LA his home in the off-season. The Lakers can certainly point to their history of success in the league, and Love would be in line to take the Lakers torch from Kobe in two seasons. But for the Lakers to acquire Love this off season I have no idea what they can offer. They can’t trade their 2014 first round pick, since they owe their 2015 pick to the Suns. I guess a sign-and-trade involving Gasol is possible, but I doubt a Gasol north of 30 is all that desirable to the Wolves. The Lakers best bet is acquiring Love through free agency in 2015. At that point they could have a player like Joel Embiid, Bryant, a free agent from this off-season (the Lakers have around $25 million in cap room), and emerging point guard Kendall Marshall.
Off topic but worth saying, Marshall was traded to the Wizards in the Gortat trade just before the season started. The Wizards promptly cut him and then had to give up future assets for a 60 year old Andre Miller, who is still owed another $5,000,000 next season. Marshall meanwhile is 10X less of a cap hit, and is second in the league in assists per game.
Love would fit in perfectly with the Rockets. He’d have Howard to cover for him defensively and would be shouldering less of the scoring load playing with Harden. The Rockets will have some cap issues this summer, but do have some interesting pieces to offer the Wolves. The have both Omar Asik and Jeremy Lin in the last year of their deals, Terrence Jones and the seldom used but promising Donatas Monteijunas still on their rookie contracts, Chandler Parsons, and a late 2014 first round pick. Again though like with the Bulls, I’m not sure Terrence Jones, a non-lottery first round pick, and Chandler Parsons are enough for a top 10 player.
The Suns are the surprise team this season, and look to have hired the best new coach in the league. They also have young or in their prime players like the Morris twins, Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic, Alex Len, Channing Frye, and Archie Goodwin along with a war chest of potential 2014 mid first round picks and a top 5 protected Lakers pick in 2015 to offer the Wolves. Before getting injured Bledsoe looked like a future all-star and Dragic has made the league look silly for not including him on the all star team. So both of them are significantly better than what any of the previously mentioned teams can offer. However, the Wolves already have Ricky Rubio at point guard. I’m of the belief that he’s at best the 12th best point guard in the league, but smarter NBA types may believe he still has a lot of room to grow, so making a point guard the centerpiece of the trade might not work. But at the same time a package of Bledsoe, a Morris twin, and a couple of their first round picks would be the best haul yet.
The Celtics are in rebuild mode currently, but do already have one all-star in point guard Rajon Rondo to pair with Love. As far as assets they can offer the Celtics have Jeff Green and his somewhat unfavorable contract, Kelly Olynyk, Jared Sullinger, Avery Bradley (a restricted free agent), and enough future first round picks to field a football team. The Celtics have two in 2014, which will likely be a top 5 selection and a mid first. They have two more in 2015 plus either the pick outright or the ability to swap with Brooklyn for the next 4 years, along with Billy King’s soul, and oil plots across Eastern Europe. If the Celtics offered their own first in 2014 plus Green and the Gerald Wallace contract would that be enough for the Wolves to bite? Or Green and four future first round picks for Love? The Wolves would have to at the very least think about it. The Wolves don’t get an all-star in return like they would with Phoenix, but they would have considerable ammo for future drafts.
These same teams were discussed as possible Love destinations by Bill Simmons last week. In addition to breaking down each team Simmons also gave odds for each team. I encourage you to read it since he’s infinitely better at all of this than myself. There are three teams Simmons didn’t mention though as possible trading partners with the Wolves. Two of them make a world of sense to me, and the third is more of a pipe dream. So first the pipe dream.
Shocking I know that I’d put the Sixers down as a landing spot for Love. When Love’s name was first brought up like any nerdy NBA fan
in between dates with supermodels I took to the trade machine to craft what was in my opinion a fair trade between the Sixers and Wolves. Not surprisingly like most fans I overvalued the players the Sixers would be sending to the Wolves in my hypothetical trade. Every trade scenario I came up with included Evan Turner as an attractive piece. After the trade deadline though the reality became that Evan Turner’s value to the league was, to quote Jim Mora “diddly-poo.” With Turner and Hawes both jettisoned the Sixers no longer have them to offer to the Wolves this summer. Despite that though the Sixers do still have some assets like Thaddeus Young, Nerlens Noel, and the Pelicans 2014 pick. Thanks to the Arnett Moultrie and Andrew Bynum trades the Sixers can’t trade their own first round pick even if they wanted too. With that said trading the Pelicans’ pick and Thaddeus Young would clearly not be enough for the Wolves. Trading Noel and the pick would defeat the whole purpose of acquiring Love since he’s a much better offensive player and Noel is the much better defensive player. Even if the Wolves were drunk and willing to take back just Young and the Pelicans’ pick I’m not sure Hinkie would do it. Hinkie would have no guarantee that Love would resign, and even with the addition of Love a Sixers core of MCW, Noel, Love, and Wiggins aren’t competing next season, even if they are in the Eastern Conference. The Wolves are in the position they are in because Love wants to win now, which makes a whole lot of sense considering most of his contemporaries (Westbrook, Durant, Harden, Curry) are on competing teams.
The Cavs are in the midst of a Vinny Chase post Medellin kind of season. Before the season started owner Dan Gilbert declared this would be the year the Cavs returned to the post-season. The season started and the Cavs promptly dove into the toilet. There have been rumors of infighting, panic trades, and most importantly a regressing and increasingly unhappy Kyrie Irving. When Lebron left the NBA gods blessed the city of Cleveland with the opportunity to draft another franchise player in Irving. Like Lebron Irving won ROY, looked to be a future All-NBA fixture, received lucrative endorsement deals, and now has begun to realize he’s playing for a front office that is as organized as a Ren and Stimpy episode. Not to use another pop culture reference, but isn’t the Cavs situation beginning to feel a lot like Groundhog Day?
We’ve seen the Cavs in this situation before, just this time around the timeline has been accelerated and the results are even worse. When Lebron’s free-agency was on the horizon Cavaliers management attempted a series of roster moves to improve the team hoping that their star would recognize the team was building something worth sticking around for. Cavs management fudged the whole thing up though by never providing Lebron with a second all-star caliber player. Over his last two seasons the Cavs brought a parade of mediocrity and over-the-hill players to Cleveland in hopes that they could aid Lebron. Players like Mo Williams, Wally Szczerbiak, Ben Wallace, Antawn Jamison, Donyell Marshall, and a one ass-cheek in the commentator chair Shaquille O’Neal.
Now five seasons later and on the brink of having another franchise player bolt town the Cavs have repeated the same mistakes, even bringing back Mike Brown as coach. This time Grant and Cavs management screwed up a slightly different way by blowing early round picks on Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, and last years first overall pick Anthony Bennett. All of them could become nice complementary players, but none of them appear to be stars on the same level as Irving. Chris Grant followed up his mediocre drafting with free agent signings like Jarrett Jack, Andrew Bynum, and Earl Clark this off-season. As of today only Jack remains, and that’s because the Cavs couldn’t unload his contract on another team. Still seeing zero positive results the Cavs then traded future assets this season to add Luol Deng and Spencer Hawes to the roster. While Deng is a nice player, he’s more of a fringe all-star than star and really isn’t capable of drastically improving the Cavaliers putrid offense. Hawes is nothing more than another nice role player. As of today Cavs own a .393 winning percentage this season, but thanks to the Poo Conference are only 3.5 games back from the opportunity to get swept out of the first round by the Pacers or Heat.
Now that my Cleveland diatribe is over back to the original point, which probably seems nuts to suggest now. Maybe the Cavs only way of saving this Irving situation is by trading for Kevin Love. As of now the Cavs are due to have around $13 million in cap space this summer, but that number can get as high as around $25 million if the Cavs decline to pick up the option on Anderson Varejao and Alonzo Gee. The Cavs also have some intriguing assets they could trade for Love such as, their 2014 pick which should be in the late lottery, Anthony Bennett, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, Luol Deng’s Bird rights, former late first round picks Tyler Zeller & Sergey Karasev, Miami’s 2015 first round pick, and Memphis’ 2015 first round pick that has some interesting protections on it. The Memphis pick owed to the Cavs is protected 1-5 & 15-30 in 2015 and 2016, 1-5 protected in 2017 and 2018, and unprotected in 2019. What that means though is the Cavs only get the pick from the Grizzlies if it is in the mid to late lottery over the next two years. For the Cavs that’s a great protection to have while the Grizzlies are still a fringe playoff team.
For the trade to even be feasible the Cavs would need an Affleck-esque revival as well as convince Love to take a serious leap of faith with the direction of the Cavs. Right now Cleveland looks like the second biggest gong show outside of Manhattan, so I imagine Love would be skeptical of things turning around in a hurry. But a potential trade package of Bennett, Waiters, and two of the three first round picks the Cavs have in 2015 wouldn’t be a terrible collection of assets. As for Cleveland, moving foward with a core of Irving, Love, a young 2014 free agent like Hayward or Bradley, and a 2014 lottery pick such as Gary Harris or Doug McDermott would get them in the Eastern Conference mix.
I think the Jazz are the best possible trade partner for the Wolves. The Jazz have spent the last couple of seasons accumulating top picks who have started to perform well and look like they could turn into future all-stars. The current problem is that they are in the Western Conference and they don’t have that one star to build the team around. But they do have a collection of players that look like they could be members of a future championship contending team. The Jazz could offer the Wolves some combination of Derrick Favors, Alec Burks, Trey Burke, Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter, their 2014 first round pick that will most likely be in the top 7, and the Warriors 2014 first round pick. The Jazz will also have a significant amount of cap space this summer to bring in a free agent. Hayward is set to become a restricted free agent this summer, but I’m sure he could very easily be part of a sign and trade. Could Hayward, Kanter, and the Warriors 2014 pick be enough? Maybe. Ideally the Jazz would want to pair Love with Favors, but the Wolves already have a more offense-minded big man in Pekovic, so I’m not sure Kanter would be a great fit in Minnesota. But what if the Jazz offered their 2014 first round pick Burks and Kanter for Love? That would give the Wolves two lottery picks and would give the Jazz a core of Favors, Love, Hayward, and Burke. In my opinion that is a team that could compete out west. As with any team that trades for Love the rub is that he could pull a Dwight and say goodbye after just one season.
This is somewhat silly to spend so much time thinking about now since there is still the last quarter of the season and the draft lottery ahead, but it’s fun to think about. Personally, if Love isn’t going to be in Philly and commit to buying an apartment in Rittenhouse Square I hope he ends up in Chicago. I think a team of Noah, Love, and Rose could do a lot of damage next season. If the Bulls stop acting so cheap and amnesty Boozer they couldn’t even bring Deng back into the mix. And if Rose can stay healthy they would have a seat at the big boy table with Miami and Indiana.