If you think that you've seen enough pun-y Kevin Love headlines already, get ready for this summer's "Love Affair." You'll probably hate all of it, if you don't already.
Here's the story: The chances of the Minnesota Timberwolves magically turning themselves into a contender over the course of the next 14 months are minuscule, at best. Kevin Love will only stay in Minnesota if they are contenders by the time he hits free agency in July 2015. The 'Wolves lack significant assets to flip for a superstar, and their draft pick in this year's stacked NBA Draft has little odds of hitting the top-3 in today's Lottery Ceremony. If the Timberwolves won't be contenders any time soon, (something important for Love, a player who has not reached the playoffs once in his six-year career), what's the only profitable option for the Timberwolves? Trade Love.
That said, we've been over this. It's near-common knowledge that the Timberwolves are now open to a deal for their superstar. Yahoo! Sports dropped the news on Saturday that the Timberwolves are finally looking for alternatives to simply selling Love on staying. They're apparently "looking for deals" for Love, which is the smart thing to do. Why? Just for reiteration, Love is not staying. Basketball is a team game, and the franchise has not surrounded him with significant talent that is good enough to help him reach the playoffs. He averaged 26.1 points and 12.5 rebounds. What more can you ask of a six-year player? Exactly. Trading Love now makes sense as opposed to letting him walk in 2015 without any compensation. If you *puts shades on* love something, you let it go, right? At least now Minnesota can get a head start on their next rebuilding project.
At the same time, a lot falls on management to find the right deal. You may be asking why that's the case when a trade has little to do with player consent. In this case, it's quite the opposite. No team is going to trade for Kevin Love to get a one-season rental, given the fact that Love has all but publicly confirmed that he will not opt-in to his option for the 2015-16 season. Who would give up valuable assets only to lose a player a year later? Yeah, I know it doesn't make sense. With that in mind, the Timberwolves have to find a trade partner who "intrigues" Love enough to the point where he'd agree to signing an extension. That's where it gets difficult, for some of the places that reportedly "intrigue" Love don't necessarily have the assets to land him via trade right now. Teams that come to mind in this way are the Chicago Bulls and the L.A. Lakers (I sincerely doubt that Love wants to involve himself in the mess over in New York at the moment). The Bulls could theoretically put a deal together, and it certainly is possible. That said, it's a messy ordeal, seeing that Chicago would have to pull off a few moves that really are contingent of each other, and messy probably isn't something the Timberwolves are looking for, given that there are other options for Love.
The Lakers cannot trade for Kevin Love. The only chance they have of landing the star out of UCLA is if he does in fact hit the free agency market in 2015, and at this point, that seems unlikely. Who are they going to trade, anyway? It's true that they have a Lottery selection in this year's draft that could end up being a valuable pick. However, that's about all they've got going for them. Think the Timberwolves are interested in Robert Sacre? Think again. Once more, if Love has multiple possible destinations in mind, why would Minnesota bog themselves down in a deal that would force extreme creativity like with the Lakers?
Other names thrown around by the Yahoo! Sports report include the Phoenix Suns and the Houston Rockets. Phoenix definitely is one of the more appealing trade partners for Minnesota, given their wealth of current and future assets. The Suns have a couple of spare draft picks, and they could even part with Goran Dragic, this year's Most Improved Player, in a deal to play the two-guard position with Ricky Rubio in Minnesota. However, would Love be okay with just playing with Eric Bledsoe and some improved role players? That's not really a contender, which is what Love is looking to join. Joining Houston would potentially make them a contender, but even that's not a sure thing. Love will make any team he joins better, but he also does not address any of the Rockets' weaknesses. In fact, while their play styles compliment each other, I'm not completely sold on a Love/Dwight Howard frontcourt because one could potentially stunt the growth of the other while still dealing with most of the weaknesses that Houston had all season long. Still, not a bad option if Houston can get rid of Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin's contracts to create space.
Golden State was also a team thrown around in reports, and they should be at the top of Kevin Love's list. Playing for Steve Kerr, someone who has a good standing relationship with Love, and alongside Stephen Curry, one of the NBA's upcoming stars, would be a fantastic opportunity. That move would also potentially make the team championship contenders just because of how versatile they would be on offense. Not to mention that Love would play with a defensive guy like Andrew Bogut, whose defense was good enough to mask David Lee's defensive deficiencies. Amazing, I know. Odds of this happening? Slim. Any deal would have to include David Lee, and no one is lining up to pay Lee $15 million next year. There are other reasons, but why go any further when Lee's deal is a non-starter for Minnesota to talk deals?
Kevin Love wants a potential contender and Minnesota management wants to find the best, not-messy, asset-filled deal possible. Who can make both sides happy? Boston. The Celtics have 9-10 first round draft picks (depending on Philly making the playoffs or not) over the next five years, and 17 total picks over the same amount of time. Yeah. Also, Boston has non-guaranteed deals, promising young players, and Rajon Rondo. The first two are positives for Minnesota, and the last is a positive for Kevin Love. Boston is swimming in assets to swing a deal for a star, and hey, look, a star is available. Jared Sullinger or Kelly Olynyk, two-to-three first round picks (including this year's Lottery selection), and a few non-guaranteed/expiring deals should be enough to satisfy the Timberwolves, and it isn't too much to part with for Boston, considering that they're getting an All-Star in return. A known commodity is by far better than the potential of a high draft pick, even in this heralded draft. I mean, seriously, he averaged 26 points and 13 rebounds. That's pretty good in my book.
With all of that said, Kevin Love going to Boston alone does not make them championship contenders. They'll probably need a third star, or at least a 2B option behind Rajon Rondo. Getting Rondo and Love together (which would look so beautiful on offense. Just imagine their pick-and-pops) is a huge step, but it just makes them Playoff contenders. If they can draw another strong player (looking at you, Arron Afflalo) in to play alongside what they've already got, you have the championship contender that Love covets. Kevin Love is smart enough to recognize this, and that's probably why the Celtics are "gaining momentum" in terms of preliminary negotiations for Love. The difference with Boston and Phoenix is that Boston's assets are shinier and plentiful. Also, Rajon Rondo provides the All-Star-level of play that no one on Phoenix's roster can currently give, and that could appeal to Love more than other factors that the Suns could offer. Something special could start with the Timberwolves saying yes to a deal like this, leaving Celtics in mediocrity for only one year.
Am I getting ahead of myself? Probably. However, Boston currently holds the best odds at presenting a deal/situation that Love and the Timberwolves can agree on. Nothing can really be decided until the Lottery Ceremony is over and Boston knows where they'll pick. The location of their pick really has a huge bearing on if this deal will happen or not. If they end up with #5 or #6, there's a good chance they could propose to ship it for Love. If they land a top-3 pick, general manager Danny Ainge has to spend a bit more time to think whether or not he should trade potential for a known star (easy choice, right?).
The Timberwolves reportedly won't trade Love before the draft, and Boston majority owner Wyc Grousbeck says that all deals are contingent on where in the Lottery their pick lands. Basically, everyone is saying the same thing. The first step to the "Love Affair" is to see where the ping-pong balls land. If all goes well, Love could be suiting up for Boston next season. Even if all doesn't go well for Boston, it doesn't appear as if Love will stick around Minnesota for much longer. Therefore, we must conclude this with a corny and unnecessarily hyperbolic pun: After six years of patience, Kevin has no more love for the Minnesota Timberwolves.