I'm an unabashed Phil Collins fan, so let's start this thing off right:
Love made his intentions known that he's planning on hitting free agency next summer and has no interest in playing in Minnesota after 2015. Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor called his bluff and said that it's not in their plans to trade him. This Mexican stand off should come to a head on or before the draft with teams offering up their picks as trade bait.
The internet has been on fire with possible deals between the Wolves and the rest of the league (check out proposals from Grantland's Homer Simmons, True Hoop's Zach Harper, and Point Forward's Rob Mahoney). Love wants to win right away and the teams vying for his services range from piece-away contenders like Golden State, Houston, and Chicago to lottery bound franchises on the rise like the Cavs, Suns, and Celtics. In a month, the league will be crowning a new champion, but an equally compelling story could be Love's final landing spot.
However, it's possible nothing could happen by June 26th. ESPN's Brian Windhorst outlined several ways this drama could play out: 1) the Deron Williams/James Harden firesale where Minny officially puts Love on the market and take the best offer, 2) the Chris Paul option where the Timberwolves work with Love to find a suitor of his liking with the assurance that if he's dealt to them, he'll pick up his player option for 2015-2016 to alleviate any concerns that he'll be a one-year rental, and 3) a Kobe Bryant/Dwight Howard scenario where the team rejects Love's "trade request" hoping that he'll re-think his decision to leave, giving the team a year to surround him with talent. It's unlikely, but if I'm a (patient) Celtics fan, I'm hoping Glen Taylor and Flip Saunders stick to their guns and pick door #3.
Everybody's hit the trade machine over the last couple of days and most bouquets to court Minnesota in a deal include 2-3 draft picks, the expiring/non-guaranteed contracts of Jeff Green/Brandon Bass/Keith Bogans, and the blooming Jared Sullinger and/or Kelly Olynyk. It's been widely accepted that Ainge can offer the biggest booty for Love's services, but what if--and it's a BIG IF--Love plays out the rest of the year in Minnesota? Tom Ziller points out that the Timberwolves were actually pretty good last year:
In fact, the Wolves were the best non-playoff team ever by scoring margin. They would have been a playoff team but for an inordinate number of close losses, as well as the stacked Western Conference. And if they'd made the playoffs as a rising Western club, this conversation is different. If Saunders can leverage assets to add a strong complementary piece this offseason, he could go into the season hoping for a Blazers- or Suns-like rise.
Flip is entering his second year as GM and losing a superstar right off the bat isn't the best way to start his career there so he'll try and do everything to keep him to stay, but if he gambles, the trade deadline passes, and Minnesota misses the playoffs again, Love will bounce and become a free agent. The Lakers are looking to maximize
So, let's look at the potential NBA landscape next summer. Teams like Chicago, Houston, and Golden State are in win now mode. If they miss out on Love this summer, they'll presumably load up with other alternatives and could be locked into salary for the next couple of years. The Lakers have made maximizing the remaining two years of Kobe's new contract a priority in hiring a new coach and going forward and you'd have to imagine that they won't have enough to sign Love outright next summer. Silver Screen & Roll doesn't think so either. The lottery-winning Cavaliers with all its young talent and teaming up again with Uncle Drew is intriguing, but I don't see a big difference between Cleveland and Minnesota. Love wants to join a veteran team with veteran players and win; there's a chance that LeBron comes home, but I don't see Love joining that circus. Phoenix had a good run this season with Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic in the Western Conference, but that's just it, right? Love has been making good runs in the West for the last six years that have amounted to a pile of nothing. The conference is stacked and will be stacked for the run of Love's next contract.
Go east, young man. Go east.
A trade for Love this summer would gut the Celtics of a lot of their potential and doesn't guarantee that he'd re-sign long term with the team, but if Boston is afforded another season to, well, season, we could have something special brewing in a year and would become a serious option for the free agent:
- We know that Love is a fan of Brad Stevens, calling him "a guy that can win basketball games...(a coach that) gets guys to play for him."
- Brandon Bass, Joel Anthony, and Vitor Faverani could potentially all be off the books to make room.
- Rajon Rondo will be more than a year removed from repairing his ACL and could be back in All Star form.
- Instead of replacing Sullinger and Olynyk, Love would be joining a talented and versatile front court that would still have two cap-friendly years.
- Love has yet to play with a reliable third option on the wing. In Minnesota, it's been a revolving door of Mike Miller, Corey Brewer, Derrick Williams, Michael Beasley, and Corey Brewer again. In Boston, we'll either have Jeff Green, potentially a free agent if Danny decides to stretch Gerald Wallace, or a possible wing from this year's draft (Kevin highlights Dario Saric, Aaron Gordon, and Doug McDermott as possible targets) with two more draft picks in 2015.
- Love has never been known to be a defensive stopper but in Beantown, he'll be surrounded by pitbulls. Avery Bradley wants to come back and Rondo and Green are terrors on the perimeter. There's also the idea that this year's TPE could be used to grab Omer Asik:
@celticsblog the $10.7M TE is very underrated asset for Celtics. Can be used in a multi-team deal to get assets Minny would want.— NetsDaily.com (@NetsDaily) May 23, 2014
So Kevin Love, take your time. Learn from your disgruntled star predecessors. When Carmelo Anthony forced his way to New York, he joined a ravaged Knicks team with cupboards bare. You're 25. Go to a place where you can grow. Look, you might even get traded before the 2015 trade deadline, but chill. Play out the rest of the season. Maybe enjoy your first taste of the playoffs. Try making the second round. It's fantastic. But this time next year, you're going to have to make the biggest decision of your career. If you can wait, we can wait.