First a word of sober caution. As much as we'd like to believe that Kevin Love is in Boston to pave the way to a deal to the Celtics, there's no guarantees that he'll even get dealt, never mind to Boston. The unsubstanciated rumors are running wild, but they were when Alex Rodriguez was supposed to be all but traded to the Red Sox as well. Things change and rumors mislead. We won't know it till it happens - and that might have to wait till draft night at the earliest.
With all that said, I'm still of the opinion that the Celtics have the most assets to offer the Timberwolves for Kevin Love. Sure, the Cavs have the number 1 pick, but I'm not sure that's where Love would want to go (and sign an extension) and if they get seriously involved in the bidding anyway, I could still see the Celtics offering better quantity than the Cavs can.
By now you know the assets we can offer. Bushels of picks, Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, and cap flexibility.
Let's spend a minute or two on cap flexibility, for clarity's sake. Keith Bogans has a contract with a team option that can be traded and immediately waived. That's $5.2M off the cap right away for anyone trading for him. The same is also true for Chris Babb, Chris Johnson, and Phil Pressey (all make roughly $800K to $900K).
Then there's the Traded Player Exceptions ($10.2M via Paul Pierce trade and $2M via Courtney Lee trade). A few notes about TPEs. You cannot combine them with player salaries to make up Kevin Love's $15.7M salary next season. You also can't combine them with each other. So the TPE won't be used for Kevin Love or anyone making over $10.2M next season. You could, however, use the TPE in creative ways. You could use it to trade for a player the T-Wolves want and re-route him with other assets to Minnesota for Love. Or you could do simultaneous trades where you take on a contract from the Wolves that they don't want anymore.
Let's pull that thread for minute. If Minny is going to dump Love, they probably aren't going to be contending anytime soon. If that's the case, they have no need for veterans making big dollar figures. Kevin Martin comes to mind right away. He's under contract for 3 more years (last year is a player option) at an average of $7M a year. We could absorb that salary via the trade exception in one trade, and throw additional assets into a separate but related deal for Love.
Then we'd have Love, Rondo, Wallace, Green, and Martin making big dollars next year (and a lot less flexibility in 2015). This might be worth it to add Love, but it is worth noting.
Then there's the draft picks. Sure we could keep adding picks until they relented and said "yes." After all, we got 3 picks (plus the right to swap picks) from the Nets for two veterans who might not play past this next year. But at some point you are going to need picks for more than just Kevin Love.
We'll need to have a pipeline of cheap, talented players to fill in the gaps - in particular since the payroll will be top heavy with big money guys. Additionally, I'm not sure if just adding Love and Martin makes this team a contender. There's still the matter for getting a rim protector and in general this team is simply more than one piece away from contending - no matter how good the piece.
Without additional help, Love and Rondo could wind up stuck in another year of mediocrity and both could walk at the end of the year (assuming they don't sign extensions).
In a perfect world, the Celtics would be able to find a 3rd star the way they added Ray Allen in 2007. To do any of that will require picks and tradable contracts as well.
So simply backing up the truck and offloading all the trade assets onto the front porch of the Twolves facility doesn't seem like a good long term option.
So the next logical question also happens to be the title of this post. How much is too much?
For me, I'd be happy to start with a package that involves either Sully or Olynyk, the Bogans deal, and a draft pick. That seems like the bare bones least amount that we could hope for (unless the market suddenly shifts in our favor somehow). I'd be happy enough adding in another draft pick. But when it comes to going to 3 picks that's about when I start to cringe. Bill Simmons suggests sending 4 picks (and then using the TPE to get Asik). I don't know about that.
I'd feel better if there was lottery protection on the picks. I'd also make the Wolves pick between dumping Martin's salary and getting additional picks. Martin can still score but he's bad on defense and I'm not sure if they'll find great value for him on the market with that contract of his.
So what do you think? How much would you be willing to offer for Kevin Love? What would make you push away from the table and say "no thanks?"