Minnesota Timberwolves star Kevin Love expressed his desire to play for a “winning team” and said that he will opt out of his contract at the end of next season on May 18. The question is now where could he land?
Love, a three-time All-Star, signed a four-year, $62 million contract in January 2012. However, he has an early-termination option that he may use to become an unrestricted free agent next season. Love averaged a career-best 26.1 points a game along with 12.6 rebounds and 4.4 assists last year.
According to sources, Love has stressed to the Timberwolves that he's desperate to get to a winning situation and that the constant losing has worn on him. Minnesota, which went 40-42 in 2013-14, has not made the playoffs with Love on the team.
Minnesota has nixed any deal for Love in the past but may not be to afford to, now with his intentions public.
The Timberwolves were $9.7 million over the salary cap last year and have over $66 million in guaranteed salaries next year. Dante Cunningham is an unrestricted free agent while rookie Robbie Hummel and Othyus Jeffers will be restricted free agents.
If Love does leave Minnesota, following the 2014-15 season, or is traded the Wolves will save $16.7 million in 2015-16. The Wolves would then just have two players under contract for the 2015-16 season as Chase Budinger has a $5 million player option and Corey Brewer has a option for $4.9 million. Minnesota has a team option on Shabazz Muhammed and Gorgui Deng while Ricky Rubio and Alexy Schved will be restricted free agents.
There are several teams interested in obtaining Love’s services including Golden State, Chicago, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, Houston, Boston and Phoenix.
The rest of the article will rank the top teams that will look to trade for Love and what they may offer Minnesota in return.
Houston is a possible destination for Love due to his familiarly with head coach Kevin McHale. The Rockets finished fourth in the Western Conference with a 54-28 record. Houston was eliminated in the first round by the Portland Trailblazers.
The Rockets don’t have a 2014 first round selection but do have future first round selections that could be used along with Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik, Terrence Jones, Chandler Parsons and Donatas Motiejunas.
Lin has the ability to do a little of everything but is not among the elite point guards. He averaged 12.9 points and 4.1 assists along with 2.5 turnovers a game last year. Lin is a decent shooter with the ability to knock down long shots.
Parsons is a smart player and an outstanding shooter.
Asik has yet to have the chance to show his true ability as he only averages 20 minutes a game in his career. He is a big body and an outstanding rebounder. He also has decent low post moves and soft touch around the rim. Asik averaged a double-double – 10.3 points and 11.2 rebounds in 2012-13.
Jones showed tremendous improvement in year two. He averaged 12.1 points and 6.9 rebounds a game last season.
Proposed Deal: Love for Lin, Asik, Parsons, Jones and a future first rounder. The Timberwolves may have to throw-in their trade exception (valued at 450,000) and a second round or two to make this work.
Chicago may be the ideal location for Love to land in a trade. The Bulls, who went 48-34, have made the playoffs the past six seasons.
Chicago also has several appetizing assets to offer in trade, such as Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler, Tony Snell and Nikola Mirotic along with several draft picks. The Bulls can trade their own draft pick (high teens-to-low 20s), Charlotte’s 2014 first round selection, Sacramento’s first round pick in 2015 and Cleveland’ s first round pick in 2015.
Gibson, 6-feet-9 power forward, is as tough as nails. He is a very good defender and solid rebounder. Gibson also produced a career-high 13.1 points a game this season and upped it to 18.0 points a game in the postseason.
Butler is solid defensively but his jumper needs to be more consistent. He averaged 13.1 points and 4.9 rebounds but shot just shot 39.7 percent from the field and just 28.3 percent from the three-point line.
Snell, a 6-feet-7 shooting guard, showed flashes of being a solid player throughout the season, but he was too inconsistent and unsure to make a major impact as a rookie.
Mirotic was drafted in the first round in 2011 by the Houston Rockets and subsequently traded to Chicago via Minnesota. The 23-year old currently plays for Real Madrid (Spain) and is considered the best stretch four in Euro League.
Love would be a nice piece for the Bulls to go along side with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah.
Possible deal: Love for Gibson, Butler, Mirotic, Charlotte’s 2014 first round picks and a 2015 first rounder (lottery protected). Snell could be thrown to make sure the deal goes through.
Phoenix has a lot of young talent and was the surprise of the NBA season. The Suns went 48-34 this season and missed the playoffs by one game. Phoenix has not made the playoffs since the 2009-10 season.
Trade possibilities include Gerald Green, Markief Morris, Marcus Morris, Channing Frye, Alex Len, Archie Goodwin and Goran Dragic. The Suns also own four draft picks in the 2014 draft –likely to be 14, 18, 27 and 50.
Dragic was named as the Most Improved Player this past season as he averaged over 20 points a game along with 5.9 assists a game. He shot 50.5 percent from the field and 40.5 percent from the three-point line.
Markief Morris was fourth on the team in scoring (13.6) while coming off the bench the entire season. He is a strong rebounder who can stretch the defense on the offensive end.
Green had a career-year in his eighth NBA season. He averaged 15.6 points in just over 28 minutes of action. Green shot 44.5 percent from the floor and 40.5 percent beyond the arc.
Frye can stretch the defense and a good rebounder. Marcus Morris is a smaller less physical version of his twin brother, Markief. Len and Goodwin are both young and need some seasoning.
Possible deal: Love for Frye, Dragic, Goodwin along with the 14th overall – could be a top three if the Suns get lucky in the lottery – and No. 50. Green or Len could also be thrown in the deal in place of the above players and/or draft picks. Minnesota may also have to add something to the deal if Green and/or Len is added.
Golden State Warriors
Golden State meets Love’s “winning team” requirement. The Warriors went 51-31 this season and have made the playoffs the last two years.
Golden State has several assets to offer Minnesota such as power forward David Lee, shooting guard Klay Thompson as well as small forward Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes. The Warriors have no 2014 draft pick but do have a first round selection in 2015 and 2016.
Lee, 31, is a very good low post scorer who has range up to 20 feet on his jumper. He also is a very good rebounder and a physical defender. Lee averaged 18.2 points and shot 52.3 percent from the field last season. He also grabbed 9.3 rebounds per game.
Barnes is young (21) and very athletic. He is a scorer but needs to improve his rebounding. Barnes averaged 9.7 points and 4.0 rebounds a game, while shooting 39.9 percent from the field.
Thompson is a bona shooter. He averaged 18.4 points and shot 44.4 percent from the field along with 41.7 percent from beyond the arc during the regular season.
Green had a very good playoff series versus the Los Angeles Clippers. He averaged 11.9 points and grabbed 8.3 rebound, while shooting 46.7 percent from the field in the seven game series.
While Lee is a solid veteran and Barnes oozes with potential, the only untouchable player besides
Stephen Curry should be Thompson.
A possible deal: Love for Lee, Barnes, Green and 2015 first round draft choice. If the Wolves balk at the deal, Golden State may need to sweeten it with their 2016 first and maybe a second rounder in either 2015 or 2016 or swap Barnes for Thompson.
Boston is clearly rebuilding and went 25-57 last year. The Celtics don’t have much young talent but are likely to have a top-six pick in the 2014 draft.
The Celtics have a 10.3 percent chance at the No. 1 selection and a 33.4 percent shot at a top-three pick. The odds lean heavier toward Boston walking away with the fifth or sixth pick in this year's draft.
Jared Sullinger, Brandon Bass, Kelly Olynyk, Phil Pressey and Chris Johnson are the Celtics most intriguing assets.
Bass, 29-years old, is a banger whose best attribute is his rebounding ability. He can score but does not have the range that Love possesses.
Sullinger averaged 13.3 points a game last year and showed impressive development in year two. Sulllinger sank 56 long balls in 2013-14 after connecting on one during his rookie year. He also improved his rebounds from 5.9 to 8.1 per game.
Olynyk had a roller coaster rookie season. He had a stellar second after struggling early in the season. He needs to improve his defense.
Pressey ran the offense efficiently when given the opportunity but shot only 30.6 percent from the field in his rookie campaign.
Johnson carved out a steady role for himself in Boston, appearing in 40 games and averaging 19.7 minutes per contest. Johnson shot 45 percent beyond the 3-point arc over his first 12 games before cooling a bit after the All-Star game. He was still one of the team's most efficient offensive weapons given his 3-point stroke. He is a high intensity /energetic guy.
Possible Trade: Love for Celtics first round pick this year, Bass, Johnson and a future first rounder. Don’t see this trade happening unless the Celtics include Sullinger or Olynyk which I can’t see that happening.
Los Angles Lakers
Los Angeles is coming off one of the worst season in franchise history with a 27-55 record. The Lakers really can’t be players in the Love sweepstakes unless a trade occurs later in the summer as they only have Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Robert Sacre currently under contract.
The Lakers do own a lottery pick in the 2014 draft and salary cap space, which makes the Lakers players in the sweepstakes even if minor ones. The Lakers have a 49.3 percent chance of landing the No. 6 overall selection and 30.5 percent chance on obtaining the No. 7 overall selection.
The Lakers have a 21.5
Possible trade: Love for the Lakers’ 2014 first round selection, Sacre and Nick Young, who can opt out of his contract and if he reigns with the team, along with another piece – for example Ryan Kelly (restricted free agent), Kent Bazemore (restricted free agent) or Jodie Meeks (unrestricted free agent, if he resigns with the team).
If Love ends up as a Laker, it will be most likely he will join the team as a free agent.
New York Knicks
New York is an organization that has been in disarray for awhile. The Knicks went 37-45 to miss the playoffs for the first time in three seasons. The Knicks don’t currently have a coach as Steve Kerr decided that Golden State was a better option.
New York also don’t have a first round pick in the 2014 draft which will limit their ability to obtain Love. The Knicks also have limited trade assets with Iman Shumpert, Tim Hardaway, Jr. and the expiring contract of Amare Stoudamire being their best options.
Shumpert is only 23 years old but saw his production decline this past season. He averaged 6.5 points and shot 37.8 percent from the field last season though he grabbed a career-best 4.2 rebounds a game. Shumpert is a solid defender.
Hardaway is a scorer as he averaged 10.2 points in just 23.1 minutes of playing time. He shot 42.8 percent from the floor and 36.3 percent from the three-point line.
Proposed Deal: None, as it won’t happen.