Although the Minnesota Timberwolves have not issued a public admission regarding the availability of Kevin Love on the trade market, other teams are salivating over the fact that Love’s representatives have made clear to the Wolves that the forward will not play for the team when his contract expires after the upcoming season. Love’s team has failed to make the playoffs in each of his six seasons with the club. The all-star stat sheet filler has said the losing has drained him and he wants to play for a winner. With this year’s draft one of the strongest at the top in quite a while, Minnesota could have the opportunity to reload with young talent in exchange for the popular Love.
Under the NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement, Minnesota can offer Love one additional “max” year and a total of $30 million more than any other team. The CBA was crafted to give players an incentive to stay with their existing teams, but does give them an “out” if they forgo some money. The CBA incentive was not enough to keep Dwight Howard in Los Angeles. The prospect of teaming with an aging, yet demanding, Kobe Bryant provided its own incentive for the center to bolt. For Love, the disappointment of the past season may be too big to overcome for him to remain in Minnesota. Paired with a healthy Ricky Rubio, Love had high hopes for the season last fall. After many close losses and a failure to make the playoffs in the rugged Western Conference, Love is ready to seek greener pastures.
Some have suggested the Knicks as a possible landing-place because Love has an off-season home in New York; however, the team does not have a draft pick and no real trade assets to offer the Wolves. Given that Kevin Love wishes to play for a winner, any interested team will either need to be fully stocked on his arrival or have a clear plan for winning. Another destination discussed is Houston, which could offer Chandler Parsons and Omer Asik. The problem with that scenario is the Wolves already have Nikola Pekovic, who plays the same position and a similar game to Asik. Other possible trade partners could be Golden State or Chicago, two teams which already are winners.
Any trade scenario would likely occur through a “sign and trade” mechanism in which Love signs with the Wolves on the eve of a trade to a hand-picked team. This would benefit Love because he could gain the extra year and $30 million on his contract extension. On the other hand, any trading partner would have to give up assets to acquire the forward. From a competitive standpoint, Love would be better served by letting his contract expire and signing elsewhere. Carmelo Anthony has learned the hard way that forcing a trade in which his desired team must give away significant talent makes for a more difficult playing situation later.
Minnesota Timberwolves fans must be distressed that their franchise player wants out again. After suffering through the departure of Kevin Garnett, the fans must let another cornerstone go as well. Whether the Wolves admit it or not, Kevin Love is in play on the trade market. The team is currently having trouble locking down a coach while the Love situation is unresolved. The Wolves will be better off acquiring the best assets they can and move on without Love.
Commentary By William Costolo