Carmelo Anthony did it. Dwight Howard did it. Now it appears Kevin Love will follow in these two players’ footsteps by pushing for a trade during the 2014 offseason. However, if team president and newly-appointed coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves Flip Saunders has any say, he will not be giving into the request of Kevin Love and his people wanting the power forward to switch teams.
For too long the NBA has been imprisoned by the demands of its players. Beyond the Carmelo Anthonys and Dwight Howards of the NBA, many players for years have demanded to be traded when they are unhappy with the direction of their team. As such, players act out. They state their opinion to the media that they wish to be shipped out to a contender and/or a large market team such as New York or Los Angeles. Unfortunately, because the team wants a sense of normalcy and to avoid a toxic locker room, they give into these demands of the star player, much like a world leader giving into terrorist demands in the latest Hollywood blockbuster.
This is a troublesome common occurrence in the league. The player should not be the one holding the cards. Instead, the franchise should be the ones with the power. Now, after the last few weeks, it appears someone finally has been that person to say no. Saunders has been quoted that he does not want to move Kevin Love. This is despite the fact that Saunders knows loud and clear that Love, one of the top offensive players and rebounders in the league, wants to give up on the only NBA team he has ever known. His new coach knows Love is upset over the fact that during the power forward’s six-year career that he has yet to make the playoffs or have a winning record. Unfortunately for Love, he does not have a pushover of a team president and coach.
Instead, Saunders wants to build a winning season to show Love that Minnesota is headed in the right direction. Yes, it may be risky to potentially lose Love for nothing next offseason, but at the same time as a high ranking executive and now coach, he knows that by dispatching the power forward that the 2014-2015 season will be a lost cause. The coach also sees what others saw this past season, which is that the Timberwolves are on the cusp of making it to the playoffs. After all, this past season was the closest they have gotten since acquiring Love to making the playoffs. They placed 10th in their conference and were only two games away from a winning record.
Additionally, Saunders did make improvements to the team. Beyond an improving core of point guard Ricky Rubio and center Nikola Pekovic, Saunders brought in a complimentary second option to Love in that of Kevin Martin. He also got lucky in drafting the double-double machine of Gorgui Dieng last offseason, even if he was not used consistently until the end of the season.
The real problem with Minnesota is that they have not had enough time to get tighter as a team. Last season saw the squad fall to several injuries including those to Pekovic (28 games), Martin (14 games), J.J. Barea (3 games) and even Love himself (five games). It was these injury woes which was a major factor in not achieving the consistency throughout the season, never mind that during the 2012-2013 season that the development of the Timberwolves was put on hold when Love only played 18 games. As such, Love needs to realize that the team needs time to develop.
More importantly, this offseason surely will see more moves dictated by Saunders to improve their glaring problem — depth. Minnesota, despite having a solid starting lineup, does not have much in terms of depth. They have Barea and Dieng, but without backups for Love and Martin, not to mention a solid starting small forward, they are going to struggle. With all the starters locked in though, Saunders should be able to find added pieces to improve the strength of the roster that may very well put them into contention.
Love, simply put, is being impatient. He sees guys like Lebron James getting into the playoffs and winning championships. However, he needs to also take a look at the Spurs who have developed through the years. Love is only 25 years old. He arguably has about 10 more years left in the NBA, so he has time to obtain those rings.
Furthermore, if rings are what Love wants, he most likely is better off with Minnesota than he is for any of the other teams making offers for him. The Lakers and Knicks are in complete disarray. If the power forward goes to either of those franchises, it could make him more frustrated than his current situation. The Warriors are another team that has made offers for the All-Star, but in order for Love to be shipped out west, Golden State would have to essentially move out at least two of its starters. Because of this, Love would possibly be in the same, if not worse position, than he already is in.
The only team that would make sense for Love would be the Chicago Bulls. They are a team hurting offensively and have pieces like Carlos Boozer and Jimmy Butler, just to name a pair, who they could move with minimal damage. That said, much like the Lakers and Kobe Bryant, the main bargaining chip for love to play for Chicago would be to play with Derrick Rose, and if history has been any indication, there is no guarantee that either player will be healthy.
On the flip side of things, none of these trades really make much sense for Minnesota. They would be trading one of the most unstoppable forces in the NBA for role players. Sure, it may help increase the depth on Minnesota, but it is unlikely that a trade will enhance the squad without Love. This is why Saunders is making his current stance. Trading the all-star is a losing situation. While it is possible for them to lose him for nothing, once his contract comes off the books they will be able to sign a different high caliber player in his place. Simply put, there is no advantage in trading Love.
Most importantly is that this whole scenario could be a real game-changer for the NBA. If Kevin Love is not traded due to his boss Flip Saunders’ unwillingness to get rid of the star by giving into his demands, it will set a reverse precedent in the NBA. Owners and GMs alike will see that they are the ones who hold the cards, not the players. They are the ones who will realize that they are in complete control of their franchise, which in turn may make players think twice before requesting a trade in the future. Eventually this had to happen, and it appears as if Saunders will be that man to stop this madness. Good for him, and good for the NBA.
Commentary by Simon Mounsey