The 2014 off-season was supposed to be headlined by the Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James sweepstakes, but, instead, it has turned into the summer of Kevin Love. The power forward, currently playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves, has gone on record that he will not re-sign with the team come next summer. Despite Flip Saunders initially stating that he would not trade the All-Star forward, it has appeared throughout the last few weeks that Love has played his final game in Minnesota. The two top teams that have been rumored to land Love are the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls. With both teams rumored to be trading recently-signed players in the deal for Kevin Love, a waiting game has been enabled that may put third favorite, the Golden State Warriors, at an advantage to land the big man.
Love has proven over the years to be one of the more dynamic big men in the league. Like veteran power forward Dirk Nowtizki, Love plays more of a European style, as a player who can score from anywhere on the floor, whether it is from the three-point line, wing, or underneath the basket. In doing so, he averaged a season-high of 26.1 ppg during the 2013-2014 season. Additionally, he has proven over the last few years to be one of the better, if not best, rebounders in the league, exemplified by his 12.5 rpg average last season. These two aspects of his game has made him highly desirable as someone who can single-handedly take over the offense and crash the boards. Unfortunately for the forward, despite his excellent contributions to the Timberwolves, he has yet to make it to a single postseason during his six years in the league. It is for this reason that Love wants to move on, and he wants to move on now.
When LeBron James announced that he would return back to the Cleveland Cavaliers this offseason, it did not take long for the team to set its sights on Love, who would instantly become a third All-Star alongside James and point guard Kyrie Irving. Earlier during the free agency period, the Chicago Bulls appeared to be one of the frontrunners to land Love. However, they set their sights more on a failed attempt to land Carmelo Anthony, and once they were unsuccessful in pulling the forward from the New York Knicks, the Bulls brought in Pau Gasol to cut their losses. Despite bringing in the Spainiard, the last couple of weeks have shown that Chicago has not given up in their pursuit of Love.
The problem with both of these franchises in their attempt to obtain Love is the packages they are rumored to be offering Minnesota for the forward must be delayed. Cleveland is offering a package that includes the top pick in this year’s draft, Andrew Wiggins. Chicago, on the other hand, is offering former Real Madrid star Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott, as well as Taj Gibson for the Minnesota forward. The problem in both scenarios is that Cleveland and Chicago have to wait 30 days to perform the trade due to league rules of trading a recently-signed player. This means that for Cleveland to trade Wiggins and for Chicago to trade Mirotic and McDermott, the trade could not take place until late August.
This is where the Golden State Warriors, who once were the front-runners for Love, have an advantage in this scenario. They now have the upper hand to pull off a deal in a shorter time span than either of these Eastern Conference teams do. It would not be surprising if Minnesota, who has had the Kevin Love trade looming over their head for quite some time, simply wants to move on. The initial trade proposition for Love was the pairing of Harrison Barnes and David Lee. While the Timberwolves were tempted by the offer, they ultimately declined, due to their insistence that the blossoming Klay Thompson be included in the trade. In addition, Minnesota also wanted to include point guard J.J. Barea and, possibly, Kevin Martin and his expiring contract in the deal.
Recently it has been reported that Golden State has been showing a willingness to part with Thompson. In this scenario, Minnesota most likely would have the best win-now situation. Lee, Barnes, Thompson and possibly a package that includes Drymond Green, are all players who could instantly fit onto the Timberwolves’ starting lineup alongside Ricky Rubio and either Nikola Pekovic or Gorgui Dieng at center. As such, this is the one trade Minnesota can make that would almost guarantee them to have an improved roster that could lead to their first playoff berth in years.
The main question currently pressing for the Timberwolves is if they want a stacked team of role players, via the Warriors trade, or if they want to bank on potential by obtaining Wiggins from the Cavaliers or, to a lesser extent, Mirotic or McRoberts from the Bulls. Another aspect that Saunders has to weigh for Minnesota is that by dealing with Cleveland or Chicago, it will overall be a less expensive trade with the value of Wiggins, Mirotic and McRoberts all possibly having smaller contracts than their worth. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the Warriors, who have a hefty contract in that of David Lee’s $15 per year, will load up Minnesota’s salary cap, which may very well be why Golden State is sitting firmly at a supposed third in the Kevin Love sweepstakes.
Where the Minnesota forward lands continues to be the top story in an NBA offseason, which has slowed down over the last few weeks. With Cleveland and Chicago unable to make a trade until late August, it will continue to be a slow process. This, of course, leave the door wide open for the Golden State Warriors, who were once listed as a favorite, to be able to sweeten a deal for Kevin Love, while the Cavaliers and Bulls have to endure a waiting game dictated by the NBA.
Commentary by Simon Mounsey