Due to dental emergency requiring me to remain to my place hopped on up pain meds on what is becoming a dreary day here north of Atlanta, I thought I'd finish a project I started back in March, one that seems far more relevant now that all the Love rumors are starting to matriculate from the various new sources, reliable or not. What is this project? Well, it's the definitive trade guide for Kevin Love. It focuses on nine teams who have been commonly linked to a Kevin Love trade, teams that haven't that make sense, and teams that have that don't make sense. In an ideal world, some of these rumors will vanish due to lack of a cogent logic behind them, but sadly some of these rumors involve teams like the Lakers, and we all know how that goes.
I'll be going team by team for the nine most likely to make an offer, breaking down their assets, how those assets fit with the Wolves roster in paragraph form, the odds of a trade happening, and fit on a scale of 1-10. I won't list EVERY single asset a trading team has, just the ones that may hold some value to the Wolves. So that's why a lot of scrubs won't be included in these. There is some speculation here as well, on what packages a team would realistically offer, and as some teams will fall from Love contention if they don't get lucky in the lottery. The goal will be to give us realistic expectations of what a package we could get from each team, as well as help us sift through the rumor mill BS (Knicks? Lakers?) and only pay attention to stories that have a basis and realism to them.
(Note: I'm still firmly in the camp of holding onto Love unless a Godfather offer is made (which won't come). Team situations change in less than a year, and we all saw what happened in Portland. I truly believe Love wants to be in the best situation to win above all else. Right now it seems he doesn't think that will happen with the Wolves, and he could be right. By keeping him, here are the scenarios: 1.) Team plays good, increases odds at keeping him. 2.) Team plays bad, can still flip him (albeit for likely less than come draft time). If you keep him, your asking him to turn down at least 20 million via the extra year/money only Wolves can offer, and he walks, well you find yourself with significant cap space, as opposed to committing to your trade centerpiece who is still a question mark. I believe the Wolves should try to package Pek and Rubio to see what they can get to see if that can placate Love, assuming they get a deal that doesn't ruin them if Love STILL walks)
So without further ado, the Kevin Love Trade Guide from least likely to likely:
New York Knicks
Assets: Tim Hardaway Jr, JR Smith, no picks of significant value
The Knicks are a terrible fit and are only being mentioned because they're in New York. I include them in here instead of the honorable mention at the end because Love likes New York, but it is very tough to see a scenario where they offer the third best deal let alone the best deal the Wolves get for Love. If Love becomes a Knick, it'll have meant the Wolves got garbage back and for once I'd seriously consider another team to follow. No need to waste more words than this.
Assets: Russell Westbrook (3/48), Serge Ibaka (3/37), Jeremy Lamb (rookie options), Reggie Jackson (rookie contract), Perry Jones III (ditto), Steven Adams (ditto), late first round picks.
Any trade with the Thunder would probably have to start with either Ibaka or Westbrook. That said, I don't see Russ going anywhere. Kevin and Russ are just too close, and Russ just too good. The deal that makes the most sense is Ibaka and Reggie Jackson for Kevin Love and Barea. Ibaka and Pekovic would form a formidable frontcourt as they complement each other well and Reggie would be a great sixth man. Don't know if Thunder move both these guys together, even for a talent like Love though. Plus, Scott Brooks would have a hard time splitting the ball between three players who had some of the highest usage rates of anybody in the league getting starter minutes. Intriguing certainly, but definitely unlikely.
If the Wolves are looking at the best combo of a lotto pick and a good young player, Philly is the partner to dance with. Their top pick, Noel and a future protected gets it done. I'd seriously consider this trade. I'd be willing to swap Thad for Noel, but it would require maybe a lotto pick swap with us to do so and move up into the single digits. Thad could play small and stretch the floor next to Pek, although defense would still be a problem. Can we see Philly offering up a potential Parker/Wiggins/Embiid + Noel + another pick for Love? Questionable.
All this said, would Love give reassurances he'd stay? MCW, Thad or Noel, and a pick isn't much to entice Love to stay. Overall it makes some sense, but if Love really wants to win this seems like a lateral or backwards move for now.
15th overall pick, Millsap, and Korver would be an intriguing offer. Millsap gives you a Love replacement at 80 cents on dollar. He would need to be extended to negate risk of him walking. Korver helps the shooting problem, and the 15th pick could net a cheap young asset or packaged in a trade with the 13th pick. But would the team be willing to commit a 3/30 type deal for Millsap, when the team would have issues on defense just the same as Love-Pek. Haven't heard the Hawks mentioned in the Love sweepstakes, but they are an under the radar team as Danny Ferry has done his best to sign guys that are short term gaps, as well as trade assets. Only question is would Love consider an extension there? Is Teague-Love-Horford even better than Rubio-Love-Pek? Hawks would only have 38 million tied up to that trio so could make a run at another player, and it would be enough in the East to make playoffs.
Los Angeles Lakers
Assets: Draft picks. Lakers have no players on their roster signed through next year of interest to Wolves. Lakers have a mid-high lotto pick this year, and future picks to offer that require some forecasting to determine worth.
Realistically, only shot I see the Lakers have of making a trade is if they get a top 2 pick. They literally have nothing else to offer and even one single high lotto pick may not be enough if its not top 2 (and even then...). Never understood the Love to Lakers for two reasons. Lack of assets, and outside of cap space a lack of good players. I think Love wants to win before location (ideal is both together), and do you want to spend your prime with a huge question mark in Kobe? Remember the Phil Jackson quote about not wanting to coach Kobe when he can no longer be the man physically (but thinks he is mentally)? Just isn't enough pieces to make me think Love would want to go there via trade. If he really wants to play in LA, I'd play out the year, exercise the ETO and then see where they are. Because currently, I just can't see how it's a better situation for Love, or enough for the Wolves.
Odds: 10-1 (and only this low because their name pops up everywhere despite logic)
Fit: 2/10 (jumps to a 6/10 if top 2 pick)
Assets: 14th overall pick, 18th overall pick, 27th overall pick, Goran Dragic (1 year at 7.5, then player option for the same, sure to be declined), Alex Len (2 years plus rookie options), Eric Bledsoe (team option), the Morris twins (1 year plus rookie options), Archie Goodwin/Miles Plumlee (both cheap rookie deals), Channing Frye (1/7.5)
No high picks, and their young players aren't the best fits. Dragic is intriguing as he's shown he can play offball, but he'll demand 10 mil plus a year after next season. If he can play like he did last year, it could be worth it. Bledsoe will need a similar deal sooner, and is more of a PG then a SG compared to Dragic. Not the best fit. Len plays same position as Pek, and if Len is the centerpiece of a deal, then the Wolves are doing it wrong. The draft picks increase the odds of hitting on one or two solid rotation players in the draft, and could be combined to try and move up in the draft. Still, they leave a bit to be desired as a trade destination as your going for quantity over quality.
Assets: top 8 overall pick, 17th overall pick, Clippers 2015 pick, Philly's 2015 pick (t14 protected), Nets '16 1st rdr, right to swap with Nets' 1st in '17, Nets in '18, Jeff Green (1/9.2, player option for same next year which likely exercised), Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger (1 year, plus rookie options for both), Rajon Rondo (1/13), Avery Bradley (team option for 3.6)
The lure of the Celtic's packages feature draft picks, and maybe Sullinger. Olynyk doesn't move the needle, nor does Jeff Green. Rondo is unlikely to be included in a deal for Love, as what would be there for Love when he arrives?
If I'm the Wolves, I want this year's lotto pick, the Clippers pick next year, the Net's pick swap in '17, Avery Bradley, and Jared Sullinger for Love and Barea. If Boston balks at including three picks, I tell them that's what a very old Pierce and Garnett fetched, Love is a young superstar. Nets could be in trouble in a few years, and could net a teens or higher pick. Even then, I can't say I would be excited. Maybe if we had a reputation for drafting well...
That said, trading Love to the Celtics just reinforces the notion around the league and with fans that the Wolves are the Celtics' superstar training team as well. Plus Celtics would need another piece I think for Love to want to go there. Is Rondo guaranteed to stay even with Love? Lot of question marks with this fit, but the Celtics have a lot of picks to offer to do a Love deal and another potential deal (Melo, etc) much like they did with KG and Ray Allen.
Assets: David Lee (2 yrs/30.5 mil), Harrison Barnes (1 year, plus rookie options), Klay Thompson (1 year, plus rookie options), Andre Igoudala (3 years/35 million left), Draymond Green (next year not guaranteed
Warriors could conceivably concoct a deal around David Lee, Barnes/Thompson, and Green. Not likely the best deal the Wolves could get, as it doesn't give them much youth, and it will cost a lot of money. This would likely be the deal they'd make to try to stay a .500 team, but ultimately that would remain their ceiling. Rubio-Thompson-Brewer-Lee-Pek would struggle on defense, and you can argue that Thompson and Kevin Martin are vaguely similar players. Not a fan of this potential destination, but think it remains in the mix more than it should.
Assets: Carlos Boozer (17 million expiring contract), Taj Gibson (3 years, 25 mil), Jimmy Butler (1 year at 2 mil, plus rookie options), Nikola Mirotic (Euro-stash), 16th overall pick (via Bobcats), 19th overall pick
A deal that starts with Gibson, Butler, and Mirotic would be somewhat intriguing. Gibson could be a good complement to Pek's offensive brute on defense, and not demand heavy usage. Butler would give us a defensive wing to move Martin to the bench, and Mirotic could step in and become Kevin Love-lite. He shoots from deep, plays PF, and is generally considered best player in Europe. Adding one or both firsts instead of Butler would be intriguing as well, but think you need to secure Mirotic and Gibson. Honestly if I'm the Wolves, I demand Taj, Jimmy, Mirotic, and the 16th pick, but would settle for 19. I didn't include Noah as I can't see the Bulls parting with him. If they do, I think the Wolves need to think long and hard about making that deal. But the Bulls wont, so it's moot.
Other teams I'll update on if they start frequenting the rumor mill.
Dallas Mavericks- Have had their sights set on Love, but don't have any good trade assets in the form of young players or a lotto pick to make them a serious contender. Just don't see it.
Houston Rockets- Asik, Lin, T Jones, Beverley are all decent pieces but without a high pick aren't a centerpiece. Now if they suddenly decided they wanted to move Harden, then they'd jump to the top of the list. All indications are they are not.
New Orleans Pelicans- if Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, or Ryan Anderson move the needle, then you can add them. Pels don't have an noteworthy picks, as baring a leap into top 3, their pick goes to the Sixers.
Milwaukee Bucks- a high pick and Giannis is a starting point, but can't see Love going AND staying there.
Orlando Magic- the pieces required to get Love would gut the team and render a trade for Love useless.
Detroit Pistons- They'll offer their mid lotto pick plus Josh Smith or Greg Monroe, but I wouldn't consider the Pistons unless Drummond is in the deal. Unlikely SVG moves his next Dwight, even if it nets him a better version of Rashard Lewis/Ryan Anderson.
Denver Nuggets- They could fashion something around Faried and Gallo, but just can't see this trade happening.
Toronto, Indiana, and Washington can't be counted out, but that said remain EXTREME long shots to get into the mix.
If I'm missing any team or assets, please feel free to point it out in the comments for updating. I'll also sneak in and update certain teams once the lottery order is set. One quick aside: With Love representing the Wolves at the draft, and all these Love wants out rumors, would be very curious to see his reaction if the Wolves moved up into the top 3. Indifference would mean no matter what the Wolves do save for importing a top 10 player, he's gone.
Until the draft lottery...