"You have to trade Love or lose him for nothing!"
"He's gone. It's better to get something than nothing."
--Dozens of fans trying to convince me (as if I have anything to do with it) to agree to their terrible offers for Kevin Love.
So after all the kerfuffle of the last week or so, with the Kevin Love trade speculation, the draft lottery and what it might mean for a Love trade, let's take a look at where we stand.
Let's start here: We don't know what Love or his agent has told the Timberwolves. However, let's assume the worst. Let's assume that the Wolves have been informed that he is unlikely to re-sign with the Wolves after opting out of his contract next summer. Where does that leave us?
It leaves us with the same two choices that have always been there: trade him this summer or don't trade him this summer. The truth is, those (made up) quotes above are wrong: something isn't always better than nothing. If that something is something you don't really want, that is mostly going to take up salary space, roster spots, and playing time, nothing is often better.
I would rather take the risk that Love walks away with no compensation next summer than take on David Lee's two years and $30 million.
And there are reasons not to make a trade in haste. As Tom Ziller points out in his excellent article today, and we've been talking about for a while, the Wolves are still in a position to convince Love to re-sign. They have to find a coach he can work with, get better, and win more games. But as we know, they were not a bad team this year. They wildly underperformed their expected record based on their point differential, and there is no reason to expect them to do so again.
If they can be four games better next season, and equal their Pythagorean record, they are a 52 win team, which obviously makes the playoffs, and has a good chance at home court advantage. Under those circumstances, it seems to me they would have a decent chance at retaining Love, who would be leaving a lot of money (roughly $30M) on the table to sign elsewhere. That's a risk I'm willing to take for a year of good basketball.
It also isn't the only option. They have until the trade deadline next season to make a move if things aren't going well. While it's possible that their return would not be as good at that point, it's also true that teams are trading for his Bird rights as much as they are for this coming season, and those rights transfer whether the trade takes place this summer or in February.
The downside to this is that the saga continues. We will be subjected to rumors and questions for as long as he remains untraded and unsigned, and more to the point, the team will be subjected to it as well. That could prove a distraction that derails the season, but isn't a reason to pull the trigger earlier then necessary in my view. A trade is very likely to derail the season anyway, and perhaps much more than one season.
I know that there is sentiment among some Wolves fans to move on now, not drag this out and have it become a sideshow for a player that "doesn't want to be here," but in truth, if he doesn't want to be here it's because the team hasn't won. The team hasn't won because the rest of the roster isn't good enough. While I don't have a ton of faith that will change this summer (faith is in short supply for Wolves fans), I also don't have a ton of faith that trading our best player is going to be a help.
Talent trumps in the NBA, and Love is an immense talent. I'm willing to go through a bumpy year to hang on to that talent, no matter how distasteful.
Meanwhile, the lottery results did not help the market for Kevin Love, which is another reason to be patient. Although there has been a lot of talk about Cleveland and the #1 pick, given what we can assume about Love's desires, that isn't realistic. In fact, none of the top five teams in the draft (Cavaliers, Bucks, 76ers, Magic, Jazz) are realistic landing spots for him, making trading him centered around a draft pick very difficult.
The Celtics at #6 are the first team in the order with whom a trade might be possible, but the results of the lottery make it much less appealing. The sixth pick, a Nets future first, Olynyk and Bass (or Green)? That's about the best I can come up with, and...no. Had that pick been top three...
(If you haven't already, you should go check out Zach Harper's excellent piece on Truehoop that comes up with a Love deal with each team in the league. Some of them are by necessity jokes, but there are serious ones in there as well. It's a very well done piece.)
That leaves possible trades in which a draft pick is not the centerpiece, and leads us back to a handful of teams that were originally mentioned in early reports: The Bulls, Warriors, and perhaps the Rockets. The Warriors are of very little interest as we've been over before, while the Bulls could put together an enticing package if they are so inclined. Perhaps the Rockets as well, but it might require a third team. Phoenix remains an outside possibility, I suppose.
My guess is that if a trade happens, we will know on draft night, as a pick is likely to be involved even if it's not a top pick. While the trade might not actually be consummated until the new salary cap year begins, we would likely hear about it before then.
So we have at least another month of speculation. Enjoy yourself. I'm sure we will be writing about this again.