Oh, what to do with Kevin Love
How many hours have you spent on the trade machine this week? How badly are you trying to virtually aide Flip and the Wolves in getting rid of the cancer that is Love before we have to boo him during home games? No one feels comfortable stepping outside of the ‘We have to trade him sooner than later’ bubble, and I don’t blame you. For me, I’ve been trying to stick shovels, garden hoes, pitchforks (Why do I have so many gardening tools?) into the bubble’s shell from inside but it just doesn’t seem very plausible at this point.
So if it’s a reset button they have to press, let’s press the right one. AMIRITE?!
Go back to 2007, when the Wolves needed to trade Kevin Garnett. Subtly curving downward from his prime, there were suitors all over the league drooling over the chance at grabbing Garnett. McHale had his pick from a giant litter of offers that were laced with helpful assets as far as the eye can see. But in the end, he chose an
enticing at the time but mediocre deal with his old friend and teammate in Boston, Danny Ainge. Did Ainge get the ‘buddy discount’? Of course he did but Minnesota still thought they got a decent haul headlined by Al Jefferson, two first-round draft picks, and then a slew of intriguing young players like Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair and Ryan Gomes. Oh, and Theo Ratliff was there too.
The return was enticing because of the similar stages each player was in at that point in their career. Although the key players coming from Gang Green all were young in years, at least they had some NBA-game action, which can be important when you’re trying to sustain at least a moderate level of success while still trying to mold a young athlete into the player/person you want them to be.
Looking back now, though, I think it’s pretty clear that that’s a deal you want to stay away from in the future. Do you really want a bunch of players who some experience and okay potential in a blockbuster trade for you superstar when you didn’t even do the scouting/drafting of these players to begin with? Are you just gonna take the other executive’s word that these guys can play and are stand-up off-court characters? I don’t believe in that one bit. We all know how the Garnett trade faired for both teams in the end and a lot of Minnesota’s negatives from the deal stem from the lack of any of the young players’ abilities to find their fit/niche in Minnesota as well as Minnesota’s ability to not give them enough time (Gerald Green kicks ass now, if you didn’t know).
I think, if Flip and Glen Taylor want to make the right move and do this thing correctly, they need to trade Love early/on draft night to cash in on the highest value possible. But even more important than the timing is the return and that it NOT resemble anything like the Garnett deal in that you don’t take on players that you haven’t scouted thoroughly and just taking on because “the coach said they have potential.” This is a trade that’s going to dictate the path for the next five years and probably even further, so don’t set your future in another front office’s hands. The only way to get a solid return is to take on a slew of draft picks, where YOU get to do the scouting and drafting of these young men and choose the ones you want of 60 incoming players, not 15 from another roster. And then you also need to take proven commodities who have real experience in the league, like four to six years, not one to two. If those two requirements aren’t met by the time a deal is announced, then it’s a complete fail in my mind, and Taylor should sell the team, leaving Flip with the mess of another potential Post K.G. Era, where darkness, shame and bullying/abuse are all inevitable.
Bill Simmons of ESPN and Grantland wrote a snippet of his take on Love’s situation and went into detail on potential trades for different teams and then ranking them from least likely to most likely to trade for Love. First off, this guy must never sleep, or when he does, his brain is in eternal Trade Machine mode because he won’t give it a break. His ideas for potential trades are so out there, there’s no way he’s not scheming 24 hours a day. Anyways, I’m going to go through his potential trades and give my two cents on each one, starting with the least likely trade spots moving into the most likely. Herewego!
L.A. Lakers: Could offer the no. 7 pick, the chance for Love to come home, and the chance for him to be reunited with his girlfriend (the actress Cody Horn). I don’t know how any of this helps Minnesota. And also — if you’re Kevin Love, you’d really want to play with Kobe for two years on a poorly owned team with no other assets? Why not just stay in Minnesota one more year, then sign with the Lakers in 2015?
First off, I’ll get to what really matters first. Cody Horn is not that hot. Nope. She’s very meh in the world of Hollywood, which isn’t what you want to be there. Kevin, you can do better, I just know it. But I can tell you this much: Love isn’t going to L.A. for at least one season. The Wolves would keep him before trading him to the Lakers because they have NOTHING to give back other than that 7th pick. It just won’t work, but if Love really wants to be in L.A., he’ll do exactly what Simmons’ says and sign there as a free agent next summer. And even that’s a long-shot considering the Wolves are going to look for a place to trade him where he wants to go, so he can re-sign with them. Sorry, Lakers, but the Love sweepstakes odds are extremely low unless something drastic happens.
Golden State: Reportedly made Klay Thompson untouchable, which makes no sense because (a) he should be VERY touchable, and (b) you should want to flip David Lee and Thompson for Kevin Love every day and twice on Sunday. If they want to expand the deal with Harrison Barnes and Kevin Martin, that’s fine, too. Love and Steph Curry on the same team? Come on. Actually, why am I helping the Warriors? Definitely keep Klay Thompson! Best 2-guard in the league!
You know, I think Golden State has one of the better packages to offer. In this one, you get two players you know are good, which is key for me, remember. But you have to get Barnes to make things right, just because he’s the “Gerald Green” of the deal. I’m not high on those kind of players but getting just one on top of the real package of Lee/Thompson is better than fine. The only problem is, like Simmons says, why the hell would we help the Warriors? They took the point guard we were supposed to take in 2009. What the hell, guys!! No, no, screw you! This conversations is over.
Phoenix Suns: They have a bunch of decent assets (the nos. 14, 21, 28 and 29 picks, Alex Len, the Morris twins, etc.) but no headliner. They’d have to package multiple picks to move up to no. 5 (Utah) and no. 7 (Lakers). Not likely. (More likely for them: Al Horford.)
Just no. The package is way too similar to KG/Boston’s minus the headliner of Al Jefferson. The picks are nice but where’s the proven commodity? They don’t have one except for Goran Dragic, who’s practically untouchable in the loosest sense of the term. Plus, there’s no way Love has actual interest in re-signing with Phoenix. We’ve already figured out that two Morris’ doesn’t make one good one. This isn’t Transformers, ya know.
Houston Rockets: Have to be mentioned because of Flip Saunders’s friendship with Kevin McHale, and because Love absolutely loved playing for McHale. But they’d have to convince Chandler Parsons to agree to a sign-and-trade, something they couldn’t do until July (after the draft). No way Parsons wants to live in Minnesota — he wants to be famous too badly. He’d rather attend Hollywood red-carpet premieres and become the next Bachelor. (I’m not even kidding.) So what if they sign-and-trade Parsons to the Lakers for whomever they took with the no. 7 pick (not inconceivable), deal Omer Asik for another first-rounder, then package those picks with other assets (future picks, Terrence Jones, etc.) for Love? Unlikely … but not impossible, right?
Julius Erving said a the Draft Lottery that the league has always worked in cycles. Generally speaking, teams are good for 5-10 years, and then turn bad again. Unless you’re the outlier like Minnesota but that’s a whole different conversation. For the sake of argument, let’s just assume he’s 90-percent right. That means it’s Houston’s time to rise for the next five seasons at least. Why would Minnesota want to push that cycle into overdrive? And for Chandler Parsons, who, like Simmons’ said, would never re-sign here and Jones, who would never re-sign when he’s ready too. Again, the potential package has no headliner and strikes to similar to the KG deal. It just won’t work.
Chicago Bulls: For Taj Gibson, no. 16, no. 19 and the rights to Nikola Mirotic. Not sure that’s enough for ’Sota. Also: That trade chews up the Bulls’ cap space, and, by proxy, their July chances for Carmelo. I can’t get a feel for the Bulls — I mean, that’s the same team that gave Luol Deng away in January, then claimed publicly that they weren’t quitting on the season. Huh???? It’s also the same team that plays in the third-biggest TV market in America and could sell for $2 billion tomorrow (not a misprint), only they operate their business like they’re stuck playing in Indiana or Milwaukee. Keep getting dem checks, Jerry.
It’s like a broken record at this point. No headliner. I do love Taj Gibson but not as the main piece. Mirotic may never be anything substantial. The only way it would work for the Wolves is if the Bulls do the hard work and shop picks 16/19 to move up into the top ten, somehow, and then give us a few future first-rounders as well. To make it work, the Bulls have to offer a minimum of three picks or find another team to help bring a headliner to Minnesota in a deal.
Okay, this next one is long because Simmons is a Celtics junkie:
Boston Celtics: They have a war chest of assets, including two 2014 picks (no. 6 and no. 17), two 2015 first-rounders (their own and an unprotected Clippers pick), two unprotected Brooklyn first-rounders (2016 and 2018), a pick swap from Brooklyn in 2017 (unprotected), a $10.3 million trade exception, Keith Bogans’s waivable-ASAP contract ($5.1 million, perfect for trade match), Brandon Bass’s deal (expires in 2015) and two decent young players (Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk). They can accommodate ANY Kevin Love trade. Oh, and they have Brad Stevens and one of the league’s most respected organizations, as well as the team that keeps celebrating its players and welcoming them home even after they retire. That too.
The most logical offer: Both 2014 picks, both 2015 picks, Sullinger, Bogans and Bass’s expiring for Love. That’s four first-rounders (including the no. 6 pick). If they pulled it off, they’d have to move quickly on Houston’s Asik, even if it meant taking Jeremy Lin’s contract as the price for Asik — conceivably, they could absorb Asik with the aforementioned trade exception and absorb Lin’s deal with their cap space — which helps Houston because they need to dump the Lin/Asik contracts to pursue Carmelo. You tell me: Could you compete in the East with a starting five of Love, Rajon Rondo, Asik, Jeff Green and Free Agent 2-Guard TBA? And could you make the Finals with a Big Three of James Harden, Dwight Howard and Carmelo Anthony? YES AND YES! Let’s do this!
(And if all of this happens, followed by an unhappy Celtics season and Love and Rondo bolting in 2015 to sign with the Lakers and Knicks, respectively, then I’m moving to England and throwing myself into the Premier League. No farewell column, no good-bye party, nothing. I’m out. Nice knowing you.)
Oofta. Can you blame the man for trying? I mean, four first-round picks? The problem is the Celtics aren’t that good. Bringing in Love will put them back into the top four or five teams in the East with a healthy lineup, but they’d sacrifice any chance at a future with Love beyond a year or so because they’d be absolutely depleted. It makes sense for the Wolves because they get the picks they really need, which is a must-have in my opinion. And if you’re getting four draft picks in the trade, who needs proven players? You have four potential starters at your disposal sitting in the draft somewhere. The Wolves would happily take Sullinger, who is more of a locker room guy than Love and also plays a little bit like him too. I like Sully.
I’d say, if the Celtics were willing to roll the dice on a deal like this, I’d shake on it with my mouth shut, if I were Flip. It’d be the dawning of significant work moving forward in regards to scouting for the picks and even moving them for players they might like. But the haul is probably too good to be true.
And last but not least:
Cleveland Cavs: It all depends on whatever Bat Signal LeBron is sending them. If they truly believe they can bring LeBron home this summer or next summer — remember, he can always opt back into his Miami contract for one more season, then leave after the 2015 Finals — then here’s what the Cavs SHOULD do:
Step No. 1: Trade the no. 1 overall pick, Anthony Bennett and an unprotected 2015 first-rounder to Minnesota for Kevin Love. That’s a MONSTER offer. Boston wouldn’t be able to trump it from an upside standpoint. And by the way, ’Sota could flip that no. 1 pick to Philly for no. 3 and no. 10, take whomever’s left between Wiggins and Parker, then have the no. 10 and no. 13 picks as well, plus Bennett! That’s a RESET button and then some.
Step No. 2: Pull Miami’s old Udonis Haslem trick — renounce Anderson Varejao’s rights (for more cap space), then re-sign him in July for a longer deal.
Step No. 3: Bring LeBron home.
Your 2014-15 Cavs (potentially): LeBron, Love, Kyrie, Varejao, Tristan Thompson, Jarrett Jack, Dion Waiters and their choice of three ring-chasing veterans who would commit murder to play on that team. A little more palatable than that 2014-15 Heat roster … right?
Cleveland getting the 1st overall pick could be a blessing in disguise for the Wolves. I see two teams going the hardest after Love and that’s the Cavs and Golden State. But we already know the Warriors’ stance. The Cavs, however, have a lot more to offer and it’s all about the picks, baby. The one caveat to ANY deal with the Cavs for the 1st overall pick is that the Wolves MUST do what Simmons proposed and move the top pick to the 76ers for no. 3 and no. 10. That means you gain two lottery picks, a future first in another good draft and then Bennett, who’s a bit of an unknown but I still like him as the Gerald Green in the deal. But come on! With nos. 3, 10 and 13, you could come away with a down-the-road star and two starters within a year or two. That’s this draft flexing it’s muscles in front of our faces. And one of the best parts of the deal is Love would be heading East, not West. We’d never have to deal with his bullshit like we would in the East, just like Garnett. Love did a lot for this franchise and it’s been fun watching him over the years but the only way for him to gain his respect back from the fans is going out East, so we don’t have to see his mug on a regular basis.
Regardless of how many trades Bill Simmons con conjure up, he’s right about one thing and it’s the Wolves have to move Love by draft night. If not, his value will cut almost in half and the Wolves will be doomed for another 5-10 years. It’s just about inevitable. So, don’t let that happen. Pull the trigger on what feels right but just be sure that it’s the deal that YOU want and not another team’s misplaced oddballs that they call “assets.” It’s more effort but acquiring the picks and then finding the pieces you want in your puzzle is the way to go. Don’t screw this up, Flip.