A flurry of reports this weekend indicated that the Timberwolves may be weighing the possibility of trading Kevin Love, with a host of teams positioning themselves to land the All-Star power forward.
According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Jerry Zgoda, despite the Wolves' new stance, they do not plan to trade their superstar power forward before next month's NBA draft.
The 25-year-old Love is under contract for $15.7 million next season, but he has the ability to exercise an early termination option in his contract and become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Former Timberwolves GM David Kahn, who was fired last year, foolishly offered Love a four-year rookie extension, with an opt-out following the third year, rather than a five-year deal that would have kept Love in Minnesota through the 2016-17 season.
Despite making three All-Star teams and regularly placing among the league's leaders in scoring, rebounding and Player Efficiency Rating (PER), Love has yet to make the playoffs -- or even finish above .500 -- during his six-year career. Following coach Rick Adelman's retirement back in April, Love is now set to play for his fifth different coach since he was selected in the 2008 lottery.
Reports of Love's unhappiness have popped up intermittently in recent years. Back in February, Timberwolves president Flip Saunders steadfastly denied that Love had requested a trade. With the 2014 draft lottery drawing set for Tuesday, the chatter around Love has increased to what might be an all-time high.
The New York Daily News reported that Love's representatives recently informed the Timberwolves that their client did not plan to re-sign in Minnesota once he becomes a free agent next summer.
Kevin Love’s people reiterated to the Timberwolves this past week that they had better trade him or else he’ll leave via free agency when his contract is up after next season. With Love looking to exit, there’s your No. 1 reason the T-wolves have not been able to find a head coach to take over for Rick Adelman. Love wants to play for the Lakers but he’s also open to coming to the Knicks.
Yahoo Sports reported that the Timberwolves might be softening their previous no-trade stance on Love and that the Celtics, Lakers, Rockets, Suns and Warriors were among the teams interested in talking trade.
"For the first time, [Saunders] sounds like looking at deals for [Love] is an option," one rival executive told Yahoo Sports.
No team is likely to trade for Love without an assurance that he'll commit to a five-year, $100 million maximum contract extension. Despite a belief that Love prefers Los Angeles or New York as a potential destination, he's open to deals in other markets where he can be part of an immediate contender, sources said.
The Associated Press also reported that the Timberwolves might be rethinking their stance when it comes to including Love in trade proposals.
Throughout most of last season, Minnesota Timberwolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders and owner Glen Taylor remained steadfast in their stance that they would not consider trading Kevin Love. They were determined instead to convince the All-Star forward that he should sign an extension to remain after next season.
With the NBA draft lottery coming up this week and an increasing concern that Love will leave for another team after next year, that stance has softened, two people with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press. The Timberwolves are now open to the idea of trading Love if the right deal comes along.
The people requested anonymity because the team has not made any final decisions on Love's future in Minnesota.
If the Wolves do not get an offer they feel is worthy of parting with the second-best player in franchise history, they are content to move forward with a plan to show Love that Minnesota is where he belongs, much the way the Portland Trail Blazers did with LaMarcus Aldridge last offseason.
ESPN.com reported that, although Love has not demanded a trade, he does plan to become an unrestricted free agent next summer and that he's not interested in signing a contract extension with Minnesota.
Sources told ESPN.com that the Golden State Warriors and Chicago Bulls are among the potential trade destinations that intrigue Love ... Sources say that the Phoenix Suns, armed with several draft assets to offer Minnesota, also have strong interest in trading for Love, but the 25-year-old's interest in joining the Suns is unclear.
Sources say Love has stressed to the Timberwolves that he's desperate to get to a winning situation and that the constant losing has worn on him.
Putting together a trade for a player of Love's caliber -- not to mention a player with a $15.7 million contact -- is no easy task. That said, it's not impossible. Carmelo Anthony, Deron Williams, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were all involved in blockbuster trades in recent years. Generally speaking, the return package formula for a superstar player has included quality draft picks, young talent, limited future salary obligations, and, in some cases, the inclusion of another outgoing long-term contract to aid rebuilding efforts via improved cap flexibility.
At this point, the Knicks and Lakers -- two high-profile teams in desirable markets -- do not seem to have the ability to assemble very compelling trade packages this summer. The Celtics, Rockets, Suns, and Warriors, on the other hand, all would seem to have the requisite talent and/or draft assets to put together solid packages to pique the Timberwolves' interest. It's possible that some of those packages could be sweetened further by a lucky bounce of the ping pong balls on Tuesday.
The Timberwolves have plenty of time to weigh their options here, and there's no need to rush into a panic trade. That said, Saunders spent up most of their flexibility with a series of big dollar deals last summer that failed to move them into playoff positioning.
It's therefore difficult to blame Love if he's gazing around for greener pastures at this point, and Minnesota must face the facts about the situation: stars want to win, the Timberwolves haven't won in a decade, and Love owes the organization no favors after his last round of contract negotiations were badly mishandled. Soliciting trade offers -- and maybe even setting off a bidding war -- is the right move for the Timberwolves at this point, even if it doesn't necessarily result in a deal this summer.
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