Although it seemed to almost be a certainty that he wouldn’t, plenty of Minnesota Timberwolves fans were still holding out hope that Kevin Love would stay with the team beyond the 2014-15 season. Unfortunately for them, Love has made it clear that he’s not planning on resigning when his current contract expires, meaning they either trade him now or get nothing for him. While I think that they could be in the mix for a playoff spot this year, there’s little of chance of them actually be a contender. Apparently, GM Milt Newton agrees, and the consensus is that Love will be shipped soon.
Love’s people have pushed for the trade to happen before July 11, and while there’s no way of knowing if Newton intends to honor their request, it’s very likely that a deal could be imminent. While every team in the league should want Love, there are only a few who actually have the pieces in place to pursue a player of his caliber.
Because of that, there’s no better time to look at the five most likely destinations for Love.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers have been known to snag high-profile players, and there’s really not a more illustrious uniform to don than the purple and gold of LA. Though falling to the #7 pick is going to hurt their bid for Love a bit, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t give up as many picks at it will take to bring Love in. The problem here is, those picks may not be all that valuable if Kobe is healthy and Love joins the team. I don’t see this one happening, but the Lakers would likely offer Love the most money to stick around after this season.
Love reportedly wants to go to a place where he has a chance to win and win from the start. While Boston was pretty dreadful this year, moving to the Eastern Conference is sure to make a playoff run easier than it is in the loaded West. Rondo is a talent at point guard, though I’m not certain that he’s that much better than Ricky Rubio in terms of the ability to play with Love. The Celtics have nine first round draft picks over the next five years, and with how bad they are right now, those picks are very appealing. Plus, players like Jared Sullinger or Jeff Green would cushion the Timberwolves’ blow of losing Love.
If Love really wants to play for a contender now, he may not have a better option than the Bulls. A lineup of Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Mike Dunleavy, Kevin Love and Joakim Noah would be be absolutely deadly. Love’s interior defense is nowhere near what Taj Gbison brings to the table, In terms of what the Wolves would get out of the deal, first round picks are in the mix, as is Taj Gibson and potentially even the rights to Nikola Mirotic. The Bulls have a lot offer, though they won’t be offering any of it if they’re able to lock down Carmelo Anthony.
The biggest flaw to Love’s game is that he isn’t quite the menacing figure beneath the rim that you’d like your big man to be. The solution? Pair him up with Dwight Howard, one of the best interior defenders in the game. With those two down as the big men and James Harden scoring in bunches, the Rockets instantly become one of the favorites in the Western Conference, regardless of who they have to give up to get Love in. There’s been rumors of a three-team trade being likely if Houston is involved, but I don’t think Minnesota would have a problem with adding Terrence Jones, Chandler Parsons and a pair of draft picks.
Golden State Warriors
The Warriors were already one of the best shooting teams in the NBA this past season, and they would only improve further by adding Love. They’re also one of the best young teams in the league, making it a place where it’s likely Love would be willing to resign. They’ve got a new coach and as much potential as anyone. In terms of what they could send to Minnesota, they don’t have a first round pick this year, but they can send Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes, which means the Wolves would be getting plenty of talent for the future. This seems to be the most mutually beneficial, and thus the most likely option.