While Carmelo Anthony leads the 2014 free agent class, it's apparently not too early to look towards 2015. That's when Kevin Love has an early opt-out of his contract with Minnesota, and though the Timberwolves to this point have (wisely, in my opinion) not even entertained offers to 'get something' before Love has a chance to reach free agency, that may be reportedly changing.
Our old pal Mitch Lawrence had Love news first on Saturday afternoon, mentioning that Love's 'people' reiterated he's not re-signing in 2015, but then he mentioned the Knicks so it kind of lost some credibility. Yahoo!'s Adrian Wojnarowski then had more on Sunday from the Wolves' side:
Beyond the coaching search, the Wolves are under pressure to start considering trade scenarios for Love, who's anxious to exercise his Early Termination Option (ETO) in the summer of 2015 and leave as a free agent, league sources said.
"For the first time, [Saunders] sounds like looking at deals for [Love] is an option," one rival executive told Yahoo Sports.
The Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns are among many teams determined to make hard runs at trades for Love, league sources said.
So the source is a rival executive (and let's just guess it's Danny Ainge, who is the anti-Gar when it comes to SECRETS), which is pretty flimsy. But as that quote says, it would be a change in strategy if indeed the Wolves are looking at trade scenarios for Love at all.
ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne have more from the side of Love (and his people!) in him wanting to leave Minnesota more than any indication that the TWolves are budging yet.
Sources told ESPN.com that the Golden State Warriors and Chicago Bulls are among the potential trade destinations that intrigue Love.
going to the best situation for immediate contention is said to be the power forward's priority...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.
Minnesota actually has a pretty decent roster (you could argue they're about as good as the non-Rose Bulls, though obviously Kevin Love himself is the biggest part of that) which only shows how the true best way to get to a 'winning situation' is to the Eastern Conference. So maybe mentioning the Knicks in this situation at all isn't too crazy?
Nah, it probably is if we're talking about what Minnesota actually would want in a trade. As much as there has been hammering from around the league since Love even signed his latest contract extension that he'll eventually leave, in my opinion there is little incentive for them to bite any earlier than they have to. Love is a superstar, and it's hard to see one coming back to Minnesota unless it's through the draft. Trading him early just to get a package of many 'parts' shouldn't be their goal, you can look at how crappy Utah and Orlando still are even though they supposedly handled their star hostage crises the correct way. Waiting to see how this year plays out for them with a new coach (though finding one has reportedly been a problem) could work in their favor, and at worst they won't see that much less of a return at the 2015 trade deadline or even a sign/trade in that Summer.
Though in those mentioned cases in Utah and Orlando, it's not so much the picks ('n' stuff) those teams received as them tanking their own fortunes to help their own picks in this draft. And that's a reminder of this Tuesday's lottery, which could be the catalyst for a Love trade. If Minnesota thinks they can find a future star in this draft who could adequately compensate for Kevin Love, maybe it opens up the Lakers and Celtics as destinations. Though neither team would be an instant contender upon his acquisition, you could still see Love signing a contract extension there upon a deal.
Where the Bulls fit in is more on the 'quantity' side of a package to entice the Wolves than the potential quality that a top-5 pick in this draft would produce. The Bulls have picks #16 and #19, plus future non-lottery obligations from Sacramento and Cleveland. Looking at the other mentioned suitors, the Suns have picks #14, #18, and #27 in this draft and a top-5 protected 2015 first from the Lakers, though I could see Love not signing an extension there if only because it's not a 'glamor' franchise. The Warriors have the best current roster, and though they have no picks they could offer (as mentioned) Harrison Barnes, who stinks but could be framed as having lottery-level talent...and though this wasn't reported you'd have to speculate Klay Thompson could be on the table as well.
From the TWolves side
From the TWolves side
The Bulls of course have the rights to Nikola Mirotic, but we can't be sure he has value to any other teams besides Chicago. Mirotic is tearing up the Euroleague Finals this weekend, and has been mentioned as a top-5-pick level of talent, but Minnesota would likely have to put in a lot of work determining when (and for how much) he'd be able to come over before accepting him as the centerpiece of a trade. Maybe having Spanish national team teammate Ricky Rubio would help that effort.
If the availability was equal, pursuing Kevin Love is better option for the Bulls than Carmelo Anthony. Love is a better player, younger, would command a lower salary, and plays a position the Bulls can deal from (i.e., losing Taj Gibson isn't a big issue if Love is the return). I don't think Minnesota is at the point yet where they'd consider what the Bulls can offer, if they're looking at all right now it's probably for a top pick in this draft. But these reports are a step forward, if a small one.