Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard the Kevin Love trade rumors that have him making statements about his impending departure from the Minnesota Timberwolves. To be more specific, Love has reportedly stated he’s going to opt-out and is not interested in receiving a contract extension from the Wolves.
This certainly puts a damper on the 2014-15 season for the Wolves, but it also brings up an interesting scenario. Do the Wolves trade him right away, in order to get good value for him and allow their current crop to grow together, or do they stubbornly hold on and hope the first half of next season provides enough good moments to soften Love’s stance?
If I were the owner, I’d be keeping an eye on the draft lottery Tuesday night and then I’d keep the owners in the top-3 on speed dial. With all that said, what kind of offers should teams make for Love? What’s he actually worth?
WHAT LOVE BRINGS
There’s no question that Love is a tremendous player (when healthy). He’s a power forward who has led the league in rebounding and has also won a 3-point contest at All-Star weekend. Take a look at his career:
Those numbers are pretty impressive on the surface. A big part of what Love brings with his defensive rebounding is the fact that he’s one of the best in the NBA with his outlet passes. This means he could fit into a number of different kinds of offenses. If it’s a slow paced offense, he’d be happy to lurk at the 3-point line or down in the low post. If it’s a transition offense, he’ll be extremely important as the trigger man.
Last season, the Wolves were the ninth-best rated offense in the league. They scored 106.9 points per game (No. 3 in NBA) and as the center of the offense, Love was a major reason for that.
Defensively, the Wolves were actually better than advertised. They allowed 104.3 points per game, which was No. 26 in the league, but they were the No. 12 rated defense, in part because of their pace (No. 4 in NBA). Love isn’t known as much of a defensive player, but he’s also not the liability that many make him out to be.
According to 82games.com, Love holds opposing power forwards to a 14.2 PER. Against centers, he was out of his league (17.7 PER against), but whatever team tries to acquire him isn’t likely to put him in that position anyways.
Love is a blossoming player that when healthy, is a bonafide MVP candidate. However, he has been hampered by injuries every season since his rookie year. Last year was the healthiest he’s been in his career and on a team with multiple offensive options, Love put up what was an excellent — not MVP quality — season.
The problem is, the team went 40-42 and were one of the most underwhelming teams in the whole league. The Wolves continued to lose close games early in the season and those kinds of collpases often land on the star. It’s Love’s job to put the team on his shoulders during that time. Remember this?
If Love were a more vocal leader — if he were more aggressive — he’d no question be rightfully coveted by any team in the NBA. Instead, he’s had to rely on the services of Ricky Rubio and others to help him offensively. That’s why I’d urge some serious caution for any team expecting to get a LeBron James-type do-it-all player. Love isn’t that guy. He’d be the best No. 2 guy in the league, but he’s not a sure No. 1 for a team. He’s proven that in Minnesota, where he’s yet to appear in a playoff game.
WHAT KIND OF OFFER?
Teams who want to go after Love will have to come up with a package of picks and players. Nobody in their right mind is going to trade a star for Love at this point, but the Wolves will definitely want a combination of potential and proven success. A package with a middle-of-the-road starter, a top rotation guy with a high ceiling and two first-round picks should suffice.
The key here is going to be how the draft lottery plays out. If lightning strikes and the Wolves move into the top spot (yeah, right), that could sway Love’s thoughts. Whomever holds those top picks will be the teams that the Wolves will prefer to deal with. They’ve already got a solid base in place without Love so if they can haul in an Andrew Wiggins (plus other assets), they might actually be better off down the line.