The NBA world simply could not wait until the season was over for the first huge name to appear in trade talks. While the conference finals are just getting under way, the basketball media has exploded over the past two days with the news that Minnesota Timberwolves’ All-Star Kevin Love could be on the move in the offseason and suddenly every team with reasonable assets appears to be in line for the disgruntled big man. One team who has emerged as one of the likely candidates to make a move for Love is the Boston Celtics. General manager Danny Ainge has stockpiled an impressive list of draft picks and young talent that could be packaged as one of the more tempting offers that the Timberwolves receive once the offseason truly begins.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported that the Celtics have become a serious option in a potential trade for Kevin Love, and that the results of Tuesday’s Draft Lottery could play a huge part in the ability of the teams to come to a deal.
The Boston Celtics have emerged as an increasingly intriguing destination for Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star forward Kevin Love, and the Celtics’ draft position coming out of Tuesday night’s lottery could be telltale in determining the feasibility of a trade, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
If the lottery percentages hold to form, Boston would draft in the No. 5 slot, which could hold appeal to Minnesota in this talent-rich draft. If Boston moves up and cracks one of the top three spots, general manager Danny Ainge would have a more difficult decision to make on using the pick in a deal for Love.
The Celtics, just a season removed from trading veteran stars Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett appeared likely to be in the first season of a long-term rebuilding project, but suddenly the possibility of trading for one of the league’s best big men could change the plan in an instant. Love is one of the league’s brightest stars and at just 25 years old could have a decade remaining in what has been an impressive career thus far. The fifth pick in the 2008 draft, Love has spent his entire career with the Timberwolves and despite failing to reach the playoffs, he has been one of the most statistically dominant players in the league for years.
With career averages of 19.2 points, 12.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists, Love is potentially the best rebounder in the entire league and one of the most versatile scoring forwards with the ability to play inside and out. Coming off a dominant 2013-14 season, Love appears to be reaching his prime and if his 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game are anything to go by, Love could be one of the productive players in the league for years to come. Already a three-time All-Star and All-NBA Second Team award winner, Love has also become a core part of Team USA and is one of the most recognizable players in the NBA. Any team that was able to bring in a player of Love’s caliber would not only have one of the most productive players on court, but also experience a huge boom in media and fanfare.
Love is signed through next season, but has a player option for 2015-16 which he will almost certainly decline in order to sign a max contract. This situation means that Love will have some say in where he is traded if in fact a deal does go through. Any team giving up the considerable assets it will cost to trade for Love would want an assurance that the big man would re-sign there long term, so Love will be able to eliminate potential destinations by advising them he would leave via free agency. While this may rule out a number of teams, the Celtics could still be in prime position based on a number of factors.
Firstly, the Celtics have an All-Star of their own in point guard Rajon Rondo. Possibly the single best playmaker in the NBA, Rondo returned from ACL surgery this season with mixed results but is known as one of the best all-around point guards in the league and a player who has dominated games in the playoffs. The 28-year-old Rondo is in his prime and would instantly form a dangerous combination with the outside shooting ability, passing and dominant rebounding of Kevin Love. Even after giving up the assets it would take to acquire Love, Ainge would still have the potential to build a strong group around the two All-Stars, an ever-improving Avery Bradley could be re-signed, Jeff Green is a versatile small forward and there would still be a number of draft picks to use in order to bring in the right role players to field a contending team.
Love only has to look back to 2007 when Ainge turned a lottery team into this era’s first dominant “Big Three,” picking up Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to join Paul Pierce in bringing the 2008 championship banner to Boston. He has a proven track record of turning a bottom feeding team into a title winning force with a single off-season of blockbuster deals. While Love alone would not make the Celtics a contender, that history would be a huge drawing card for a player like Love who craves the chance to compete on the stage that is the NBA playoffs.
So what would it take to make the deal? Presumably the most important piece is the likely top five draft pick the Celtics will possess in the much hyped 2014 NBA Draft. The Celtics also have the 17th pick in the draft as well as a bevy of first-round picks owed by Brooklyn between now and 2018. With non-guaranteed deals on the roster the Celtics can also offer cap flexibility for the ‘Wolves, along with impressive young front court players in Kelly Olynyk or Jared Sullinger. Seemingly the pieces to be the highest bidder are there for Ainge, it will simply depend on how much he is willing to part with and whether Love has faith in the Celtics’ management to turn the team into a contender on a short timeframe.
With more than a month remaining until the NBA Draft, we will be overloaded with Kevin Love trade rumors from now until June 26. While we have heard rumblings before, this appears to be it for Love in Minnesota and the Timberwolves will make a move if their hand is forced rather than lose their All-Star for nothing the following season in free-agency. The talk has only just begun and it will start a month-long bidding war for what will be the biggest name in trade talks this off-season. Danny Ainge and the Celtics have done a wonderful job of stockpiling the assets, ready to pull the trigger for this exact type of situation and we wait to see if he can outbid a long line of other general managers and convince Kevin Love that he could be the next great Celtic for the most storied franchise in the NBA.