Rumors about Kevin Love and where he will wind up have been swirling around the league over the last couple weeks. You mostly hear about teams like the Golden State Warriors, Boston Celtics, and Chicago Bulls when discussing possible destinations for Love. With that said, could the Thunder be a potential landing spot for the double-double machine?
First off, I want to give credit to who I first heard this idea from. Matt Moore of CBS Sports briefly discussed the idea on of the recent Eye On Basketball podcasts. The idea can certainly work and the Thunder may have more to offer than the other teams with the most buzz.
If The Thunder put Serge Ibaka, Jeremy Lamb, and the No. 21 and 29 picks of the year’s draft (could also throw in a future pick or another young Thunder player the Timberwolves like), it is hard to see the Timberwolves turning it down.
Now from the Thunder’s perspective, would this be a smart move? I think it absolutely would be a smart move. If you have a chance to get a player at Kevin Love’s caliber, you have to every day of the week. Yes, we saw how important Ibaka was in the playoffs for the Thunder and how he has improved drastically by the year. But I think a lot of people don’t realize just how good Kevin Love is. He’s a legit 25-10 guy year in and year out and we have not seen the best of him yet. Wait till he plays with winning players around him in a winning culture. That is when we will see the real Love.
The big concern about replacing Ibaka with Love is the impact it would have on the defense end. The Thunder have been a top-six defense the last two years and Ibaka is a huge part of that. There is no question Ibaka is a better defender, but the Timberwolves were the 12th-most efficient defense in the league last year with zero rim protection. Love couldn’t have been THAT bad defensively.
Another reason Love makes sense is because as much as Thunder fans don’t want to think about the next couple years regarding free agency and their two stars in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, there is possibility they leave Oklahoma City at some point.
Durant is a free agent in 2016 and Westbrook is one in 2017. If Sam Presti and the Thunder management don’t find ways to put stars around them, you can’t blame them for testing the waters. Getting Love and signing him to a deal would put most of those worries to rest. Durant isn’t going to find a better situation than with Westbrook and Love, if he is really all about winning.
Westbrook and Love, who both went to UCLA, have made it no secret they are good friends and would enjoy playing with each other. For as good as Ibaka is, he doesn’t bring that same effect as Love would.
The reason this deal probably won’t happen is because the Thunder have made it no secret that they do not want to pay the luxury tax. To field Love, Durant, and and Westbrook, you would have to pay the tax, unless they miraculously took pay cuts (not happening).
So while it would be so much fun to see Kevin Love throw Westbrook a 75-foot outlet pass and watch Kevin Durant and Love run a lethal pick n’ roll, it is hard to see it happening because of the money situation and how much the Thunder value Ibaka’s defense, but I wouldn’t disregard it. It is certainly a possibility.