The blockbuster three-team Kevin Love trade between the Minnesota Timberwolves, Cleveland Cavaliers and Philadelphia 76ers has already been agreed to in principle, but since the deal can’t be completed until Saturday, the Phoenix Suns are making one last, desperate attempt at snagging the three-time All-Star for themselves.
According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst and Ramona Shelburne, the Suns have reached out to the Timberwolves to inquire about a sign-and-trade scenario involving restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe that would bring Love to Phoenix.
This late gambit by the Suns to acquire one of the top 10 players in the NBA might be too late, however, since Minnesota already has quite an attractive offer in front of them. The Cleveland Cavaliers are willing to give up their two former No. 1 draft picks – Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins – in an effort to pair LeBron James and Kyrie Irving with Love, not to mention they’re offering first round pick from the Miami Heat that Cleveland acquired in the LeBron James sign-and-trade years ago.
By involving the Sixers, Minnesota would also be bringing in a power forward replacement for Love in Thaddeus Young, though it’s hard to believe he’d stick around once he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Aside from giving up Love, who was as good as gone next summer anyway, all the Timberwolves would be giving up in this scenario is Alexey Shved, Luc Mbah a Moute and that first round pick from the Heat.
However, engaging in a deal with the Suns might not be a terrible idea either. Though Wiggins and Bennett both have a fair amount of potential, they’re mostly unproven rookies/sophomores with limited experience. They need a lot of grooming still, whereas Bledsoe is someone who can come in right away and contribute. The Wolves already have a point guard in Ricky Rubio, but Bledsoe showed last year with Goran Dragic that he’s more than capable of playing alongside another talented guard.
The Timberwolves like Bledsoe, but certainly not enough to bail on the 3-team deal in place. Things go forward as planned
— Jon Krawczynski (@APkrawczynski) August 22, 2014
The other benefit to trading with the Suns is that Phoenix has four first round draft picks over the next two years, which means the Timberwolves would almost certainly getting one or two in exchange for Love. General manager Ryan McDonough’s strongest selling point right now is that he can offer Bledsoe, a star on the rise right now, along with picks to help with the rebuilding process. Acquiring Wiggins, Bennett and Young is nice on paper, but that rebuilding process could amount to a wild shot in the dark and a player who walks as soon as he gets the chance.
There are definitely some complications to such a deal, however. Bledsoe would have to agree to a sign-and-trade, and he’s been quite the unrealistic stickler about contract negotiations this summer. Though Phoenix offered him a reasonable four-year, $48 million contract this summer, Bledsoe wanted a five-year, $85 million max deal. In lieu of a more favorable option, Bledsoe was considering taking the Suns’ $3.7 million qualifying offer to become an unrestricted free agent in 2015. In any sign-and-trade scenario, Bledsoe would want a max deal, which would be four years and $64 million.
Taking the Suns’ qualifying offer is a move that would come with significant risks for Bledsoe, who only played 43 games last season after his second major knee surgery in three years. The talent is definitely there, as shown by his 17.7 points, 5.5 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game in his first season as an NBA starter last year. The question for Flip Saunders and the Wolves now becomes: Is an injury-prone potential star worth a max contract? Or is taking a chance with young talent the better path?
For Minnesota, the wisest choice seems like taking the offer already on the table from the Cavaliers and Sixers, at least until we know what other sweeteners Phoenix intends to throw in the pot. There’s no harm in the Suns going for the Hail Mary at the last possible second here, but there’s a good chance it’s already too late.