Kevin Love has dominated the NBA headlines since LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony signed their new contracts. The All-Star is involved in trade rumors every day, and multiple teams have talked to the Minnesota Timberwolves about possible deals.
It’s not hard to see why Love is so highly coveted. At just 25 years old, He’s proven himself to be among the best players in the NBA.
In two of the last three years, Love has been an All-NBA Second Team Selection, while leading the league in double-doubles. This past season, he ranked fourth in the NBA with 26.1 points per game and third with an average of 12.5 rebounds. His 14.3 win shares put him behind only James and Kevin Durant for the NBA lead.
Love is almost certain to improve whatever team he joins, but the organization that acquires him will be forced to give Minnesota a lot of assets. The Cleveland Cavaliers are reportedly set to trade Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett, both of whom were the No.1 picks in the last two NBA drafts. If the Golden State Warriors want Love, they’ll likely have to part with Klay Thompson, David Lee and Harrison Barnes. The Chicago Bulls might have to send Taj Gibson, Jiimmy Butler and other assets to have a real shot at getting the big man.
Is Love worth trading for at such high a price?
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A large part of the reason why Love wants out of Minnesota is because the team has never surrounded him with a strong supporting cast. While Love has never played on a great team, it can’t be overlooked that he’s never even finished above .500 in his six-year career. In 2013-2014, he won 40 games with the Timberwolves, surpassing his high of 31 victories in the previous season.
Love’s impending free agency makes trading for him a risk. The team that acquires the power forward can offer him more money than anyone else, but there’s no guarantee that he’ll re-sign a long-term contract. Love would likely be open to playing alongside James for the rest of his career, but he could choose to sign with a major market over Cleveland, especially since the four-time MVP only has a two-year deal.
Next summer, Love will command a max contract. If any of the three teams that are looking to trade for Love sign him, they might not have any financial flexibility for years. Cleveland would have three max players in Love, James and Kyrie Irving, severely limiting the kind of moves they could make in the future. Golden State and Chicago would both be well over the salary cap after giving Love a nine-figure contract.
Those involved in the Kevin Love Sweepstakes have to look no further than the New York Knicks to see how trading multiple assets for an All-Star can backfire. In 2011, New York sent three draft picks and three players under 26 years old to Denver for Carmelo Anthony. The end result was just one playoff-series victory and a losing season in 2013-2014.
The situation surrounding Love, though, appears to be different. While the Knicks were a borderline playoff team at the time of the deal, all three contenders for Love will be legitimate threats next year, even if they can’t complete the trade. Adding Love to Chicago or Cleveland could make either team the favorite to win the 2015 NBA Finals, and Golden State would be projected to improve on its 51-win season from a year ago.
At such a young age, Love should be one of the league’s top stars for years to come. He’s never been to the playoffs, but it might not be fair to judge his ability to become a winner until he joins a better team. Two years ago, Love’s season was cut short by an injury, and the Timberwolves went 9-9 with him healthy. When Love was sidelined, Minnesota was much worse, going 23-42. Even last year, the team went just 1-4 when their best player didn’t suit up.
Love certainly isn’t the perfect player, but he’s much better than anyone Cleveland, Chicago or Golden State would trade to Minnesota. He’s not known for his defensive prowess, but he hasn’t proven to be a detriment on the defensive end. The Timberwolves had a similar defensive rating with Love on and off the court last year.
The possible long-term ramifications of trading young assets for Love could make teams think twice about completing a deal. In the end, though, adding the All-Star could be what puts teams like Cleveland and Chicago over the hump, bringing them a long-awaited championship.