Kevin Love is the target of multiple teams this summer, as free agency officially began in the NBA on Tuesday morning. The big man remains under contract for one more season, but the Minnesota Timberwolves are likely to trade him this offseason.
The 25-year-old might not be traded in the immediate future, as teams make bids on the top free agents. Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press reports that the market for Love will expand as the league’s best players start to sign new contracts.
The way the free agency period plays out will have a lot to do with where Love ends up for the 2014-2015 season.
LeBron James And Carmelo Anthony’s Decision
The Chicago Bulls are focused on signing Anthony, while the Houston Rockets have their eyes on one or both of the free agents. The decisions of both players could expand the number of candidates that have a chance to acquire Love.
Houston has already traded Omer Asik and is prepared to deal Jeremy Lin, in order to create cap space for a major free agent. However, it’s looking more and more likely that the Miami Heat’s Big 3 will remain intact, and Houston isn’t a favorite to land Anthony. If the team quickly realizes it’s out of the race for both players, the Rockets could make a serious play for Love. The organization didn’t pick up Chandler Parsons’ contract, making him a restricted free agent. Houston can use him in a sign-and-trade as the centerpiece in a deal for Love.
Chicago’s No.1 priority may be to sign Anthony, and they look like the biggest threat to the New York Knicks’ pursuit of keeping the All-Star. They are at a disadvantage, though, since they can’t offer Anthony nearly the same amount of money that the Knicks can. If Anthony decides to stay in the Big Apple, Chicago could try to add another scoring forward, and Love will be best person to fill that role. Taj Gibson would likely be sent to Minnesota in a deal.
The Golden State Warriors remain the favorites to trade for Love. Both sides engaged in serious discussions weeks before the official start of the free agency. Golden State’s unwillingness to part with Klay Thompson appears to have halted talked between the two teams.
According to ESPN.com, Warriors consultant Jerry West and new head coach Steve Kerr do not want to trade both Thompson and a first-round pick. The proposed deal would also send David Lee to the Timberwolves in exchange for Love and Kevin Martin.
At the start of the offseason, Golden State doesn’t appear to have any imminent competition. Several teams are concerning themselves with signing a marquee free agent, and others who might be interested in getting Love, like the Boston Celtics, can’t put together a strong package. If trade talks do heat up between Minnesota and another team, there’s a good chance the Warriors will relent and break up their prized backcourt of Thompson and Stephen Curry.
The Dark-Horse Candidate
The Phoenix Suns have not been mentioned in any recent discussions with Minnesota, but they might have what it takes to pull off a trade. They were the most surprising team of last season, and adding Love to the roster could make them a serious threat in the Western Conference.
In addition to their 2015 first-round draft pick, the Suns could have two more selections in the top 30. They’re likely to get the Los Angeles Lakers’ pick, which they acquired in the Steve Nash trade, and is top-five protected. Phoenix also has a chance to get the Timberwolves’ selection, though that doesn’t seem likely, since it is top-12 protected. Two first-round picks could entice Minnesota to send their best player to Phoenix.
According to Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports, Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic would likely be part of a deal for Love. Dragic had a breakout season with the Suns, averaging 20.3 points and 5.9 assists per game. Bledsoe, who is a restricted free agent, more than doubled his scoring average to 17.7 points per game, and both could be an important part of Minnesota’s future.