About two seconds after LeBron James announced that he would be signing in Cleveland, blogging heads around the league began to speculate on a potential Love-to-Cavs dead. In Cavs fanland, that trade would be a combination of draft picks and young player’s not named Andrew Wiggins. In the rest of the NBA blogosphere, it means all the draft picks ever and all the young players on the roster. But what would it really take for the Cavs? What is the best deal out there? I decided to look at every team in the league to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to potential trade partners.
In part one of my three part look at potential Kevin Love trades, I try to evaluate every team in the league for potential trade partners. This group is naturally going to be very limited, since teams need to have both significant assets and a situation that Love would be willing to stay in. That eliminates a large group of teams like Philadelphia that have assets, but don’t have a realistic chance at winning any time soon and teams like Brooklyn who might be desirable, but have nothing to offer.
Teams with assets, but no reason to stay
Detroit- They have Andre Drummond, some high draft picks and they might get something for a Monroe sign and trade, but if you don’t like losing in Minnesota, losing in Detroit probably doesn’t pique your interest.
Charlotte- They’ve created a nice little team out of very little, but who on this team is a viable second or third player on a contender? Even if they could convince him to stay on a solid team in a small market, their assets are just okay (Zeller, MKG, middling draft picks because the East is awful).
Atlanta- They have some decent assets. Horford and Millsap in particular are on really nice contracts, but I can't see them building anything close to an acceptable package and still being able to sell Love on a winning team. It's the classic Atlanta problem: a solid team, but no hope for contender on the horizon.
Milwaukee- Is Milwaukee warmer than Minneapolis? Can they sell that to him? No? Yeah, he’s not going to Milwaukee.
Orlando- Kevin Love probably puts them into the playoffs in the terrible (but improving) Eastern Conference, but even though they have some nice young assets, I can't see any of them becoming stars and I doubt Kevin Love does either.
Philadelphia- *NEWS FLASH* Stars don't want to play for the only team in the league actively trying to be bad.
Toronto- Another fun little team that doesn’t look to be able to crack the top tier of contenders any time soon.
Utah- They are young and not without talent, but they are in a market that is among the least desirable in the NBA and not likely to sniff the playoffs for at least another year. All of which means they have about as much shot at Kevin Love as does CSKA Moscow.
Teams that Love might consider, but don’t have the assets
Brooklyn- A talented, veteran team that doubles as a nursing home and orphanage for the most unwanted contracts in the league. Love might like to play for Brooklyn, but they can’t trade a first rounder for the next several centuries and I’m not sure they have a legitimate NBA player with a tradable contract on the team.
Chicago- I considered including them on the list of possible suitors, but with the Gasol signing, that makes it tougher cap-wise and roster-wise. On the one hand, Noah or Gibson would fetch a decent haul in a three team trade, but that would mean that Love and Gasol would be playing together for long stretches at 4/5, which would be an angelic thing of beauty on the offensive end, and an affront to God when they play "defense." Also, Thibs would die, so I think Chicago is out.
Dallas- Their best asset is Dirk, who they can’t trade because he just signed a new contract and because trading a guy that just gave you a sweat-heart deal would pretty much ruin their reputation for all time. Dirk is great. Kevin Love is great. Both together is an epic disaster defensively even if Dallas could put together the trade assets, which they can’t.
Miami- I can see them selling Love on a new "Big 3." Bosh playing center next to Love would be among the best shooting frontline in the history of large people being allowed to shoot outside of the paint and a pretty horrible defensive combination. Of course, the biggest problem is they have nothing of value to trade since they've invested heavily in the "stars, geezers and miscellaneous flotsam" strategy for several years now.
New York- Has there ever been a moment in NBA history where the top-tier free agent destinations have been more deplorably bad? I’m sure Love would consider playing in New York, and maybe he will if he hits the free agent market, but it sure isn’t going to happen via trade. The Knicks have no players anyone else wants and no picks ever again thanks to spending them on (*vomits in bucket*) Andrea Bargnani.
Houston- I can't see them parting with Harden or Howard, and they don't have enough talent-wise or that fits salary-wise to get it done without one or the other.
Indiana- Technically, Indiana does have assets, but they would either need to give up Paul George or Dr. Hibbert to a third team to make it happen with Love. No way they trade George, and Hibbert's wildly inconsistent play and large contract makes it questionable how much they could get for him anyway.
LA Clippers- Just like Houston, they don’t have enough outside their top-tier stars to make it happen.
LA Lakers- Unless the Busslings can harness some of their late father's voodoo mind control to rob Minnesota blind, it just ain't gonna happen.
Portland- A) Love and Aldridge play the same position. B) Without trading Aldridge, they don’t have enough to get Love anyway.
San Antonio- For a top level team, they really don't have a heck of a lot to offer a rebuilding team. Maybe Kawhi Leonard? I think I'd say no for both teams. Point is, they just won the championship, I can't see them putting on a fire sale to get Kevin Love.
Teams that don't have the assets to land Kevin Love and probably couldn't get him to stay anyway
Memphis- A solid team, in a small market, without much in the way of assets that a rebuilding team might want.
New Orleans- I like the core of this team, but that core is wrapped in a caramel layer of Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon. That layer is a bit rich for my taste and also isn’t good at basketball (this metaphor is breaking down rapidly). You’re going to need a better candy bar than that to entice Love into the Big Easy (I really should have used a sexual metaphor on this one).
Sacramento- I’m sure Love would love to boogie with Boogie (Note Love Boogie sounds like an awesome R&B song), but sadly, a Darren Collison-centered blockbuster wouldn’t legal till mid-season.
Teams that have assets and could conceivably get Love to stay
Boston- The Celtics have all of their own first round picks, as well as the Clippers next year, the Cavs and Nets in ’16, and Brooklyn’s in ’18. So that’s a bottom ten pick next year, a 10-20 pick the following year, and one that’s too far out to call in ’18. I’d also project that their own pick next year would be in the 15-20 range if they get Love as well.
I think the most likely scenario here is that Minnesota just goes into full rebuild and finds a second team to give a mid-first rounder for Jeff Green (Charlotte?), and most of those picks. None of them are likely to net the T’Wolves a star, but they are going to be so god-awful the next few years that hopefully they can turn into complementary players. I think if Boston included Marcus Smart, it would actually be a pretty compelling package.
Denver- The Nuggets have some decent assets, though none of them is especially intriguing by itself. I think they’d probably look to move some guys for picks and/or young players that would be a better fit in a trade. Take for instance Kenneth Faried. He’s a good (if a little over-rated in in my opinion), but do the Timberwolves really want a guy who’s about to be a restricted free agent, and will likely get a $12+ million offer sheet? I wouldn’t, but you might find a team that would cough up a highish first rounder for the package. Most of their other assets are unreliable (McGee), or coming off injury (Gallinari) or odd fits (Chandler).
I think they could possibly put together a package based around a couple of their own picks, next years Knicks pick (they’re still getting paid for Melo!), picks from Faried and maybe Koufos and Chandler. It isn’t a great package, but if Denver takes on a bad contract or two, maybe they could pull it off. The problem there is that is a pretty decent team with potential to get better, but is that enough to entice Love to resign? I really doubt it is.
Golden State- A package based around Klay Thompson and David Lee for Love has been discussed ad nauseum already on the blogosphere, the Twittersphere. Pretty much all the spheres have been talking about it. Now, I like Klay Thompson. I think he’s a nice complementary player who can be the second or third best player on a pretty good team, but the guy is going to get a gigantic sack of cash next summer, and I’m not sure that’s going to work for Golden State in the long-term. According to rumors, the Warriors are unwilling to give him up for whatever reason and the Wolves would do the deal if they did. It makes no sense for either team as far as I’m concerned, but no one asked me.
I tend to think that it’s a smokescreen on the Warriors part and this deal would get done if Minnesota would do it. For the sake of argument, lets assume that this is the deal that Golden State offers (I’m not sure how much better they can do anyway without gutting their current roster). Something like Thompson, Lee and picks for Love and maybe another contract might do the trick.
Phoenix- Don't sleep on Phoenix. They put together a nice little run last year, which boosted the value of their guys around the league (o hai, Channing Frye). If memory serves, you can’t do a sign and trade in combination with another deal, so they might be able to do a Bledsoe S&T for picks that they could package for Love. They could toss in the Wolves pick they own, which doesn’t have all that much value because it’s top-12 protected for two years and then becomes a second rounder. So, to put another way, without Love, it’s going to be a ’17 second rounder. They could include next years Lakers pick too, which might be nice because there is no way that roster makes the playoffs in the brutal West.
Washington- Is Otto Porter, Glen Rice Jr., the assets from a third team taking on Nene and a pair of 1st rounders enough to get Love? Probably not, but it isn’t the worst offer that Minnesota will get. It’s debatable if Love wants that situation anyway. A market that is okay, but not super desirable on a team that is good, but probably not a shoo-in to be a contender is nice, but not I’m not sure that would impress Love. A starting lineup of Gortat, Love, Pierce, Beal, and Wall is pretty strong though, and would have to be one of the favorites to challenge the Cavs and Bulls at the top of the conference.
Cleveland- To be discussed in great detail in a later section.
Teams that can't trade for Kevin Love because he is already on their roster
Minnesota- They've got to trade him, right? The dark days of Kaaaaaaaaaaaaaahn(!) are over. Flip’s gotta get something back for one of the best players in the league.
Teams that just don't want Kevin Love
None- Because that would be stupid.