So, Kevin Love is definitely leaving Minnesota in the next few months. At least that’s what we’re hearing. If he were to stay next season, I believe that Minnesota would finally attain a playoff berth, but that appears to be increasingly wishful as we trudge through the offseason.
Perhaps it’s because the “Star wants to leave only team he has ever played with” song has been played ad nauseam over the past few seasons as the E! aspect of the NBA has become more prevalent, but the speculation has been underwhelming. Many of the trade rumors – a great deal of them, in fact – has been incredible in the sense that not even Minnesota could yield so much leverage (as proposed) and accept what would equate to loose change and an expired coupon on the dollar.
While it’s very unlikely that Cleveland would offer its 1st overall pick to acquire Love at this point, proposed units for exchange like Asik, Parsons, Lin, and a couple of future 1st round picks by Houston; rights to the 6th overall pick and God knows what else by Boston; Boozer’s expiring contract, the rights to Nikola Mirotic, and its two 1st round picks by Chicago are even less likely at this time.
The Love saga is a strange situation in the sense that there is a dearth of clear-cut fits for the All-Star power forward. There is no New York or New Jersey – as was the case a few years ago when Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams were looking to move – with a wealth of young talent or draft picks (back when the Knicks had tricked the world into thinking that it had learned anything about roster cultivation).
While there are a few teams with adequate pieces to offer, such as Cleveland, Washington or Orlando, it is a case where there is either too great a disparity between an untouchable asset (such as the first overall pick in Cleveland’s case) and all other assets and, thus, a trade would always not work for one side in negotiations OR a trade would work: Love simply would not commit to staying there for the long-term (likely in case of Washington and Orlando).
In conclusion, this leaves us with few candidates, three of which are listed in my last post: Philadelphia, Chicago, and Boston. If Sam Hinkie was willing to part with the 3rd overall pick (which he most certainly is not), the 76ers would seem like a great fit for Love (rim protector in Noel, budding star in MCW, cap space). The Pelicans’ pick at 10th overall has good value in this draft, but its not a centerpiece asset and the team lacks other substantial units of value, apart from space to take on a bad contract or two.
Chicago, as mentioned in my previous post, would have to offer at least both 1st round picks, Taj Gibson, and Jimmy Butler (possibly taking back Corey Brewer or Chase Budinger) in order for Flip to rationally accept any approach made. Again, not saying that’s good value for Love – it’s not – but it would be where negotiations would have to start. At this point, it’s a fair question as to whether Chicago will take that step at this time.
That leaves us with Boston. In retrospect, the Boston trade proposal included in my previous post probably yields the lowest returns for Love: the Celtics, as currently constructed, have among the lowest level of talent on any NBA roster. The war chest of draft picks is Boston’s saving grace. That’s well and good for a team that plans to rebuild, but not for Minnesota.
Especially as signified by the disappointing appointment of Flip Saunders as Minnesota’s head coach, the Timberwolves are certainly not looking to extend their severe playoff drought with another exaggerated rebuilding project.
Teams Involved: Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets, Minnesota Timberwolves, New York Knickerbockers.
Boston receives: PF Donatas Motiejunas and Omer Asik from Boston; PF Kevin Love and SG Kevin Martin from Minnesota; SG/SF Iman Shumpert from New York.
Houston receives: C Vitor Faverani from Boston; the rights to the 2014 40th overall pick from Minnesota; F Carmelo Anthony and PG Pablo Prigioni from New York.
Minnesota receives: the rights to the 2014 6th overall draft pick and PF Jared Sullinger from Boston; SF Chandler Parsons and SG Francisco Garcia from Houston; PF Amar’e Stoudemire and PG Raymond Felton from New York.
New York receives: SF Gerald Wallace’s radioactive contract, F Jeff Green, PF Brandon Bass, the rights to Brooklyn’s 2014 and 2016 1st round draft picks and the Clippers’ 2015 1st round draft pick from Boston; PG Jeremy Lin and the rights to the 2014 25th overall draft pick from Houston; SF Corey Brewer and G J.J. Barea from Minnesota.
The Case for Boston: Well, this is easy. You get Kevin Love and Rajon Rondo, both in their prime, playing together for the next few seasons. Omer Asik gets a starting role again; between him and Love, opposing teams will have a torrid time on the glass. Even though he’s still only 23, Iman Shumpert seems desperate for a fresh start after a couple of seasons of undulating performance and extensive injury recovery. Playing for a winner (remember, this is the Eastern Conference) could revitalize him and provides Boston with necessary perimeter defense, whether or not the team retains Avery Bradley.
Donatas Motiejunas gets an invite to the party for cap reasons, but provided quality minutes for Houston, particularly in the open floor. He would likely have a role in the second unit (although the low-post defense between him and Olynyk would be potentially atrocious). Boston takes on Martin’s salary, but he’s still an excellent scorer and should hover above 16 points a game for the duration of his contract.
What’s not to like? They give up four 1st round draft picks, which sounds like a lot, but the Clippers’ pick will be near the bottom of the 1st round next year and the Nets’ pick this year is mid-round. The 6th overall pick in what’s considered to be a strong draft is valuable, but if it’s not high enough to get one of the three top-tier players (Embiid, Parker, Wiggins), it is certainly a necessary evil to acquire a top-7 player and substantial roster upgrades.
The Case for Houston: Morey gets his 3rd star, alongside Harden and Howard, at the expense of losing Chandler Parsons and a handful of rotation players. Carmelo played some of the best ball of his career this past season in spite of his woeful team, but his trade value is not as massive as it was a few seasons ago, for no reason other that he is older (just turned 30).
That says nothing of his game, which should age very well based on his skill set. Regardless, his departure commands hefty sacrifice by Houston, which loses Lin (a platoon starter at the point AND a big international revenue stream, but he’s a free agent after next season anyway), Asik, and the occasionally summoned reserve duo of Motiejunas and Garcia.
As a fit beside Harden, I would argue that Anthony is better than Rondo. Harden is a better shooter off the dribble than on spot ups (around 38%, per NBA.com); Rondo has a notoriously adequate shot, especially in catch-and-shoot situations. At least, in the half-court, this pairing would potentially throw a wrench into Houston’s offense rather than add another level of potency.
Anthony, conversely, shot around 46% from the field and 44% from 3 range off the catch-and-shoot this past season, per NBA.com. That’s really good. While Harden and Anthony are infamous as black holes on offense, they have decent playmaking ability that has developed over the past couple of seasons and should not be overlooked.
Anthony and Terrence Jones would be able to change freely at forwards positions on both sides of the court. While neither is a great defender nor possesses great size at the 4, they are both decent rebounders, stretch the floor very well, and would maintain the flexibility on offense that Houston enjoyed over the past few seasons. Simply put, Houston’s offense would be scary.
The inclusions of Pablo Prigioni and Vitor Faverani are certainly not throwaways. In his episodes of extended playing time before his injury, Faverani posted impressive numbers per 36. After the drama that accompanied the highly paid Asik’s relegation to the bench last season, Faverani would provide quality insurance behind Howard and a fraction of the cost.
Prigioni would replace Lin as Beverley’s back-up. His basic stat line is humble at best, but his pesky on-ball defense and high on-court IQ were valuable – yet often overlooked – aspects of New York’s success two seasons ago. New York’s overall net production went up by over six points when he was on the floor during the 2012-13 season. Especially with three iso-heavy players in the team’s starting unit, Prigioni would be a valued inclusion in Houston’s rotation as a very good P’n’R ball handler and reluctant shooter.
The Case for Minnesota: As Houston and Boston ride up on the escalator by virtue of this trade, Minnesota descends. Houston has gone from the 3rd to the 4th floor, Boston has risen from the 1st floor to the 3rd, and Minnesota travels from the 2nd to a more familiar spot on the 1st floor (yet not as familiar as the basement and yes, we’re in a shopping mall).
Assuming that Love is as good as gone, the case is that this would be as good of a returns as Minnesota could reasonably expect to attain for Love. Chandler Parsons upgrades the small forward position, Raymond Felton sadly counts as an upgrade to Barea as Rubio’s back-up (runs the offense better), Garcia makes the numbers work.
If Amar’e Stoudemire stays healthy, he and Sullinger would actually serve as a very good power forward platoon to complement the rock solid center combination of Nikola Pekovic and Gorgui Dieng. What’s infinitely more likely, however, is that he gets injured early and often, Sullinger takes over as the main power forward option on the roster, and STAT simply serves his role as a not-yet expired contract to a tee. For a team like Minnesota, the sad truth is that overpaying is the typical reality to draw free agents and, thus, there is a higher premium on drafting well, which brings us to…
The 6th overall pick, which Minnesota uses – in this alternate reality – to combine with the 13th overall pick to trade up past Utah and draft Noah Vonleh. Vonleh proceeds to win Rookie of the Year, Shabazz picks up Most Improved honors, and the Wolves squeak in as the 8th seed in the playoffs next season.
*wipes drool off chin, straightens up, adjusts monocle*
Getting rid of Martin’s bloated contract would be a additional plus for a team that would likely look to give second-year player Shabazz Muhammad more playing time after Love’s departure removes the pressure for postseason qualification. Working out a sign-and-trade for Parsons (who Morey is reportedly willing to let walk as part of his ploy to open enough cap space for another top-tier player such as Anthony) would be required for the Wolves to take Parsons as part of the ultimate package for Love.
Clearly, the Wolves would take a step back in the wake of losing the services of Love, but the strength of its frontcourt, a fortified bench, and development of its young players would (finally) paint a bright picture for the team’s future.
The Case for New York: In a blatantly romantic turn of events, Jeremy Lin returns to the Knicks…
Aside time: Lin returns to a standing ovation at MSG where he stands tall among the wretches – zombie Gerald Wallace, Andrea Bargnani (‘s expiring contract), J.R. Smith – that serve as present sacrifices for a better future. He quickly realizes that he is but a cog in the Zen triangle. Linsanity and the associated controlled anarchy of Mike D’Antoni that allowed Lin to flourish is but a relic to a bygone era: the Studio 54 of New York sports, if you will.
It turns out however, regardless of system, Jeremy Lin is still better than Raymond Felton. Hooray! Only problem now is that the team is basically half-zombie. Plus, Melo’s gone now, which is good for Lin, but sucks for the Knicks.
The Knicks, despite their constant self-sabotage, improbably are able to sign-and-trade Carmelo instead of a simple loss in free agency, which makes sense as well since it earns him at least $20 million more in total money. The sign-and-trade nets them Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, Corey Brewer, J.J. Barea, and whatever’s left of Gerald Wallace. Serviceable players in the stop-gap (namely, until next few summers: big free agency periods), but also zombies.
Why would the Knicks take on all this money though, if the books are set to be liberated if Anthony leaves – and NY doesn’t pay him $25 million per annum until he’s 35 – and STAT and Tyson Chandler leave after next season, clearing another $35 million off the books)? The answer is that the roster would then be half free agents, half players that the Knicks wish were free agents (Bargs, Smith, Felton). The team has alternating years without a 1st round pick until approximately 2160 and thus, will struggle mightily to achieve roster stability in the foreseeable future apart from a couple of godsends in the form of big names (Dolan’s M.O.).
Jackson’s tenure, as things are currently going, will be marked as an invariant failure if he cannot persuade LeBron James or Kevin Durant to come to New York. He is serious about wanting to craft the team by his own philosophy (as evinced by his ongoing attempts to purchase a 2nd round pick in the draft). The Knicks have cap space and Durant, as it stands, should be their only major target (becomes a free agent in 2016).
Taking on these contracts would help prevent the team from being abysmal in the next couple of years (and thus undesirable for top free agents). The team constructed by this trade won’t be good, but at least it won’t star 2nd round picks, Lance Stephenson, and Kenyon Martin (who never retires).
Much more importantly, however, is that New York receives four 1st round draft picks over the next three years in this trade proposal, partially for taking on the contracts and from trading Anthony.
While no acquired pick would likely amount into a lottery selection, besides the Nets’ 2016 1st round pick (depending on how sharply the core regresses), they would provide a tremendous amount of roster flexibility and upside that the team currently lacks. At the very least, a few of the players might develop into important trade assets if some other star player is available (as was the case with Mozgov, Chandler, Gallinari to acquire Melo).
No player that the team receives has a long-term future with the Knicks and some would argue that New York surrenders one in Iman Shumpert (as disappointing as he was last season), but the team needs to give Jackson the opportunity to at least mold the team in his image. That was, after all, why he was hired in the first place. This trade would give the Knicks that chance to organically build a roster, you know, kind of like any other functional organization.
Too many big names, but a trade that – at least in my opinion – works on a number of levels. Thanks for reading.