Flip Saunders and the Minnesota Timberwolves have two decisions to make in the coming weeks. Firstly, they need to decide whether they’re going to try and persuade Kevin Love to stay in Minnesota or whether they’re going to trade him. If they can’t persuade or they do decide to trade him then they’re going to have to decide which trade package best meets their future goals.
What’s difficult for the Timberwolves is that should they look to trade Love, the team receiving him will most likely demand a guarantee that he’ll sign a contract extension when his contract runs out at the end of next season. This means that Minnesota can only really deal with teams that Love will wish to sign for, limiting the trade options available to them and perhaps ruling out the chance of attaining the number 1 draft pick from Cleveland.
With this in mind, here are some of the best potential offers Minnesota might receive:
Boston Celtics – Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger, 2014 first round draft pick, 2014 second round pick, 2015 first round draft pick, 2015 second round pick in exchange for Kevin Love
This trade package represents somewhat of a step back for Minnesota. The talent they’d receive in return for Love is hardly stellar. Jeff Green could definitely provide some offence at the 3 spot but he’s not really developed into the player many hoped he would when he arrived in the league. Jared Sullinger would be surplus to Minnesota’s requirements given the presence of Nikola Pekovic and Gorgui Dieng, while Brandon Bass represents a monumental drop in talent at the power forward spot.
In the long term, however, this deal makes slightly more sense for the Timberwolves. Bass’ and Green’s salaries can both come of the books at the end of next year, while Sullinger’s is a rookie contract that will not cost the Timberwolves too much.
Then there’s the draft picks to consider. With Boston’s number 6 draft pick the Timberwolves could take a long term power forward such as Noah Vonleh, Julius Randle or Aaron Gordon while the second round pick and the two 2015 picks would certainly help to soften the blow that losing Love would be.
Chicago Bulls – Taj Gibson, Mike Dunleavy, Jimmy Butler, 2014 first round pick, 2014 second round pick in exchange for Kevin Love
This pick probably represents some of the best short-term value that Minnesota could receive from a team the Love would consider signing for. Taj Gibson made in a strong case for the Sixth Man of the Year award this season and could step into the Timberwolves starting line-up from day 1. Dunleavy is a great shooter that would give the Timberwolves a legitimate three-point marksmen, while Jimmy Butler is a great defensive player who could continue to develop the offensive side of his game coming off the bench.
The Bulls can afford to give the Timberwolves the 16th pick they acquired from Charlotte as they’ll still have their own pick at 19 and around the mid-teens the Timberwolves may look to take a promising small forward prospect such as Rodney Hood or Cleanthony Early.
Golden State Warriors – David Lee, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green and 2015 first round draft pick in exchange for Kevin Love
If the Golden State Warriors are serious about acquiring Love, it may involve mortgaging their future to win as soon as possible. Trading their 2015 first round pick would mean the Golden State Warriors would only own two picks in the next five drafts. They would, however, have one of the best starting line-ups in the league.
As for the Timberwolves, Lee, Barnes and Green represent a strong return for their power forward and a trade with Golden State would probably stand them in the best stead for trying to make the play-offs sooner rather than later. Lee is a great offensive player and would likely become the Timberwolves go-to option should he end up there. while Harrison Barnes should pan out as a solid two-way NBA player. The Timberwolves will likely bite Golden State’s hand off should they see this offer in a month or so.
Houston Rockets – Chandler Parsons, Omer Asik, Jeremy Lin, Donatas Motiejunas, 2015 first round draft pick in exchange for Kevin Love and Ronnie Turiaf
Although the Rockets’ trade package is attractive, it may not be ideal for the Timberwolves. They’ve already got starting a starting point guard and center in Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic, making the $8 million owed to both Lin and Asik next year pretty off putting. On top of this, Motiejunas is a young big man that only averaged 15 minutes a game last season and there's no way the Timberwolves would want hand him starting duties at the 4 spot. This would require the Timberwolves finding a free agent power forward with limited cap space to play with. Definitely not an ideal option. Chandler Parsons on the other hand is a steal. Owed just under $1 million dollars next year, Parsons may be one of the most undervalued players in the league and would give the Timberwolves immediate scoring from the wing.
If you’re the Timberwolves…
You’ve got to be hoping that either Golden State or Chicago make you an offer. These are the two franchises that have the best short-term value to offer the Timberwolves out of any of the clubs interested (The Knicks and the Lakers are not really worth considering given how little they could send back to Minnesota). This is, however, assuming that the Timberwolves want to make the play-offs next season as opposed to hitting the reset button. If that was there plan then Boston’s offer may make more sense but I doubt that a team that hasn’t seen post-season action in more than ten years will want to wait any longer.