Yahoo! Sports busted out a rumor last night that Kevin Love has told the Minnesota Timberwolves that he will test free agency next summer, so they'd better trade him now if they don't want to lose him for nothing.
"For the first time, [Saunders] sounds like looking at deals for [Love] is an option," one rival executive told Yahoo Sports.
The Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns are among many teams determined to make hard runs at trades for Love, league sources said. Boston and Los Angeles plan to make high-lottery picks in the 2014 NBA Draft available in offers for Love, sources said.
No team is likely to trade for Love without an assurance that he'll commit to a five-year, $100 million maximum contract extension. Despite a belief that Love prefers Los Angeles or New York as a potential destination, he's open to deals in other markets where he can be part of an immediate contender, sources said.
Of course, you need to consider this rumor from "one rival executive" in context. There's only 4 teams left playing games right now, so the rumor mill is bound to pick up steam. And, it's been two days since a playoff game last aired, so the antsy rumor-clicking fingers are getting itchy.
For Suns fans, the question is whether the Suns can offer enough to entice the trade without offering too much to leave the cupboard bare if Love leaves for a different team next year.
The Celtics and Lakers can both offer high first round picks this season. The best the Suns can do is #14. at the moment. The Suns have a deep trove of assets, but no gleaming jewel on top.
If you're sure Love won't leave the Suns, remember that the Suns have not made the playoffs since 2010 and all it takes is an injury or two to miss the playoffs again in 2015. If Love doesn't love the Suns, he could easily leave next summer.
Consider the Dwight Howard disaster
A cautionary tale to giving up tons of assets for Kevin Love is that he might leave in 12 months. If your prize acquisition leaves just a year after acquiring him, you've gambled and lost.
Four teams participated in a very complicated Dwight Howard deal in 2012. Why? Because it's really hard to evaluate trade value for a player (or players) who are at All-Star level but are set for free agency just a year later.
The Lakers gave up Andrew Bynum and their 2017 #1 pick. In the near term, they gave up a young, All-Star talent who would likely have stayed in LA his whole career (Bynum) in exchange for a guy who could easily walk in a year. In the long term, they gave up what now looks a lot like a lottery pick in 2017, and (with the Nash trade) gave away any chance to trade a #1 pick until 2019. The trade netted them 1 playoff round and a bleak future. Disaster.
The Sixers gave up Andre Iguodala, Moe Harkless and Nikola Vucevic for Bynum, who hardly played and then left in free agency. The traded netted them 60 losses a year and no end to those losses in sight. Disaster.
The Nuggets gave up two first round picks and some salary fodder in exchange for one year of Andre Iguodala. On the surface, not a lot for a potential All-Star. But Iggy left after a year, and the Nuggets have only Randy Foye to show for it. The Nuggets played horrible this season, and now only get a #1 pick thanks to the Melo heist of 2012. Disaster.
Orlando is the only team still with assets from the Howard trade, yet two years later they are still looking to replace Howard and don't have a playoff berth in sight.
Four teams. All four in the lotto two seasons later. Three of them acquired a guy who could be a free agent a year later, and all three guys left for another team. All three.
Too much, or not enough?
The Suns cannot afford to give up a majority of their assets in exchange for (potentially) one year of Kevin Love. Any number of things can go wrong, leaving the Suns with nothing next summer.
Luckily for the Suns, they have a full cupboard of assets. Full enough that any one trade likely won't devastate them. But the lure of Love cannot blind the team to having a backup plan in case he leaves in a year.
Phoenix Suns asset list:
- 2014 first round picks: #14, #18, #27
- 2015 first round picks: Lakers' (top 5 protected), Suns' (likely out of lottery if Love trade consummated)*
- 2016+ first round picks: Suns'
- C Alex Len (2013 #5 pick)
- SG Archie Goodwin (2013 #29 pick)
- C Miles Plumlee - not RFA until 2016, near double-double in 27 mins a game
- PF Markieff Morris - RFA in 2015, 13 and 6 in 26 mins off bench, 4th in 6MOY race
- SF Marcus Morris - RFA in 2015, 10 and 4 in 22 mins off bench
- Goran Dragic - UFA in 2015, likely to demand 10+ mill/yr next summer
- Gerald Green - UFA in 2015
- Eric Bledsoe - restricted, likely to get 10+ mill/yr this summer
- Channing Frye - could be UFA in 2014 or 2015, his choice
*If the Wolves rebuild, kiss that 6th #1 pick goodbye since goes away in 2016 unless the Wolves finish 9th or better in the West in 2015 or 2016. A rebuild likely kills that plan.
The Wolves likely won't want anyone who could leave in a year, and probably don't want Bledsoe either because they have Rubio up for a contract in a year. Acquiring Bledsoe could make Rubio leave too, which would be double-disaster.
Let's just say the Wolves are ready to rebuild, and would take (for grins) the Morrii and their three best first round picks between the 2014 and 2015 drafts. That would leave the Suns with a cupboard of youth down to just Alex Len, Archie Goodwin and their own late first rounders in the coming years.
Not devastating to the Suns if Love leaves them in a year, but that package is still pretty light for a player of Love's talent.
I just don't see the Wolves taking two bench players (the Morrii) and three #1 picks with only one of them (the Lakers' in 2015) likely higher than #14.
The editor of Canishoopus, our sister site on SB Nation, agrees via email this morning:
The Suns are an outside possibility, but I don't think it works for the reasons you state. More specifically, you guys won too much this year. The Wolves are going to want a mid-high lottery pick involved, which you don't have. The other thing they would want is a high quality wing player and/or a Love replacement. You guys have some pieces, but probably not the right ones.
A 1.8% chance for Love
What else can the Suns offer, without having to rope in a third team?
How about a freebie. If the Suns win the lotto on Tuesday night - a 1.8% chance to get a Top-3 pick - suddenly the Suns' assets look a lot more valuable.
I'm guessing that a Top-3 pick trumps all the other Suns assets, making a trade feasible without giving up the farm. If the Suns can offer a Top 3 pick, then maybe the Wolves bite on that plus the Lakers' 2015 and a Morris or two.
But then again, is one year of Kevin Love worth giving up four+ years of Noah Vonleh or Andrew Wiggins or Julius Randle or Joel Embiid?