As many have joked, “Love is in the air.”
Timberwolves superstar and perennial All-Star Kevin Love wants out of Minnesota whether by trade or in free agency next summer, and the rebuilding Celtics are rumored to be in the hunt to acquire him this offseason.
According to the incomparable Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:
Boston is the sleeper gathering momentum in a process that is still beginning to unfold. The three top prospects in the draft Kansas' Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins and Duke's Jabari Parker – could become franchise cornerstone players in the NBA. Nevertheless, Boston has multiple picks to offer in the next several years as part of a total package for Love, as well as the salary-cap space to perhaps take back an unwanted contract from Minnesota.
Love's agent Jeff Schwartz and Ainge have a strong relationship and a good working history. [Danny] Ainge helped another Schwartz client, Paul Pierce, get to a preferred trade destination in Brooklyn a year ago. The Celtics believe they can sell Love on becoming the next big Celtics star, and all the adulation that comes with that for a franchise that has won 17 NBA championships.
In short, despite reports that Love may favor the likes of the Warriors, Bulls, Rockets, Suns, or Lakers, the Celtics should be taken very seriously as a landing spot for one of the NBA’s top young talents. They have the chips, and the skilled inside-outside threat has no veto power over a trade.
So, what would it take to get him? And, what kind of price-tag is Love worth?
Boston.com’s panel of Celtics insiders weighed in.
Gary Dzen: Heard a lot of people on talk radio Monday morning saying they'd part with three first-round picks and Jared Sullinger for Kevin Love without blinking. Sounds awfully steep. Sullinger is probably necessary given his ability and contract, and it makes sense to include him in a deal for Love given the redundancies between the two players. Could you really pair Sullinger alongside Love in a starting frontcourt?
As difficult as it would be to part with Sullinger, it's worth it to get Love, who represents the player Sullinger could be if everything goes right for him. It stinks to lose Sully, but that's the price for making a trade for a perennial All-Star.
The sticking point for me here is the draft picks. The centerpiece to this deal will be Boston's pick this June, which should be in the top-five. Another pick would be considered a sweetener and could differentiate Boston from other bidders vying for Love. A third pick? Let's not go all Brooklyn Nets here.
Jeremy Gottlieb: Now that Kevin Love has reportedly informed the T-Wolves front office that he will not sign a long term extension with them in lieu of becoming a free agent following the 2014-2015 season, the Celtics are officially in the running to make their second franchise altering deal with Minnesota in seven years. A trade for the 25-year old All-Star would most likely require some combination of the multitude of first-round picks the C’s possess over the next several years, forward Jared Sullinger and probably at least one more player from a pool of names like Jeff Green, Avery Bradley, Brandon Bass and perhaps even Kelly Olynyk.
Beyond simply coming up with the right package to trade for Love, the Celtics will need to address a trio of other issues. First, can they sign him to a multi-year contract? Second, would giving up so much to get him preclude them from also acquiring a traditional, rim protecting big man, which is most definitely their greatest need? And third, how much better will they really be with Love in the fold? The Wolves have not made the playoffs in any of Love's six seasons, three of which were cut significantly short due to injuries. If the Celts are going to make the kind of massive, multi-faceted investment necessary to bring in a player like Love, they'd better not only be sure they surround him with the right supporting cast, but that he's the right guy for the leading role.
Adam Kaufman: You can’t put a price on Love, right? Kidding aside, if Love is available, the Celtics need to go out and get him. No matter the cost? Not necessarily, but pretty damn close.
It goes without saying but I will – that Danny Ainge can’t trade for Love without a guarantee the forward will sign a contract extension (max is five-years, $100 million). You don’t give up the proverbial farm for one year of Love and the hope he’ll adore Boston enough to stick around. If that agreement is in place, though, Ainge should be willing to part with this year’s lottery selection (even if it does wind up being in the top-three), a future first-rounder, Jared Sullinger, and Brandon Bass. Probably Keith Bogans’ contract as well.
The only place I’m given pause is with the picks. There’s no way to avoid giving up this year’s top-eight choice and maybe even the No. 17 pick as well but, if possible, Ainge shouldn’t dangle the future picks from Brooklyn or the L.A. Clippers. Those could prove to be tremendous assets with the Nets aging and the Clips in organizational turmoil. Boston should have no problem offering up its own picks, however, because it would be a much improved team with Love alongside Rajon Rondo. If Love’s presence convinced the captain to stick, those picks are in the 20’s for the foreseeable future. Plus, with nine first-round selections over the next five years, there are assets to burn for a Boston-Minnesota blockbuster, part deux.
Love is 25 with several prime years ahead. Between the allure of him, a 28-year-old Rondo, and Brad Stevens, the C’s would find a way to land that third All-Star. After all, Love already thinks so. But can he do this?
Brian Robb: The Celtics have been stockpiling draft picks over the past year and packaging them to acquire player a like Kevin Love is exactly the reason why. It's fair to say that any Celtics offer for Love likely starts with at least two first-round draft picks, one of them being a lottery selection this June. After that, you can count on Boston being willing to unload one of their top young forwards, so Jared Sullinger or Kelly Olynyk will have to be on the table. Salary relief and filler will have to be included as well for the Wolves to make any deal work, which shouldn't be a major problem as the C's have a bevy of non-guaranteed contracts to deal, starting with Keith Bogans.
This package question can't be fully answered however until we find out what pick the Celtics land during Tuesday's draft lottery. The Celtics may have the option of building their team around elite young talent if they can land a top-three pick via the ping pong balls. Whether Boston would be willing to sacrifice a top pick for Love will be a tough question for Danny Ainge to answer.
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