Don't get too enamored with the idea of Kevin Love in Celtics' green.
It's true, the star power forward doesn't technically have the right to veto any potential trade partner his Minnesota Timberwolves may find. He doesn't, except he kind of does.
The NBA is a superstars' league and those stars have a loud say in where they end up. It's something the last collective bargaining agreement attempted to fix -- for parity's sake -- after LeBron/Wade/Bosh teamed up in South Beach. But it's far from corrected. We're about to see that play out again with Love's saga.
First off, it's not worth it for the C's or any other team in the hunt for his services to give up increasingly valuable lottery picks, salary cap relief, and young studs this summer for one season of the 25-year-old Love, only to see the double-double machine become an unrestricted free agent in 2015 and fly away. Any potential destination city is going to need Love's commitment that he plans to re-up and stay there.
So, assuming the Celtics dangle the right assets to get Minnesota's attention, here's the real question: Why would Kevin Love come to Boston? More specifically, why would he choose the Celtics over other potential suitors like Golden State and Phoenix, or even L.A.?
Here are the pros for Boston:
- Skilled young coach (Love cited Brad Stevens as a free agent lure)
- Perhaps the league's best pass-first point guard (assuming Rondo isn't dealt and remains healthy)
- A GM who has shown he can shake up a roster and turn water into wine
- A top 10 media market
- Those 17 championship banners
And the cons:
- The weather
- The Celtics may have to gut their team to get him
Those two cons are bigger than you think.
Mind you, he'd be leaving Minnesota. He probably wants to see the sun occasionally during the course of the season. And the Warriors can offer the beautiful Bay Area, strangely coveted first time head coach Steve Kerr, and a made-to-compete roster (even if they swap David Lee and spare parts, they still have Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Andre Iguodala -- more than enough to make a deep run with Love). Also, my God, can you imagine the rain of threes coming from a Curry/Thompson/Love line? That situation looks like the best fit for Love, at least from a winning standpoint. The question for GSW is, would Minnesota take what is likely to be the weakest package offered?
Phoenix can also offer warm weather, its own skilled coach (Jeff Hornacek, who finished second in this season's Coach of the Year voting), and a young roster on the rise. The current group shocked everyone by nearly making the playoffs this year in a loaded Western Conference. Assuming they get restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe back in the fold, reforming the two-headed Dragic-Bledsoe backcourt beast, the Suns are set to be scary for the next few years. Love would immediately make them at least a top-five force in the West and definitely the most exciting team to watch. They're already the ultimate NBA League Pass team -- Love would only up the entertainment value.
Even the Lakers, disastrous as their roster looks at present, are more appealing that Boston. It's L.A. They almost always get their man. For someone leaving the Minnesota tundra, those bright lights, beaches, and celebrities look pretty damn appealing. And Love has roots there (he went to UCLA and his uncle's a Beach Boy for heaven's sake). I mean, come on. Then again, even with all that home cooking, does Love really want to be paired with a recovering, over-the-hill Kobe Bryant and his mammoth albatross of a contract? For that alone, let's seed the Lakers third in this race. Actually, no, they're the Lakers. Let's place them second.
If the Celtics truly gutted their roster to acquire Love but retained Rondo, it would actually look a little like the situation he'd be leaving in Minnesota. Great passing point guard (though in fairness, Rondo is obviously a far superior defender, leader, and even shooter than Ricky Rubio), Love needing to do way too much in order for the team to win, a couple youngsters with big question marks, likely a couple vets, not much else. Sure, they'd be a playoff team in the weak East (unlike Minny out West) but they wouldn't be a serious contender. There would still be a lot of work to do. Could Danny Ainge work his magic one more time to acquire a Ray Allen type to Love's Garnett? It would depend on what Boston is left with to wheel and deal. And does that kind of roster-building lightning really strike twice? Those are some long odds.
So let's just say all four teams make solid offers to the T-Wolves and President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders and GM Milt Newton come to Love and say, "Kevin, we have good packages from L.A., Golden State, Phoenix, and Boston. We're cool with any of them. They just need to know if you'll sign the max extension." Given those options, how is Boston not a distant fourth on that list?
Look, I'd like to see Love here too, but it seems far-fetched. It actually kind of feels impossible, if I'm being honest. Even if Boston bowls over the T-Wolves with an insane package (three picks, Sullinger, etc), they still need Love's commitment. And I just don't see it coming. Not with unrestricted free agency looming, offering the right to choose his own destination.
So no, technically he doesn't have the right of refusal on any trade. But Kevin Love is still holding all the cards. And unless he's a huge fan of lobster rolls and Boston accents, I just can't see him greenlighting a trade to the Celtics.