Multiple national outlets advanced the ball on Kevin Love trade speculation over the weekend, with ESPN.com coming on the strongest by saying Love “has made it clear to the Timberwolves that he intends to become an unrestricted free agent after next season and has no interest in a contract extension this summer to stay in Minnesota.”
Minnesota fans have seen stars leave either via major trades — Kevin Garnett and Johan Santana being prime examples — and those deals tend to leave lasting impressions. We’re still dissecting those trades and lamenting what might have been, even though neither Garnett nor Santana has played a game here since 2007.
Any trade of Love figures to fall into the same category. While much still needs to play out in this process, and there is obviously no guarantee the Wolves will trade him, there is a right way and wrong way to go about it. Here are our rules for making a Love trade a success:
• Do not do it until you have hired a coach. While that could be complicated because any new coach would presumably like to know whether he will have Love on the roster, it’s more important that a new coach has some input into the player or players coming back in return to hopefully ensure they are good fits for his system.
• That said, if the Wolves are convinced that Love really has no intention of staying here beyond 2014-15, they should make the trade this offseason. Ideally, talks would heat up sometime after this week’s draft lottery and after a coach is hired and a deal would happen before the draft in late June. That would give them the most flexibility when it comes to a return package.
• But … draft picks are not enough. In order to convince a fan base that has endured numerous rebuilding efforts that this is more of a reshuffling than another do-over, the Wolves need to get at least one established young player as part of any return package. Draft picks are too much of a crapshoot, as we have learned with numerous Wolves drafts in recent years. ESPN reported, according to anonymous sources, that Chicago and Golden State are potential landing spots that intrigue Love. Someone like Klay Thompson (Warriors), a sharpshooter who is still only 24, would be the right kind of player to target as the centerpiece of a deal.
• Make the trading partner take on another contract or contracts that you would like to dump in order to add more roster flexibility. You want Love? It’s going to cost you. As great as Love is, a trade done the right way could end up being a net positive that bolsters the franchise. Done the wrong way, it could lead to another decade of failure.