We wrote today about how we would handle a Kevin Love trade if we were the Wolves and if we were convinced he was not going to be back after next season. It concluded thusly:
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.
(Do we really need to italicize if we're copying and pasting something we wrote?).
Let's pick up here where that leaves off. Obviously the Wolves' trade of Kevin Garnett in 2007 did not "bolster the franchise." Minnesota has not made the playoffs since, and while it did get a quality centerpiece player in return (Al Jefferson), he didn't end up having a long-term future here. That trade ended up being much closer to the "decade of failure."
But not all trades are created equal. Garnett was 31 at the time -- still a very good NBA player, but already on a decline from his peak around 2003-2005. The Wolves hadn't boxed themselves into a corner with Garnett, but it was clear from all sides that starting over was a good idea.
Love presents a different animal in a number of ways. He's never even made the playoffs here -- remember, KG made it eight times, took the Wolves to a conference finals, and won an MVP -- so the level of fan attachment to him is, in our opinion, far less than it was for Garnett. He will only be 26 when next season starts, ostensibly still 2-3 years away from the peak of his career. He is already a top-15 (probably top-10) player in the NBA. Any team that traded for him now and could sign him to a 4- or 5-year extension would be getting probably the best years of his career on that contract. So even if he is not at the level of accomplishment as Garnett, he should command a massive haul in a trade (bigger than KG) because of his age and upside.
As crazy as it is to think that trading Love can be an opportunity, that's exactly how the Wolves need to approach this. The right deal could completely re-shape the roster and the identity of this team. The perfect world would be to invent a time machine and travel back a few years to make sure David Kahn offered Love a max-deal, which would mean three more years under contract, no opt-out. But this is the reality, and the silver lining is the potential to make a deal involving a great player at pretty much his peak value.