Saunders: Love deal is possibility only if he can upgrade team

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 23, 2014 - 11:03 PM

The Wolves won’t deal simply for the sake of dealing.

Golden State’s Klay Thompson could be the shooter and defender that Saunders would target to improve the Wolves.

Photo: Associated Press file,

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Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations and coach Flip Saunders promises he will trade discontented star Kevin Love — quite possibly by NBA’s Thursday night draft — only if he can improve his roster without taking a step backward with a team that went 40-42 last season.

It’s not often a team does that by trading away its best player, but Saunders insists it’s possible, in a number of different ways.

“You can get better from a talent standpoint, from an intelligence standpoint, an energy standpoint, a defensive standpoint,” he said.

Listed here are some of Saunders’ many options, based upon which standpoint he ultimately might deem desirable in return from a trade that would send away a three-time All-Star as well as possibly either Kevin Martin or J.J. Barea:

Opting for talent

The Golden State deal

Shooting guard Klay Thompson

Saunders purportedly has targeted the other half of the “Splash Brothers” as the best singular piece available in exchange for his star. That is unless, of course, the Cleveland Cavaliers emerge late by offering the draft’s No. 1 overall pick.

Former NBA coach George Karl said he thinks Thompson can “become the best shooter in basketball,” which means he’d surpass current teammate and fellow Splash Brother Stephen Curry someday. Karl also suggested Thompson is Saunders’ kind of player — a deft shooter coming off screens — and praised his defense as well, an important point because Saunders is on the hunt for players who compete on both ends of the floor.

The rest of the deal: Veteran power forward David Lee and possibly young forwards Harrison Barnes or Draymond Green. Don’t believe chatter that the Warriors’ unwillingness to include Thompson is holding up the deal. If there’s a delaying issue it likely will be the Wolves’ insistence on including Barnes or Green. A possible compromise: Either the Wolves add a piece to sweeten the deal or the teams settle on a Warriors first-round pick.

Second thoughts? Lee’s massive contract — he’s owed $15 million next season — has two years remaining and Thompson, like Wolves guard Ricky Rubio, is eligible for a contract extension starting July 1 and purportedly eyeing a maximum contract. The Wolves must be careful not to overpay not once, but twice.

Opting for energy

The Denver deal

Power forward Kenneth Faried

If it’s energy you want, there’s not many better than a guy they call the Manimal.

Faried is offensively limited, but rebounds and runs the floor befitting his name. He will also defend, which Wolves fans might find a novel concept at power forward.

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