Let me be inescapably clear, right off the bat: there is not any hint of a credible rumor that the Wolves (or even the Warriors, for that matter) have explored or will explore a Kevin Love trade.
The following is a response to the Roster Reload: Golden State Warriors Insider piece on ESPN.com by the generally outstanding Bradford Doolittle and Amin Elhassan. The piece more or less centers on the idea that the Warriors would be able to land Kevin Love if they so choose, given their collection of young talent available to trade away, and that Golden State would potentially be a market and organization that Love would consider re-signing with in the summer of 2015.
It also surmises that Love would be a great fit with the Warriors current roster structure, regardless of whether head coach Mark Jackson is retained, which seems unlikely at this juncture. Love’s fit with the Golden State offensive scheme is pretty close to perfect, especially given the recent improvement and development of his low post game.
On it’s face and to the casual fan, this seems to be a trade that makes sense for both organizations. A superstar stretch four that is likely leaving his current team in the near future in exchange for a star stretch four and a dead-eye, long range perimeter shooter with the size that the Wolves have lacked for years.
Here’s the counter, from the Wolves perspective. This year’s Wolves team finished with a 40-42 record. Kevin Love is, indisputably, a top-six NBA player. This shows us that a) there were lengthy injuries to the squad, and b) there were some serious shortcomings on the roster this season.
The injuries weren’t actually that bad this season, especially when compared to recent Wolves history, and compared to other teams that managed to overcome them this season: Memphis, Oklahoma City, the Clippers, etc.
So that leaves the supporting cast. Would the drop-off from Love to Lee be masked, much less exceeded, by the production of Harrison Barnes? The answer is a firm, steadfast, and resounding ‘no’.
Love’s superiority to Lee is vast enough that Barnes’ fringe-y all-around game wouldn’t move the needle back to the .500 mark, much less past that. Unless, of course, the Wolves are confident that Nikola Pekovic, Ricky Rubio, or even Gorgui Dieng can make gigantic leaps from their current state into legitimate star status.
For Rubio, certainly, that’s still in play. And who knows with Dieng, but he won’t be a superstar in 2014-15. But swapping Love for Lee and Barnes would be a clear detriment to the Wolves current state as well as their immediate future. Throw in the fact that Barnes would be finishing up his rookie deal at the end of the 2015-16 season, and next summer is when Rubio is in the same boat with his contract. It doesn’t make the money all that much easier, especially for Barnes’ lukewarm production.
Yes, we’ve only begun to hear the trade rumors. Despite Flip Saunders’ constant insistence that Love will not be traded, the rumblings are already starting to come fast and furious. To be sure, the Wolves would be hard-pressed to get anything near true value for Love in any trade during the off-season or the 2014-15 season.