This is Part One in a 29-part series that will tour every team in the league with the purpose of exploring any and all trade combinations that would involve Kevin Love‘s shipping out of Minnesota. Trades are meant to be realistic regarding Love’s trade value and may include three-team trade possibilities. All 29 teams will be examined prior to the June 28 NBA Draft.
The Atlanta Hawks, for all intents and purposes, have managed to swing a rebuild on the fly in the thin Eastern Conference. When current general manager Danny Ferry came on board, he convinced the Brooklyn Nets to take on Joe Johnson‘s inordinate contract in a misguided attempt to win immediately for new owner Mikhail Prokhorov. Ferry took advantage, and maneuvered his new organization out from underneath the weight of Iso Joe’s salary number.
Ferry signed a number of decent players to reasonable contracts in 2012-13 and managed to win 44 games and make the playoffs. Coach Larry Drew was then fired while Ferry brought in former colleague Mike Budenholzer away from San Antonio to coach the team. In the wake of a number of serious injuries to key players, including Al Horford’s torn pectoral muscle after just 29 games, the Hawks slipped to a win total of just 38 wins but still made the playoffs and took eventual Eastern Conference runner-up Indiana to seven games before bowing out.
So what’s on the Hawks’ roster that may appeal to Flip Saunders and the Wolves’ front office?
It starts and ends with Horford. Beyond that, the Hawks have a few middling contracts that would cause similar cap damage as some recently-signed Wolves’ contracts: Louis Williams (1 year, $5.45 million remaining), Jeff Teague (3 years, $24 million), Kyle Korver (3 years, $17.24 million), Paul Millsap (1 year, $9.5 million). None of those should appeal greatly to the Wolves outside of Louis Williams, but the Hawks would surely hang onto him to potentially use as a great trade piece next February.
Korver is the perfect player to pair with Ricky Rubio, of course. And three years of Korver, even at $17+ million, is a whole lot more appealing than another three years and $21.25 million that’s owed to Kevin Martin, or even the 2 years and more than $9.6 million headed Corey Brewer‘s way.
The sticking points are a) Kevin Love would have to agree to re-sign in Atlanta, and while not all too far-fetched, it’s not like their nucleus is ahead of Minnesota’s, and b) the Hawks only have the #15 and #43 picks in this year’s draft.
The Wolves would ask for Horford and Korver, as well as for the Hawks to take on Martin and his contract. They’d also want the #15 pick, as they’d be shaving around $2.4 million off of their 2014-15 cap number and could either draft two first-rounders or package the #13 and #15 together to move into a higher slot.
It’s unlikely that an Atlanta-Minnesota would happen straight up, and primarily due to the lack of a supporting cast for Love. The Hawks don’t have too many more assets to improve the rest of their roster, but the Wolves would do very, very well in this trade if Atlanta wanted to make a jump into the upper echelon of the East.
Atlanta receives: Kevin Love, Kevin Martin, #40 pick
Minnesota receives: Al Horford, Kyle Korver, #15 pick
With Teague, a healthy Louis Williams, Paul Millsap, Love, and Martin, the Hawks would easily be a playoff team in the East. Love probably wouldn’t be thrilled with his landing spot, but the Wolves would be right back in contention for the seventh and eighth seeds in the Western Conference next season.
Love is easily the best player in the trade, but the value of Horford and Korver, as well as Horford’s defensive fit next to Nikola Pekovic and Korver’s offensive fit next to Rubio would be enough to keep the Wolves over the 40-win mark in 2014-15. Horford would be allowed to move permanently to his natural power forward position, and the Wolves would be able to slot in Korver alongside Rubio.
A starting lineup of Rubio, Korver, Chase Budinger, Horford, and Pekovic is as good as Wolves’ fans could hope for when the Kevin Love saga is all said and done.