Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News was clear to the point of redundancy about the key factor in determining the Golden State Warriors' chances of acquiring Kevin Love in a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
If Minnesota likes David Lee (or his contract), the Warriors might have traction in any potential Love talks.
That means: Minnesota has to consider Lee as VALUE, as something worthwhile to get back in return for any Love deal, not just as salary ballast.
If Minnesota does not view Lee and his remaining $30.5 million over the next two years as VALUE . . . it would be difficult for the Warriors to get involved in this one...Basically, it all has to start with Lee for a few important reasons...Once again, the Warriors need the Timberwolves to WANT Lee, not as salary-ballast but as true value... Once again, the Warriors need the Timberwolves to WANT Lee, not as salary-ballast but as true value.
It's really that simple: no matter what we think of David Lee or what your favorite statistic suggests about his value, what really matters is where the Wolves have him on their wish list and whether they deem his contract worthy of dealing with for two seasons.
If Love is free agent in 2015, Lakers/Knicks have real shot. If Wolves trade him those teams have no assets, GSW and Chicago his preference.— Kurt Helin (@basketballtalk) May 18, 2014
That's the one unknown factor in this whole thing, independent of the fact that the Warriors are in fact on Love's list of preferred destinations, as widely reported and discussed on Sunday. And maybe you think the Timberwolves' history of squandering opportunities makes it all the more possible that the Warriors can in fact pull this off because they'd be willing to take Lee in return - good luck convincing Wolves fans of that, but strange things happen sometimes.
But beyond speculating about the unknown there are enough known factors involved here that seem to make Love coming to the Warriors highly unlikely when we look at the details. And it starts with money.
1. Love stands to make significantly more money by staying in Minnesota
Can't wait for the tacit assumption that Kevin Love is going to make the smart basketball decision about his future vs money, power, glam— Bethlehem Shoals (@freedarko) May 18, 2014
Although it's true that Love has made it clear that he won't be signing an extension with the Wolves, it's important to note a point made by Marc Stein and Ramona Shelbourne in their ESPN.com article on the rumor: Love hasn't necessarily made a trade demand and, really, he has no reason to do so.
In other words, the Wolves might not have the leverage problem that some around the Twittersphere originally assumed, as described well by Brian Windhorst in his article offering an overview of the situation.
Even if Love were completely happy, it would not make complete financial sense to sign an extension to his current contract. The rules favor his letting it expire next summer and starting with a new deal. The same goes with any team Love would be traded to. This unquestionably limits his trade value because teams will be wary of trading for a player on the last year of his contract.
To elaborate a bit, the longest Love could be extended now is for three more years (through 2017-18) whereas if he were to opt out and sign with a team next year he could sign through 2018-19 or re-sign with the Wolves through 2019-20.
As Stein and Shelbourne noted in their article, that's a difference of about $30 million if he goes elsewhere and somewhere around $45 million+ if he were to re-sign with Minnesota and take advantage of his Bird rights. We have to assume that will factor into the decision of a player who has already had his share of injury problems and probably understands how any future injuries could hurt his value (or any player's for that matter).
Sure, Love might b desperate to get out of Minnesota, but expecting him to push to do so this summer at the expense of a longer and more lucrative contract is an assumption that we don't have enough facts to support.
2. Keeping Love might be a risk worth taking for the Wolves
I still haven't heard anything that would make me pull trigger. Rather keep him another year and risk it. eim.— canishoopus (@canishoopus) May 18, 2014
On top of the disincentive for Love to push for a trade now, the Wolves don't have much reason to rush into a trade either...especially one with the Warriors.
With Love not certain to go elsewhere, taking the risk of doing enough to persuade him to re-sign might be worth more to the Wolves for one year than whatever they get in return. The Wolves could bet that money would still be a factor, as noted by Stein and Shelbourne, in Love's decision-making process and would have one more season to do what it takes to persuade him to stick around - as badly as we want Love to come to the Warriors to take this team to the next level, we have to understand that the Wolves have every reason to tolerate the risk associated with keeping a player that can't easily be replaced.
This isn't about simply making the best offer this summer: both Love and the Wolves have reasons to wait, which doesn't necessarily benefit the Warriors.
There simply isn't a deal out there that's so great from a Wolves perspective - from the Warriors or anyone - that they'd be more competitive in a stacked Western Conference in the short-term or have that much more flexibility to build with in the future.
3. Minnesota is (still) building for the future rather than the present
Guys, if ur gonna deal Love while u still have leverage, u HAVE to get a lotto pick in return. Deal built around Klay is a non-starter— canishoopus (@canishoopus) May 18, 2014
Yes, the Warriors can offer a 2015 draft pick, but if the Wolves are going to deal now they have no incentive to take a pick that will likely be at the bottom of the first round instead of holding out for a lottery pick.
That's not to say Klay Thompson and Draymond Green aren't good pieces to include in a deal, but they'd both have to be re-signed to (likely) more expensive contracts in the not-too-distant future and Lee would chew up cap room for a team that will almost certainly be on the outside of the playoffs looking in in a competitive Western Conference. Eric over at Canis Hoopus sums up this problem pretty well:
Love wants to go to a contender. For the Wolves, they need a shot at a real star in order to make a deal. Which means a high draft pick. Those things might be mutually exclusive.
The Wolves are a team that isn't going to ascend the league's hierarchy right away whether they trade Love to a contender now or wait until next year. Even though they've been in a perpetual rebuilding process since losing Kevin Garnett, they don't have to cash in an asset immediately if it's not going to help them find sustainable success.
None of this is to say the Warriors are out the running here: going back to the beginning, that really comes down to how much they value David Lee. But it's really sort of silly to assume they're going to rush into pulling the trigger on a deal with the Warriors this summer given the circumstances unless Bob Myers works his magic and finds a third team to get involved with this.