Love suitors await lottery outcome

With Minnesota facing the reality it may have to trade Kevin Love before he becomes a free agent in the summer of 2015, Sam Smith of Bulls.com discusses what that means for teams interested in acquiring the All-Star forward.

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The NBA draft lottery is Tuesday, and the suspense is becoming as much who’ll get a chance to select Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins or Joel Embiid as who’ll be in position to make the best offer for Kevin Love.

It’s started already, of course, the summer free agency speculation with Carmelo Anthony’s fate given the Phil Jackson arrival in New York. Anthony can opt out of his contract and become a free agent and he has said he’ll test the market to determine his best chance to win. The consensus has been he’ll stay with the Knicks given their ability to pay much more money and a fifth year, though the departure of Steve Kerr to Golden State and Jackson suggesting Anthony take less money has raised questions.

Now come reports that the Timberwolves finally are feeling they may have to trade Love before he becomes a free agent in the summer of 2015. The speculation has unleashed an avalanche of reports that Love, who is prizing success after never having been in a playoff game, is intrigued by the Bulls and Houston to go along with previous suppositions that he is interested in New York, the Lakers and Boston.

Some reports have suggested the Timberwolves would want a high lottery pick and a veteran player.

It’s how the Celtics built their 2008 title team by dealing high draft picks and players for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett.

And now the Celtics have the fifth best odds of landing the No. 1 pick in Tuesday’s lottery drawing.

The attention will be on the Celtics with the fifth best odds and the Lakers with the sixth.

If either should move up to the top three, which is generally regarded as the first cutoff for the top talent in this draft, it’s said either would be interested in dealing the pick for Love. Love, of course, would have to agree to sign a long term contract before such a deal. So he has that leverage.

The Lakers and Celtics, both historic franchises with winning histories, can make a case for success, but the Celtics might be in better, if not great, position. Though the Lakers would sell the return home as Love attended UCLA.

Boston still has Rajon Rondo. They’d have to match salaries and Love makes about $15.7 million next season.

They could trade the top three pick, assuming they get it, plus Jeff Green and maybe Brandon Bass. That would leave the Celtics with Love, Rondo, young players like Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk and veteran Gerald Wallace. Playoff team? That might seem a risk for Love.

The Lakers could absorb the salary as they are well below the salary cap. They could send the potential top three draft pick and maybe add a sign and trade with one of their free agent veterans like Jordan Hill. Say Pau Gasol resigns to go with Kobe Bryant and Love. Does that get you in the playoffs in the Western Conference? Probably not. But Kobe is pushing for a big move.

Houston, like with rumors of a trade involving every top player (and they have gotten a few), is said to be involved. They only have a low first rounder. But they supposedly believe they can make a deal involving Omer Asik and Chandler Parsons to get Minnesota what it wants. Of course, they always say things like that.

Golden State was mentioned in the rumored reports as potentially intriguing to Love. But they have no draft pick. It also would be difficult to imagine Minnesota interested in a highly paid David Lee. Would the Warriors offer Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson, which would be appealing? But it would seem doubtful Thompson with a year left would want to resign in Minnesota.

The Mavs, like the Rockets, try to get in on most major deals. But they have little to offer.

One interesting possibility would be the Suns, who have three first round picks and a roster with young talent. They have Nos. 14, 18 and 27 and future potential lottery picks. They almost made the playoffs as is. They could put together an intriguing package with picks, the Morris twins and 2013 lottery pick Alex Len, who rarely played. They could also absorb a bad contract and Minnesota has a bunch of those. With the Suns’ guards, Love and some of their young players and back out West (where it is sunny and not cold) that could be a winning situation for Love. And the Suns have said they’d want to combine their picks and young players only for an All-Star player.

Cleveland also wants to be in the mix. They have the ninth best odds, but they also have a roster of young players. And if they could put together something with all those picks and young players and keep Kyrie Irving, then with Love and Irving that would look like a nice destination for the return of LeBron James, especially given the vulnerabilities that are becoming apparent with the Heat.

So what about the Bulls?

They could get in play on this one, though it would take some complicated maneuvering.

Would you trade Joakim Noah for Love? With no center and Love’s modest defensive reputation, that would seem a huge mistake. There’s no indication the Bulls would even consider something like that. And Minnesota has two centers already.

The problem the Bulls would have is all their “assets,” the draft picks and the rights to Nikola Mirotic, don’t have a monetary value until they are signed. Only Mirotic would sign for enough money to trade with matching salaries that include Taj Gibson. The Bulls would hate to give up Gibson, but you’d certainly have to consider that for someone like Love.

The problem is as the picks contain no monetary value, you’d have to add Mike Dunleavy, Jimmy Butler and Tony Snell to Gibson to make a deal along with the draft picks. You’d essentially gut your entire roster and renounce everyone else. But for a star you’d perhaps have to consider doing that.

The complicated part would be that the Timberwolves with the Bulls’ draft picks not being high would need at the minimum Mirotic signed. But Mirotic has expressed the desire to come to Chicago; not Minnesota. If he were in a deal he could choose to remain in Spain. Or he could decide to do that, anyway. And, after all, he also is a low first round draft pick.

It would seem unlikely Minnesota would even consider a Bulls package not involving a signed Mirotic. No, Derrick Rose is not and cannot be traded given his injury issues in addition to the belief the Bulls likely aren’t interested, anyway.

But the Bulls could make an interesting case.

Say they did gut their roster except for Noah and Rose to get Love.

Then they could use amnesty and make a case to Anthony to join Rose, Noah and Love. That certainly could be a winning combination even though you only add minimum players after that. The larger issue is those three salaries are about $47 million. That would mean Anthony would have to give up about $65 million to leave New York and sign with the Bulls. Really, no one is going to do that. No winning would be worth that, especially as it would be hardly guaranteed with a four-player roster.

But if the Bulls could put together some long shot sort of package for Love, they potentially would be under the salary cap enough to instead of going for Anthony add some mid-level free agents for the bench and retain Mike Dunleavy, which they almost have a moral obligation to do so given he took so much less money to sign with the Bulls last season.

In any case, it would seem the Bulls are long shot destinations for either Love or Anthony and not one of the top contenders given the lack of a high lottery pick and no true veteran starter to trade. But with the chance to sign Mirotic this summer and potentially be a player for all but the top free agents, the Bulls certainly remain in position to markedly improve the team in the off season.

It’s not even time for the draft lottery and the rumors are flying about All-Stars and Olympic gold medal winners. It’s just the beginning of the Summer of Going Rumor Crazy. It continues with Tuesday’s draft lottery.

What, you mean there still also are games going on?