If you’re one of the many fans who dream about the Phoenix Suns acquiring Kevin Love, two reports from Sunday confirm that Ryan McDonough and Co. will, at the very least, make a play for the Minnesota Timberwolves star forward.
Yahoo! Sports writer Adrian Wojnarowski says the Timberwolves have two priorities this summer: Finding a new head coach and figuring out what to do with Love, who could become an unrestricted free agent after the 2014-15 season.
While Wojnarowski said former Toronto Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell has emerged as “a serious candidate” for the Timberwolves job, it’s much less clear what Love’s fate will be.
Beyond the coaching search, the Wolves are under pressure to start considering trade scenarios for Love, who’s anxious to exercise his Early Termination Option (ETO) in the summer of 2015 and leave as a free agent, league sources said.
According to Wojnarowski’s league sources, four teams are viable candidates to “make hard runs at trades for Love”: the Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix.
No team is likely to trade for Love without an assurance that he’ll commit to a five-year, $100 million maximum contract extension. Despite a belief that Love prefers Los Angeles or New York as a potential destination, he’s open to deals in other markets where he can be part of an immediate contender, sources said.
Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN also mentioned Golden State as a potential suitor for Love’s services, but said the three-time All-Star does have interest in the Chicago Bulls, as well.
Although sources say Love has stopped short of demanding a trade, his position could effectively force the Timberwolves to deal the All-Star forward before next season — or before the trade deadline in February 2015 at the latest — if they hope to dodge the risk of losing him without compensation.
Stein and Shelburne also note Phoenix’s interest, but can’t confirm if it is mutual.
Sources say that the Phoenix Suns, armed with several draft assets to offer Minnesota, also have strong interest in trading for Love, but the 25-year-old’s interest in joining the Suns is unclear.
Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor has declined to entertain trade offers for Love “for months,” the ESPN writers said, and the owner is still clinging to the hope that he can secure the power forward into a long-term deal or at least get him to stay through 2015-16. Love would make more than $30 million if he keeps playing for Minnesota through the final two years of his contract.
Stein and Shelburne also said that the uncertainty about Love’s future has complicated Minnesota’s head coaching search. Other than Mitchell, the Timberwolves have interviewed former Chicago Bulls and Milwaukee Bucks coach Scott Skiles and former Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins to be the successor to the recently retired Rick Adelman.
Love, a UCLA product, has averaged 19.2 points and 12.2 rebounds per game in his six NBA seasons. In 2013-14, his 26.1 points, 4.4 assists and 2.5 three-pointers per game were the best marks of his career.
The Timberwolves finished 40-42 (10th-best in the Western Conference) in the recently completed regular season. The team has yet to make the playoffs since Love was picked fifth (by Memphis) in the 2008 NBA Draft.