Now that 28 teams have been officially eliminated from contention, it’s easy for the conversation around the NBA to focus on something other than what those final two teams are doing. That’s largely why Kevin Love has been the subject of protracted discussion this week and will continue to be until he has either been traded or re-upped with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Be sure you check out Basketball Insiders’ Lang Greene’s breakdown of the entire scenario in Minnesota as we take a quick look at the best destinations for Love, in no particular order.
Minnesota Timberwolves: It’s important to note that the Timberwolves have not sought out trade talks regarding their All-Star power forward, and while they have been fielding calls from 16 or more teams, that’s because Love’s agent is churning the rumor mill. There’s no question that Minnesota can pay him more than any other team when he becomes a free agent in 2015, but will money be the deciding factor? Love has emphasized time and again that he wants to win, and if the Timberwolves continue to struggle to put a playoff team around Love, it’s very likely he will take less money to play somewhere else. Team president and now head coach Flip Saunders recently pointed out that Minnesota can give Love five years, while other teams can only offer four, but the reality is that Love is going to play somewhere that fifth year, so it’s not as big an advantage as Saunders would like it to be.
Houston Rockets: Rockets GM Daryl Morey is not only hoping, but planning to add another All-Star to his roster in order to help Dwight Howard and James Harden get out of the first round of the playoffs next season. Kevin Love is very much on Houston’s radar, and if they could find a way to get him in town they would jump at it. Love is the perfect frontcourt complement to Howard because he stretches the defense out to the three-point line and he is an even better rebounder. With Howard and Love together the opposition would have little hope of getting an edge on the boards, and many games are won and lost on the glass. The rub, of course, is that Houston really doesn’t have much to offer beyond the ending deals of Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin, and with both owed a $13.5 million balloon payment it’s a hard sell. The Timberwolves don’t need either player, so a third team would almost certainly have to be involved for Houston to get in the mix for Love.
Chicago Bulls: All things considered, Love’s best chance to get to the NBA Finals might be as a member of the Chicago Bulls. If Derrick Rose can play even half as well as he did prior to his repeated injuries he could be just the backcourt mate that Love was hoping to have in the vastly overrated Ricky Rubio. Joakim Noah took his game to a higher level this season and the Bulls have a history of filling out their roster with savvy veterans who contribute on a high level under the watchful eye of head coach Tom Thibodeau. Carlos Boozer’s ending deal could be sent to Minnesota, making the Timberwolves players in a 2015 free agency class that promises to be one for the ages. The Bulls would need a sweetener, though, as the Timberwolves would also have a huge amount of cap space if Love himself just walked away.
Golden State Warriors: Rumor has it that that the Warriors would like to deal David Lee, and if there is a player who is even better than Lee at power forward, it’s Love. Lee is under contract for two more seasons, meaning he would give the Timberwolves a comparable player while also postponing the free agency discussion. Love’s run-and-gun style of play would be a great fit with the Warriors, who are looking to take an aggressive step forward under new head coach Steve Kerr.
Los Angeles Lakers: It’s a poorly kept secret that the Lakers would love to make Love their next franchise cornerstone. If his contract with the Timberwolves simply expires and he goes shopping, expect his home town Lakers to be his very first stop. Of course, the Lakers are not poised to win at this juncture, and they have work to do if they expect to field a team even as good as Minnesota’s two seasons from now. It’s entirely possible that the Lakers would fail to offer Love any better shot at winning big than he currently has with the Timberwolves. The death of Jerry Buss has left the Lakers in limbo, and the next generation of Lakers management has their work cut out for them in their quest to restore the Lakers’ mystique.
It’s still very early in this process, of course, and while Love’s agent would love to keep his client’s name in the headlines, the reality is that Love is the Timberwolves’ player to lose. If they can make the right adjustments over the summer and put the team in a position to win, Love might be persuaded to stay. If, however, they continue to struggle to do that, we could see him traded before the summer is over.
Chandler Parsons Explained
The Houston Rockets caused a few raised eyebrows this week when they elected not to pick up the option on Chandler Parsons’ rookie contract. After all, Parsons is the third best player on a team that features the best players at two positions in James Harden and Dwight Howard. Parsons’ option was a steal of a bargain considering he was due just under $1 million next season and averaged 16.6 points per game during the regular season and 19.3 in postseason play. Still, Houston’s long-term plan for Parsons is better served by letting him test the waters of free agency.
As the Rockets did with players like Carl Landry and Chase Budinger, they did not pick up the final year option on Parsons’ contract so that he can become a restricted free agent. This allows some other team to set Parsons’ value and gives Houston the option to match whatever that number winds up being. The risk is that some team might value Parsons at a number that is much higher than Houston is willing to match, which would leave them without their coveted small forward of the future. As a point of reference, one league executive told Basketball Insiders this week that they would probably offer Parsons around $9-10 million per season as a free agent, but could easily see him getting $12 million from a team that was serious about pricing Houston out of the picture.
The other issue for the Rockets is that they would really like to lure another All-Star to town this summer, with Carmelo Anthony being prominently mentioned as someone they would like to add. If the Rockets add another top-dollar player to the roster they might not be as willing to pay Parsons an upper-echelon amount. On the other hand, if team owner Les Alexander is willing to shell out the big bucks to get Houston deeper into postseason play next season, they can wait to re-sign Parsons until after they have taken care of their other addition(s).
One way or the other, it’s reasonable to expect Parsons back in Houston next season.
NBA Chat with Bill Ingram
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