We can now add Kevin Love to the Rockets’ ongoing search for the “third-best player on a championship team”.
Per Yahoo‘s Adrian Wojnarowski, generally regarded as the top NBA insider on the planet, the Rockets are planning an “aggressive play” for a Love trade. Wojnarowski also notes that the Minnesota power forward has a strong bond with Houston head coach Kevin McHale.
Another contender planning aggressive play for a Kevin Love trade, sources tell Yahoo: Houston. Kevin McHale has strong bond with Love.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) May 18, 2014
“For the first time, [Minnesota] sounds like looking at deals for [Love] is an option,” a rival executive told Wojnarowski.
Love holds an early termination option (ETO) in his contract for the summer of 2015, thus giving him the same sort of leverage against Minnesota in the 2014 offseason that Dwight Howard had against Orlando in 2012. Unless the Timberwolves are willing to risk letting Love leave in July 2015 for nothing in return, the time for them to recoup maximum value would seem to be sooner rather than later.
Other teams likely to make “hard runs” at trades for Love, according to Wojnarowski, include the Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns.
“Despite a belief that Love prefers Los Angeles or New York as a potential destination, [Love] is open to deals in other markets where he can be part of an immediate contender,” Wojnarowski wrote, adding that Love’s representatives are pushing for a deal to be completed before the beginning of summer free agency in July – preferably by the June 26 NBA draft.
In terms of potential offers, the Celtics and Lakers are each expected to offer a trade starting with their first-round lottery pick in the aforementioned draft. On that front, a potential day of significance could be May 20. The Celtics and Lakers are currently projected at 5th and 6th in the first-round order, based on probability from last season’s records. But if either team slips into the top three in Tuesday’s draft lottery, it would seem to make their offer all the more attractive to Minnesota.
Nonetheless, as with Howard and Orlando two years ago, Love still holds most of the cards. If Love expresses skepticism to a potential suitor about his willingness to re-sign in 2015, it would likely diminish that team’s offer to Minnesota (if not kill it altogether).
The hope for Houston is that a roster coached by McHale and led by Howard and James Harden could push them to the front of Love’s list. Should that happen, Minnesota’s leverage in the Love negotiations could be compromised in a similar manner to the circumstances that forced Orlando to accept an underwhelming haul in the August 2012 trade that sent Howard to the Lakers.
Love, who averaged 26.1 points and 12.5 rebounds per game last season, will make $15.7 million in 2014-15. Thus, any Love-to-Houston trade would have to involve the Rockets sending out approximately that much in salary. Future draft picks, a likely requirement for Minnesota in any Love proposal, would not have any cap value and thus would not count toward that total.
“Houston doesn’t have the draft picks to offer Minnesota, but does have appealing young players in Chandler Parsons and Omer Asik to include in packages,” Wojnarowski wrote.
It’s unclear if the Rockets would make Parsons, their starting small forward, available in proposals for Love. But if Minnesota were intrigued by a Parsons-led deal, their interest would likely come soon. Should a deal be struck by the end of June involving Parsons, Minnesota could then turn down the 2014-15 option on Parsons’ contract, send Parsons into restricted free agency and maintain the right to match any offer. In short, they would have control over his future with the team.
However, if a deal were struck after June 30, Parsons would likely be on a path to unrestricted free agency in 2015. That would put Minnesota in the same position with Parsons that they’re currently in with Love, making the swap improbable.