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Should The Celtics Trade For Kevin Love? A Roundtable Discussion (Part I)

Wednesday, Bill Simmons released a mailbag on Grantland containing a passage that would get most Celtics fans drooling like my dog being offered a bone.

Let’s say the Celtics lose the 2014 lottery and end up with a pick between no. 3 and no. 5. They could send that pick to Minny along with Atlanta’s first-rounder (probably ending up in the 13-to-18 range) and their 2015 Clippers pick for Love. And they could throw in Brandon Bass and Keith Bogans’s immediately waivable deal to make the contracts work.


The big picture: If Love is loyal to a fault, he’ll stay in Minnesota. If he wants to jump to the Lakers, he should wait a year, anyway. If he wants to play in a big market and contend for a title, Chicago makes sense … unless he thinks Derrick Rose will never be the same. But if this were a poker table, the Celtics would have the biggest stack of chips right now. If any current NBA player appreciates stuff like “Celtic Pride,” “That’s a great organization that looks out for its dudes” and “wearing the same jersey that Russell and Bird wore,” it’s Kevin Love.

My best guess: I think Love rides it out in Minnesota, then jumps to the Lakers in 2015. But I wouldn’t rule out the Celtics. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

This is too juicy to go undiscussed. I also write for a Timberwolves-centric blog called Howlin’ T-Wolf, so I emailed one of my co-workers at HTW, Derek James. Derek is a Minnesota native who also contributes to the True Hoop site Hardwood Paroxysm. He and I discussed Kevin Love and whether the Celtics have the pieces to make a Love deal work. Here’s part 1 of our discussion:

Tom Westerholm: Derek, you and I have grimaced all season at the awful trade scenarios people seem to think are respectable returns for Kevin Love, but the fact remains that all of the smoke seems to be suggesting Love is out of Minnesota, and although Love isn’t really adding any public fire to the smoke, one would have to be a little delusional to assume none is there. Let’s start here, with a question that has been hashed and re-hashed to death: What do you think the realistic chances are that Love stays in Minnesota with his next contract?

Derek James: Well, here’s the thing: Love hasn’t done anything to quell those public fires other than make milquetoast type comments about how he likes it in Minnesota (He may not not like it, but other places may be higher on his list) or how the Timberwolves have a better team than the team with the worst record in the West (Duh). I’m not too optimistic. Optimists point to LaMarcus Aldridge and the Blazers mending fences, but that feels more like the exception than the rule. On top of that, my general belief is that if you can’t make it work after eight years, which is the amount of time Love will have been in Minnesota after his current deal expires, it may be time to move on anyway.

I truly believe that Love wants to be successful no matter where he goes, and at one time that may really have been Minnesota, but looking at the evidence, I don’t see how they’ve built enough confidence in Love that Minnesota is the best place for him to do that. Sure, they’ve improved steadily, but speaking as a fellow 25-year old, I know it’s not easy to see your peers more successful than you while knowing there is something that you could be doing about it. I know the Timberwolves have improved over the years and will come very close to hitting 40 wins but will still likely miss the playoffs with the hole they’ve dug themselves in the West. The other side of this is making money in an exciting city, and as a lifelong Minnesotan, I understand that being elsewhere.

If it weren’t for years of ineptitude in the draft from the Kahn era that has left the roster void of the same affordable young help that other teams in the Timberwolves’ position enjoy, the Timberwolves may get there in a year. Or they get there in two and it would be too little, too late for the Kevin Love era in Minnesota. There may be too much damage done from the Kahn era (Ex: benched in favor of Ryan Hollins, denied the five-year max even though he asked for it…etc.) that the Timberwolves will have to either stand and play the odds or cut and run while teams have assets stockpiled.

Why, Tom?! Why do you do this to me??

TW: It’s mostly because I’m a sadist, and I apologize for that fact (although I think apologizing rules me out of actual sadism). Anyway.

I agree with all of that, and I think the saddest part for Minnesota is how clearly the evidence points to him moving on. You and I remember very well the press conference in which Love looked like someone had just kicked his dog after he signed that four-year extension…it didn’t look like someone who would be with the team for long.

Knowing this, let’s talk about how the Wolves should proceed. If it’s fair to say that all the signs point toward Love leaving, it’s also fair to say that the Wolves should probably deal him. In Simmons’ article, he essentially presented two realistic possibilities: The Lakers (who make sense from Love’s perspective) and the Celtics (who have trade chips on trade chips and probably make the most sense for the Timberwolves).

Say you had Flip Saunders’ ear. What would you tell him to demand from the Celtics in exchange for Kevin Love?

DJ: I’m pretty sure it does, too. Carrying on now.

It really does, and it seems the Timberwolves are willing to do anything short of moving Love himself in order to keep number 42 for the time being. You talk about that press conference, and I do remember it, and I know that I would be so disappointed in that situation and probably feel a little spurned as well. If there are any residual negative feelings towards the organization just by association, I wouldn’t blame him.

As far as Simmons’ idea goes, I was just fine with opening the conversation up about Love although I don’t love the scenario. I believe he mentioned Brandon Bass and MarShon Brooks and a bevy of picks, but that didn’t do much for me. I’m not sure Love would be going to any better of a situation if the Celtics included Rajon Rondo in the deal, because if I’m Kevin Love, that’s not enough for me to work with and I’m back in the same situation I was before. Only in green. But there has something to be said for Love being a big NBA history aficionado and the lore of Celtics history; that makes sense to me.

If I were the Timberwolves, I’d probably ask for Jared Sullinger to be included as well as at least the Celtics’ own first round pick this year. I know Ainge may not want to part with his own first this year and future firsts, but you are talking about the best power forward in the game and a top player. He’s certainly worth it. I just don’t know if there’s enough here with Sullinger and picks, because you know how I feel about draft picks. They’re like magic beans, unquantifiable, intangible goods, really. And with the way the Timberwolves have drafted in the past, there’s really no guarantee that they could come close to that value alone.

PART 2 of the discussion coming later today.

Follow Derek on Twitter: @DerekJamesNBA

Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.

  • KBA

    I think it’s better to keep Sully (Love 2.0) then get Love 1.0. Love seems like high maintenance, and Sully has been steadily improving and costs a lot less.

    Honestly, the focus of this team should be to get a center (Pekovich/Monroe/Gortat/etc) than a power forward. Other than that, a better small forward should be the primary focus. If we can find a better shooting guard, I’ll be all for that too. I won’t want to overpay Bradley though I am fond of him. Main concern being he is VERY injury prone. Afflalo might be a good fit and he can play 2/3.

  • Steven

    Ok first trade Rondo to SAC for Thomas, Mclemore, and 2 picks. Then would have 3 2014 first rounders. Then trade your best pick (BOS or SAC) and worst (ATL or BKL) and Clipper 2015 pick and Bass for Love. Also you will have a top 10 pick which I would use to get Tyler Ennis!!! Sign Lance Stevenson !!!! IF have cap sign Bradley only for 6 million

    Thomas and Ennis at PG
    Stevenson maybe Bradley
    Green and Wallace
    Sully, Olyk, and Love


  • CelticsBIG3

    Hearing Wallace tore his miniscus, now we’re really stuck with that contract

    • jpbl1976


      I just threw up in my mouth.

  • hax

    Sullinger is already a cheaper, low maintenance Kevin Love. This guy walked into the season only 21 years old and said ‘we aren’t tanking’ then led by example.

    …and that top 5 pick in 2014 is far too beautiful to consider trading for Love.

    • Joe


      We would be better to focus on getting a good center. Too bad we cant get Noah…

      • jpbl1976

        I would love to see Noah with the Celtics — he is one of my favorite players.

        I guess seeing him on the Celts depends on how DRose recovers. If he is Penny post-injury 2.0, Chicago might decide a full rebuild is in order and the Celtics’ picks and expirings become very valuable and could swing a Noah deal in their favor.

    • millionaire

      I love Sully but If Embiid, Wiggins, & Parker are off the board and Minn will take Sully + our pick for Love we need to take that.

      Yes Sully is great, he has a similar skill set to Kevin Love and I think he will be an All-Star caliber player sooner than later.

      But, Kevin Love is an absolute superstar, production-wise. He is the best rebounder in the league, an elite 3-point shooter and more athletic than Sully. He does literally everything Sully does but better (except maybe score in the post). While Sully has an impressive 17 PER, Kevin Love’s is an astounding 28.4 (somewhere between Lebron James & Carmelo Anthony)

      Sidenote: Did Derek James even bother to read the Bill Simmons snippet? Sadly, his contribution seemed more like that of an average armchair GM than an actual basketball analyst.

      • hax

        Yeah, if it was just ‘marcus smart and sully for kevin love’. Would definitely do it. Not this 3 1st rounders, Bass, etc. simmons mentioned.

        But I think we will end up in that top 3. The team -is- tanking. Not the players, but management. Danny went to a Duke game to watch Jabari play and I’m positive he wants him.

        Derrick Rose, etc. didn’t miss back-to-back games after their ACL injuries. Rondo can do it, this is just (smartly) resting him any time we have an excuse.
        Sullinger has missed a couple games witha ‘mild’ concussion.
        Olynyk out with a SPRAINED TOE.

  • Ping

    Trade for Kevin Love.

    The truth is, Jared Sullinger and a top 5 pick are nice, but they are not Kevin Love. Calling Sullinger ‘Kevin Love 2.0’ is a disservice to Kevin Love. Simply because he rebounds and hit a few 3’s this year doesn’t make Sullinger Kevin Love. Here:

    Love – 26 ppg, 13 rpg, 4 apg, 46/38/82%, 28 PER, 60 TS%
    Sully – 13 ppg, 8 rpg, 2 apg, 43/25/77%, 17 PER, 50 TS%

    Love is nearly TWICE the player that Sully is (statistically), and he’s only 25 years old. And how is Love high maintenance? As Tom and Derek pointed out, Love has never insulted Minny or demanded a trade. He simply wants to win. I am down on this draft compared to others as well, but I would gladly take Love for Sully and the “potential” of whatever pick we get in 2014. Seeing that we have plenty of future picks as well, if that’s what it takes, Ainge should get it done.

    • Sophomore

      These are very good points – Love is much better than Sully is today, and he’s entering his prime. If we could put him together with Rondo and another all-star for the next three years that would be a very strong team.

      But don’t sell Sully too far short by comparing his line today to Love’s. Sully is only 21 years old today, and he missed a lot of last year. A fairer comparison would be to Love’s line when he was 21: 14 ppg, 11 rpg, 2.3 apg, 45/33/82, 20.7 PER, 55% TS. That’s still better than Sully’s line, but it isn’t world’s better.

      If Sully has the motor and heart we think he does, he should continue to develop. And if he can improve his shooting from distance his ceiling is probably top-5 or top-10 PF in the league. Already he’s a solid player who delivers not only stats but toughness, timing, and intangibles. He’s not K Love, but he’s not chopped liver. Pair him with a high first rounder or two and that’s a lot of value.

      • Ping

        Sullinger is an intriguing young player, for sure. I mean him no disrespect, he’s my favorite and most-fun-to-watch Celtic. His ceiling is still TBD based on his shooting and post play, but he can undoubtedly find his way to the top ten of his position if things continue to improve.

        That said, Kevin Love is a superstar now. If the C’s can acquire him, pair him with Rondo (and perhaps more a la 2008’s KG courtship), and sign the right guys, they are right back to relevance. I’m not concerned about the cost of Love vs. Sully because honestly, Love deserves all-star money.

        Really, watching Sully develop alongside Rondo would be great in addition to a possible top 5 pick, but things may not break that way. Rondo may decide to leave, the pick may not work out.

        I’d rather the sure thing that is the great Kevin Love.