So, this week we learned that Kevin Love has given the Wolves’ leadership notice that he intends to exercise the early-termination option in his contract after next season and become an unrestricted free agent.
It was Adrian Wojnarowski who reported it, so take the story for what it’s worth.
COINCIDENTALLY (?), word leaked that Sam Mitchell is a strong candidate for the Wolves coaching job.
If, like most Wolves fans, you felt as though you’d been double-tapped after reading those news items, continue reading below.
1. Kevlar, initial reaction
Andy G: My initial reaction was actually a non-reaction. Nothing here is remotely unexpected.
Love has played 6 NBA seasons and 0 playoff games. He’s played in the Olympics and three All-Star Games, and, still, nothing in the NBA’s post-season that allows more than half of its teams annual admission.
He should want to leave. And apparently, he does.
My non-reaction is also caused by the realization that the Wolves haven’t done anything of significance in Love’s 6 years here. That’s not a shot at Love, really. He’s a great player and would help any team. It’s more of a big-picture acknowledgment that things didn’t work out and it’s time to go a different direction; time to move on.
Love proved that he can carry a 40ish win team on his back. That’s an impressive feat that few others in the league can claim. His next challege will be a different one; one that likely involves a “second option” offensive role, and doing his best to combine elite rebounding with adequate defense on a team like the Bulls or Warriors that has championship aspirations. He’ll probably have more fun while scoring fewer points.
2. Kevlar, what next?
Patrick J: Assuming that Love’s agent leaked the “story” to Woj, I expect that Love will lay low for a while now that his message is out. There’s no evidence that anyone but Love’s camp is the source of the leak, and the leak itself would be portrayed in the media as less credible than it has been if it WEREN’T from Love’s camp. The leak had its intended effect–it opened up the market for Love with neither Love nor the Wolves having overtly signed off that it was the side orchestrating the bidding war.
Andy G: They’re going to trade Kevin Love. Based on what I’ve read across the Twitto-blogosophere, it sounds like the deal will be pursued most aggressively between tonight’s draft lottery and the actual draft night (June 26). That will allow Flip Saunders to gain a little bit of leverage if he can commence a silent bidding war that includes lotto-bound teams willing to dangle high draft picks.
3. Kevlar, specific ideas?
Patrick J: It’s hard to tell what will be in play until after the NBA Draft Lottery tonight, and probably throughout the negotiation period, up until draft night. Their leverage is almost nil at this point, but I still think they can do at least as well as Lee-Klay Thompson + another piece for Love. Depending on how the lottery goes tonight, there could be new contenders for Love.
Andy G: Agree that it’s early, but it sure sounds like the Warriors and Bulls are front runners, if for no other reason than that they are clubs boasting a superstar guard and an attractive market; stuff that Love will want. (Remember: Whoever trades for Love assumes the risk that he could leave in just one year. They need to get a strong *verbal* commitment from him that he’ll re-sign for the long haul, next year.) Also, each of those teams has enough tradeable assets to make a credible offer for Love, under these circumstances. Golden State’s would center around David Lee’s salary (and, to be fair, his NUMB#RS) and Klay Thompson’s
Golden Gopher bloodlines shooting stroke. Chicago’s would center around Carlos Boozer’s expiring contract, and some combination of Euro-star Nikola Mirotic, defensive ace Taj Gibson, and the emerging Jimmy Butler.
But who knows: Other candidates will emerge now that the flood gates have opened. The Wizards should have interest. Is Love worth breaking up the world’s favorite new backcourt, and sending Bradley Beal to the Twin Cities? The Celtics will have a very high draft pick. Are they continuing the Post-Pierce Demolition Project, or would they view Rondo-Love as a contending 1-2 Punch in the weakened Eastern Conference?
Things to think about. Kind of fun things, actually, after a disappointing season that felt like it would never end. Maybe they can ditch Kevin Martin. I’m already tired of watching him play.
4. Draft lottery
Patrick J: We and others just covered this over at Canis Hoopus. The bottom line is, the Wolves are locked in for the 13th pick unless Phoenix improbably moves from #14 into the top three. In that case, the Wolves would slide down a pick, and lose it to Phoenix as part of the Wes Johnson trade.
This is unlikely to happen. Unless the NBA’s “habit” of finding unlikely stories through the luck of the lottery continues, and the feel-good story that was the Suns of last season is to be enhanced by moving up, improbably, and getting lotto talent at the top of the draft, the Wolves will own the 13th pick. I’d be happy with Marcus Smart, Tyler Ennis, Zach LaVine. I’d be fine with Nik Stauskas, Gary Harris, or possibly James Young. I wish Gators frosh Chris Walker hadn’t made the sensible choice of returning for his sophomore campaign. He dunkz good.
Andy G: According to Bill Simmons, the Wolves have a 2.2 percent chance of cracking the Top-3 in tonight’s lottery. That’s better than Powerball, I think. Also, according to Simmons — in the same column — the Wolves are, “the real-life equivalent of your college buddy who had three kids way too early in life and now uses your fantasy football draft as an excuse to get bombed because he got out of the house for four hours.”
So there is that.
I really hope this is the year that the Timberwolves luck out. There is high-end potential in this draft. But we’re talking about 2.2 percent. So they’re picking 13th. Unless they trade Kevin Love! #FullCircle
5. Sam Mitchell
Patrick J: Since it was leaked that former Wolves player and Toronto coach Sam Mitchell is a candidate for the Wolves coaching position, it was one of the few times I can remember when literally no one could see an upside to the candidate and go on the record to talk about it. Like everyone else, I appreciate Sam Mitchell. He was a good player here. He mentored KG. He also always seemed to have a smart, but very narrow, view of basketball that lacked the adaptability and creativity that coaches of consistently elite teams have.
The fact that the news came on the same day as the Love news hurt. What hurt just as much was that we’d had it intimated to us that we were waiting for a strong Izzo signal before moving forward on a coach. That seems to have been totally false, and the way the news was broken to us was by announcing a different, lower-profile “insider’s” candidacy for the job.
I just can’t see a Sam Mitchell-coached, Kevin Love-less, team being fun, no matter how much Ricky Rubio and company might improve.
Andy G: Well, technically, I suppose I could but it has everything to do with Ricky Rubio and nothing to do with Sam. I think ditching Adelman’s Princetonish offense will (re)open the floor for Ricky to improvise and wow us with his passing. Mitchell can call out high ball-screen sets as easily as the next guy.
But I don’t want him as coach for the reasons you cite. For a thorough breakdown of Sam Mitchell the coaching candidate, check out Eric’s piece at Canis Hoopus. It’s really well done.
That’s it for now. Cross your fingers for a lucky lottery.