Monday, May 19, 2014

Why and How the Pistons Need To Get Involved in the Kevin Love Sweepstakes

Kevin Love's recent message to the Timberwolves that he won't sign an extension after this season when his contract expires could be excellent news for the Detroit Pistons.  The Wolves are almost certain to move Love before the start of the season, in order to recoup some value from the All-Star PF. While it's highly unlikely that the Pistons could enter next year with Love on the roster (as close to a 0% chance as could be), Detroit may still be able to benefit from Love being dealt.  The Pistons are currently saddled with two poor contracts that they may be looking to unload, in Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings.  Facilitating a deal that sees Love go to a team that doesn't have an ideal amount of cap space could help the Pistons get out from underneath a year or two of one of their albatross deals signed last summer by Joe Dumars.  The Pistons will have cap room to play with this offseason, and taking on two bad contracts in return for another team taking their one terrible deal could be an option.  Let's take a look at what teams might be landing spots for Love and how the Pistons could get involved in a deal.

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The Warriors have plenty of young assets on their roster to get a deal done for Love.  The issue in this case might be convincing the Wolves to also take back David Lee.  Lee is an accomplished scorer and a solid rebounder, but he plays zero defense and is 31 years old going into this season.  The Wolves may see his game as too redundant with that of C Nikola Pekovic and look for a player who can bring a different dynamic to their frontcourt.  Would they be interested in taking a chance on three years of Josh Smith at PF?  They just might, if compensated well enough for trading Lee for an extra year of Smith.  Would a deal that looks like this do the trick?

GS receives: PF Kevin Love
MIN receives: SF Harrison Barnes, PF Josh Smith, SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Two Future 1st round picks from GS
DET receives: PF David Lee, SG Kevin Martin

Kevin Martin isn't exactly on a friendly deal, but he costs half of what Smith does and fills the Pistons need for more shooting on the wing.  Lee is sure to be re-packaged to another team looking for scoring, as the Pistons have no need for him.  He could easily fetch a late first round pick and/or a solid player on the wings.  The biggest gain here is unloading Josh Smith.  It costs them Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, which is a move that I think most Pistons fans would make.

The Bulls seem to be desperate to add another start to their roster and give Derrick Rose Joakim Noah the help he really deserves.  If Rose can stay healthy, the trio of Rose, Love and Noah might be the NBA's most dynamic.  With shooters at SG and SF, that Bulls team could challenge the Heat and Pacers year in and year out for the crown in the Eastern Conference.  Should the Pistons be wary of bringing Love into the division? Again, the issue here is getting Minnesota to take on an overpaid, aging PF.  If the Wolves don't want Carlos Boozer, could the Pistons eat two years of his contract?  Boozer would certainly be harder to move than Lee after being acquired, and might cause trouble in the locker room if asked to come off the bench.  Boozer was reportedly unhappy that Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau played Taj Gibson down the stretch this past season.  Regardless, this might be another opportunity for the Pistons to unload Josh Smith in a Kevin Love trade:

CHI receives: PF Kevin Love, SG Kevin Martin
MIN receives: PF Josh Smith, G/F Jimmy Butler, SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Two first round picks from Chicago
DET receives: PF Carlos Boozer, PG J.J. Barea

The Bulls get their superstar trio and a serviceable SG, albeit on a bad contract.  The Wolves again slide Smith into their void at PF, and also get two starting-quality wing players in Butler and KCP (maybe).  They also get two first round picks from the Bulls and unload two bad contracts.  This might be the best return they can get for Love.  The Pistons take on two bad deals, but both are shorter than what they have on the books for Smith.  Again, KCP is a (hypothetical) casualty of the Pistons desire to unload Smith.

The Knicks have not had the type of success they thought they would have when they sold the farm for Carmelo Anthony in 2011.  Adding Kevin Love to the mix would bring new life to the franchise, and likely cement Carmelo Anthony into the plans for the next four or five years.  Love and Anthony would be the league's highest-scoring duo by a decent margin.  However, the rest of the Knicks roster is shockingly bereft of talent and they would be fighting an uphill battle to win right away.  The Knicks simply don't have the assets to pull off a trade for Kevin Love without a little help.  Here's how the Pistons could possibly take advantage of Love wanting to play in New York:

NYK receives: PF Kevin Love, PG Brandon Jennings
MIN receives: PF Josh Smith, SG Tim Hardaway Jr., SF Kyle Singler, PF Tony Mitchell, Future 1st round pick from New York
DET receives: PF Amar'e Stoudemire, PG Raymond Felton

In this scenario, the Pistons are able to unload both of their poor contracts.  Phil Jackson hasn't been shy about his desire to trade Raymond Felton, going so far as to tell the veteran PG to prepare to be dealt.  Felton's contract has two years on it, just like Jennings' but for less than half of the remaining dollars.  Stoudemire has one year left on his deal and would probably serve well as a third big under Stan Van Gundy.  The Knicks add Love and upgrade at PG, and the Wolves get a bevy of solid players.  The best of those just might be Hardaway, although he and Singler both bring shooting to the Wolves.

The Lakers are trying to plan one more run at a title with Kobe Bryant, and have been avoiding long-term contracts in order to pursue Love in the summer of 2015 (No, your "Summer of Love" joke is not funny).  The Lakers only have $35M on the books going into this offseason and will likely be able to add assets at their own discretion.  However, the development of Love forcing the Wolves to trade him has left them in an interesting situation.  They don't necessarily have the assets to pull off a Love trade.  Enter the Pistons, who can give Minnesota assets in exchange for the Lakers taking a bad deal or two off of the Pistons books:

LAL receives: PF Kevin Love, PF Josh Smith, PG Brandon Jennings
MIN receives: 2014 1st round pick from LAL, 2014 2nd round pick from DET, SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SF Kyle Singler, PF Tony Mitchell
DET receives: PG Steve Nash

This might be the return that intrigues the Wolves the most, as the Lakers' pick figures to be in the top six.  They again receive a trio of young Pistons who can add options on the wings.  The Lakers presumably play Love at C (he's played 35% of his career minutes at C) and slide Smith in at PF.  They also fill their PG spot with Jennings, who they may or may not choose to keep for his remaining two years.  In return for giving up three promising young players and their 2nd round pick, the Pistons load Smith and  Jennings and take Nash off of the Lakers' hands.  Nash would likely retire, but if he didn't, could provide leadership and shooting off of the Pistons' bench in his old age (sound familiar?).  This is easily the most enticing option for the Pistons, as they unload Smith and Jennings without taking on large amounts of salary.

The last thing the rest of the league needs is a Daryl Morey team with Kevin Love at the 4 position.  Not to mention that he could potentially be playing there with Dwight Howard, James Harden, Chandler Parsons and Patrick Beverly.  Of all of Love's desired destinations, this would probably be his best shot at winning a championship (I would hear the Chicago argument).  The Rockets have a fair amount of assets to toss at Minnesota for Love, but would probably need help to top the offers that other teams around the league could put together.  The Pistons could help by offering the Wolves a few prospects in return for deal relief in the form of Josh Smith coming off of the books.  Here's a deal that might make sense that ends with Love in Houston:

HOU receives: PF Kevin Love, PG J.J. Barea
MIN receives: PF Josh Smith, PF Terrence Jones, SF Kyle Singler, SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, PF Donatas Motiejunas, 2014 1st round pick from HOU
DET receives: PG Jeremy Lin, G/F Francisco Garcia, G/F Jordan Hamilton

In order for this deal to work, a 4th team (PHI? ATL?) may have to add an asset or two and take Omer Asik off of the Rockets' books.  This is the largest trade of all suggested, with a total 10 players switching teams.  The Rockets need to unload Lin to fit Love's salary, which is where the Pistons come in.  The Pistons offer to take Lin, and move Smith with their young wings to Minnesota, who also receives Houston's first round pick this year.  In order to clear enough money to make the deal work, Houston also sends Garcia and Hamilton to Detroit.  Minnesota would be wise to insist that Chandler Parsons be a part in any deal that ends with Love in Houston, although the Rockets will not part with him in just any deal.

As you can see, the Pistons could certainly thrust themselves into the Love trade talks and come out a winner.  Convincing the Wolves to take the final three years of Smith's contract might not be so hard if the Pistons are willing to move one of, or both, of KCP and Kyle Singler.  They should be prepared to move an asset to unload Smith and Jennings.  KCP and Singler are nice players in the long run, but aren't impossible to replace.  Undoing last summer's flubs won't be easy or cheap, but if the front office is willing and active, moving Smith and Jennings isn't impossible.


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