The Boston Celtics are in the midst of their second rebuilding process under the leadership of team president Danny Ainge. As was the case in 2003-2007, Ainge made it a point to obtain young talent and draft picks; all of which were instrumental in the team obtaining Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. The immediate payoff from such bold maneuvers was a NBA title in 2008 and five strong years of contention.
Now as the team looks to hasten their rebuilding, they again have obtained many young, talented players and several draft picks over the next five seasons. In doing so, the team has strongly positioned themselves in a potential bidding war for the newest, most coveted trade option in the NBA, Minnesota Timberwolves All Star forward Kevin Love.
Like Garnett before him, Kevin Love has grown frustrated with the many years that have passed without a playoff appearance. To that end, Love has informed Minnesota that he will test the free agency market once his contract ends at the conclusion of the 2015 season. As a mid-market team, there are far many more markets that would be enticing to Love that are closer to contending for a championship. Of those are Los Angeles (played college ball at UCLA), Chicago, Denver and Golden State.
For all his individual career contributions (19.2 ppg, 12.2 rpg), Minnesota has not won more than 40 games in his six seasons with the T-Wolves (40-42 in 2013-14). For that season, Love had a career-best season, averaging 26.1 points and 12.5 rebounds per game); bot all for not as the team missed the playoffs for the 10th straight season.
Love fueled speculation of a possible trade to Boston by visiting the city in recent weeks; attending a Red Sox game and meeting up with Celtics star Rajon Rondo. While the appearance could be coincidental, it did make many fans wonder just how much a positive experience in Beantown would mean to a possible trade.
The Celtics have perhaps the most to offer for Love, with at least 11 first round draft choices over the next five seasons. Including the 6th and 17th pick this year would likely be the basis of any trade discussion. In addition, Boston can dangle young talent in Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk and Avery Bradley. In order to make the salaries match (Love made $14.7 million in 2014), players like Brandon Bass, Gerald Wallace and Jeff Green would have to be added to the deal to meet salary cap restrictions. Current free agent Kris Humphries (former University of Minnesota hoops star) could also be included via a sign-and-trade option.
While other teams have perhaps better established players to offer with more cost-to-value contracts (Golden State, Denver Nuggets), Boston should still be considered one of the more likely trade partners based on their plentiful bounty of draft picks.
One other item for consideration is the tenuous contractual situation the team that obtains Love’s services faces. With no assurances that Love will sign with his new team upon arrival; whatever team does make a trade for the All Star forward will then have to convince him why signing a long-term deal with his new team makes sense. In order to increase the appeal of each city, the lure of playoff contention must be present.
Would the Celtics be a playoff team with the combination of Rajon Rondo and Kevin Love as their foundation? One would expect that talent would be enough to garner one of the eight Eastern Conference playoff seeds the following season. Couple that with more draft picks in the future and the Celtics would have resources to supplement the team in the years to come.
In the end, whether Kevin Love comes to Boston or any other city for that matter will come down to how much pressure the Timberwolves feel in having to trade their franchise player away. After not making the playoffs since trading Kevin Garnett, Minnesota will make sure whatever deal they strike will provide enough talent to end the 10-year playoff drought.
If I were in Danny Ainge’s position, I would make the deal, even if it means trading promising players like Sullinger and Olynyk. While each offer some promise, Love is that rare talent who is at the peak of his powers that can transform this team into a contender again. Would the turnaround be as swift as it was in the summer of 2007, perhaps not. But when such a game-changing talent is available, it would be wise to go all in for his services. Otherwise the rebuilding will continue for many more years to come.
Scott Duhaime is a passionate fan of the Boston Celtics and avid follower of the NBA for over 30 years. He is the founder and Senior Contributor of Banner Day Boston and is host of Banner Day Boston Radio .