MINNEAPOLIS — This will all be resolved eventually.
When is anybody’s guess. It could’ve been two months ago, had the price been right. It could be tomorrow, should financial and ROI details align somewhere between the Rust Belt and the Upper Midwest. It could be next spring, the most dubious of nightmares coming to fruition for an NBA franchise that has a hard time procuring top talent and an even harder time retaining it.
The Summer of Love might be over well before the autumnal equinox. Or perhaps it precipitates yet another winter of discontent in the Twin Cities.
But it will end. At some point.
As the Timberwolves and Cavaliers continue to hash out trade options involving superstar Kevin Love, the playing table still presents Glen Taylor and his trusty sidekick Flip Saunders several options.
Pull the trigger. Keep cleaning the gun until it’s in desired condition. Or keep it in the blind next to you and hope a bigger, better prize saunters along between now and the January trade deadline.
Don’t think Saunders would be that patient? He could’ve dealt Love to any number of teams before the trade. He could’ve accepted preliminary offers reportedly put out forth by Golden State and Cleveland.
But like an experienced hunter in his deer stand, Saunders is being passively active, driving up the price for his top player who wants out of Minnesota after six, playoff-bereft seasons here. The goal is to create a bidding war, or least rumblings of one convincing enough to forge a suitable deal.
If trade lynchpin and 2014 No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins is in play as ESPN has been reporting, then the kill could be coming soon. Hard to imagine Saunders doing better than the potential superstar drafted at the top of a deep class alongside last year’s No. 1, power forward Anthony Bennett, as have reportedly been offered in exchange for Love.
The latest reports suggest Cleveland may sign Wiggins this week, which would prohibit the Cavs from trading him for 30 days. But if the sides are able to come to an accord, that would simply be delaying the inevitable.
The Cavaliers can’t sign him for more than roughly $5.5 million for this upcoming season, per the NBA’s rookie pay scale. Waiting to do so allows them to see what flexibility they have in signing free agents to play alongside returned hero LeBron James.
Signing Wiggins might delay a trade with the Wolves, but it’d also help spur it forward in some ways. Once Wiggins is under contract, the sides can see what additional pieces — from either team, or perhaps a third, if necessary — might be necessary to make salaries match up.
It’d seem like a win, in some ways, for all parties.
Love gets to play with James on a championship contender, provided he agrees to sign with Cleveland long-term after his contract expires. The Wolves have a potentially budding superstar with a locked-in contract for the next four years around which to build and another top pick in Bennett. Both players’ contracts are locked in for the next few years, giving Minnesota free-agency flexibility moving forward. Minnesota would be able to rid itself of bad contracts such as Kevin Martin’s $7 million annual salary or J.J. Barea, both of whom have been rumored to be attached to Love in a trade.
The Cavs, in turn, have a stretch four that allows them to win without waiting for Wiggins to mature.
James reportedly reached out to Love and said he wants him in his home state, according to Yahoo! Sports. If that’s the case, then the Cavs will do their darnedest to acquiesce to their on-court overlord’s wishes.
David Griffin is Cleveland’s general manager. But if LeBron wants something, it’s overwhelmingly likely to get done.
But Wiggins is 19, hasn’t played a lick of NBA hoops save for summer league and thus still presents a risk. The Cavs realize that. So do the Wolves.
So Saunders wouldn’t mind landing some more proven talent, if possible.
Klay Thompson is to a deal with Golden State as Wiggins is to a deal with Cleveland; without him, Saunders isn’t budging. But per reports, including the Associated Press, Warriors GM Bob Myers and newly-minted coach Steve Kerr aren’t yet willing to part with Thompson’s deadly shooting and defensive abilities in exchange for a four-man who can shoot, rebound and pass but isn’t a prominent defender.
Don’t rule out Chicago just yet, either. Some murmurs have the Bulls packaging their marquee 2014 draft selection Doug McDermott, power forward Taj Gibson and a future draft pick in exchange for Love.
But unless Saunders is offered exactly what he wants by any of the above wooers, he’s in no rush. Not until midway through the season does he technically have to worry about losing Love for nothing (Love can opt out of 2015-16 on his contract and become an unrestricted free agent next summer).
Which presents the awkward scenario of Love showing up in October for training camp at the new Mayo Clinic Square training facility he helped design. Taylor told NBA-TV he thinks that’ll be the case and that an early Wolves run under Saunders, who replaced retired Rick Adelman as head coach, might convince Love to change his mind.
At the end of the day, that’s the most enticing scenario for Wolvesdom. But with the way Love’s acted this season — his Boston trip, the TV appearances, the expressed yearnings to win, etc. — it’s also the least likely.
So stay attentive. Someday, the hunt will conclude.