Where Will Kevin Love Land?
Kevin Love will become a free agent in the summer of 2015, but that might not matter much longer. There's been ongoing speculation that Love wants out of Minnesota, and there's no question that the Timberwolves don't want to lose their prized big man without getting something in return. Recent reports confirm this belief, as the T'Wolves now feel they may have to trade Love prior to his free agency.
There has been a mounting list of possible landing spots for Love throughout this NBA season. This list, made up of big-market teams that would possibly sign Love as a free agent, includes the likes of the Knicks and Lakers. There are now reports that Love is intrigued by the possibility of being traded to either the Warriors or the Bulls, too. With trade talk now at the forefront, other destinations become a possibility as well. But where might Love ultimately land? And where might he win the most - and produce the most - for future fantasy owners?
The Big Apple
The Knicks are only a contender for Love's services if a certain superstar decides to skip town in free agency himself. If Carmelo does indeed leave New York to play elsewhere, he'll also leave his $23 million behind. With this kind of money, the Knicks could work wonders. However, it's hard to put a finger on the chances that Love ends up in New York because of this uncertainty. Would he excel there though? Statistically, yes. For fantasy numbers, yes. As for wins and playoff appearances, probably not.
If Love, in essence, replaces Melo in New York, it doesn't seem like much would change. In comparing the two 2013-14 campaigns, the numbers are very similar. Melo averaged 27 points, 3 assists and 8 boards while Love averaged 26 points, 4 assists and 12 boards per game. For fantasy purposes, owners would take Love over Anthony for his rebounding and assist totals, but would these stats contribute to more wins? Maybe. The Knicks defense struggled, as Melo earned a defensive rating of 108 and contributed only 2.5 defensive win shares. Love may be a slight improvement despite his reputation, as he earned a defensive rating of 104 with 3.7 defensive win shares.
Even on offense, the numbers say Love would be an improvement over Melo. Love's offensive rating of 120, nERD of 17.7 and efficiency rating of 5.0 are much better than Melo's 113, 9.9 and 2.6 in those categories. However, unless the Knicks really overhaul the team, it doesn't look like the Knicks are contending for NBA titles any time soon, with or without Love.
Conclusion: Chances of landing in NYC? Uncertain. Would he win more? Maybe, maybe not. Fantasy stud? Without a doubt. (See Melo's numbers)
The City of Angels
The Lakers, whether it's via free agency or trade, look to be true competitors in the Kevin Love market. They can surely provide Love with the contract (and money) he seeks. Sure, they're over the salary cap right now by almost $35 million, but they will only have five players under contract for 2014-15 for a grand total of $36 million. They'll have a lot of room to work in free agency and in the trade market. They could always look to sign-and-trade Pau Gasol in a package for Love, too, and they will also have a very high draft pick in the upcoming draft - another asset to work magic with in the front office. If they get the local UCLA product, could he lead the Lakers to the playoffs?
Love couldn't make the Lakers any worse than they were this season, let's be honest. His offensive prowess would surely help take some attention off of Kobe Bryant, but defensively, the Lakers may need more than what Love can offer - the Lakers' defensive rating of 110 was bad enough for 28th in the league. L.A. may have all the offensive firepower you can imagine, but without any defense, it's not likely that Love finds himself in the playoffs or competing for a title any time soon.
Conclusion: Chances of landing in L.A.? Pretty good. Would he win? Not enough. Fantasy stud? Not so much. (Kobe's career usage rate is 31.8%)
The Windy City
The Bulls have only recently become a factor in what is becoming the Kevin Love sweepstakes. Chicago would likely trade for Love rather than pursue his talents through free agency.
Unlike the Knicks and Lakers, the Bulls did have some success this year, as they reached the first round of the playoffs after posting a 48-34 record. But the chances of getting Love seem slim for the Bulls, as they have some salary cap issues, among other things. They don't have many great assets to trade - well, ones that they are willing to part with, at least. The Bulls are built around defense, and (as mentioned above) defense is not Love's strength.
On the other hand, Love's offensive talents sure could help out the struggling Bulls offense, as the Bulls' offensive rating of 102.5 ranked 28th in the league last year. Love could definitely take some of the offensive load off of a returning Derrick Rose, but the fit is questionable with a center like Noah - another play-making big man already on the squad. The chances of Love getting to Chicago are questionable, but the chances of succeeding there seem better than in New York or Los Angeles.
Conclusion: Chances of landing in Chicago? Unlikely. Would he win? For sure. Fantasy stud? No. (Chicago's pace of 90.2 was 29th in the league)
The Warriors have also just recently become players for Kevin Love. They could trade for him, but it might be a stretch considering the makeup of the Golden State roster and the salary cap restrictions that accompany it. David Lee and his value to the team is very similar to that which Love would offer as well, absent Love's three-point shooting ability. Lee and Love also share roughly the same salary, at $15 million each.
It would be tough for Minnesota to justify trading a large contract for another when that player is worse (no offense, David Lee) than the one they are bringing in. In addition to this difficulty, it would be hard for Golden State to part with either Andre Iguodala or Klay Thompson in a package deal for Love. I'm not sure that Harrison Barnes is much of a bargaining chip at this point either, as he failed to show much improvement this season.
But the Warriors do have one thing on their side: their winning ways. Golden State finished 51-31 this year as they, for the second year in a row, made the playoffs. They have a great nucleus of young players and have high expectations for next year (as evidenced by the firing of Mark Jackson). I'm sure new head coach Steve Kerr would embrace the thought of bringing Love aboard, but Love's three-point stroke (37% this season) and offensive skill set sure could thrive on this high-paced Warriors team (96.2, 6th in the league).
Conclusion: Chances of landing in Oakland? Very unlikely. Would he win? Yes. Fantasy stud? Definitely. (Sixth-fastest pace)
The Valley of the Sun
The Suns appear to be the underdogs in the race for Love, as only a few people are talking about them as a contender for Kevin Love's services. But the Suns have a lot of desirable features. Their team is young, talented and proven. They missed making the Western Conference playoffs by a mere game with a record of 48-34, coming out of nowhere this year thanks a lot to their outstanding general manager, Ryan McDonough.
McDonough has assembled a team full of talent via the draft and trades. He may be the type of guy to go out and get a player like Love to solidify his team with some experience and superstar power. It may require giving up the Morris twins and one of their first-round picks in this year's draft, but that price may just be reasonable enough to bring Love to the desert.
Playing alongside the likes of Bledsoe and Goran Dragic, Love would be a sight to see. But is Love sold on the Suns' chances of going deep into the playoffs in pursuit of an NBA championship? Only time may tell.
It may come down to balancing the good and the bad. The good is the prolific Suns offense. They earned an offensive efficiency rating of 109.5, good enough for eighth in the league. The bad is the Suns average defense - the Suns ranked 15th in the league this year with a defensive rating of 106.7. Clearly Love would add to the good and the bad with his elite offensive repertoire and his lackluster defense. But the Suns would be that much closer to cracking the top eight in the Western Conference.
Conclusion: Chances of going to Phoenix? Not great. Would he win? If he's patient. Fantasy stud? Yes! (Phoenix averaged 105 points per game this year)