A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Minnesota should consider Oklahoma City as a Kevin Love trading partner

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Despite a strong point differential, by sitting 6 Gs behind the 8th seed Warriors and in 10th place, Minnesota’s season is all but over. With Kevin Love a season and a half until free agency, they have to start considering trading him now or this summer, to get full value for him instead of dealing from a position of weakness.

If Kevin Love for Blake Griffin is not a possibility with the latter’s surge in play recently, the team I love for Minnesota as a trade partner is Oklahoma City. Say the Thunder are willing to offer a package such as:

Serge Ibaka
One of Reggie Jackson or Jeremy Lamb
2014 Dallas 1st (protection: top 20 2014, top 20 2015, top 20 2016, top 20 2017, unprotected 2018)
2014 Oklahoma City 1st

While Kevin Love is better than Serge Ibaka, the drop-off may not hurt the Timberwolves as much as it seems because of Ibaka fits such a need. Ibaka’s shotblocking and floor spacing is a pitch-perfect fit beside Nik Pekovic, who’s defense has improved himself. Between the two of them the Timberwolves frontcourt would still be set as a two way force for the future.

In addition the Timberwolves get what they’ve lacked for years, a young blue chip 2 guard in either Jackson or Lamb. Jackson is the currently more productive player, but Lamb’s shooting and floor spacing is a better compliment to Ricky Rubio. Both appear to have a high upside.

The draft picks are also of course important. In addition to their likely lottery pick this year, if Dallas makes the playoffs the Wolves would get two other 1sts around the 21st or 22nd pick and 29th or 30th picks to fortify their team. If Dallas misses the playoffs the pick becomes an even more interesting asset, as their odds of finishing in the top 10 teams in the league by 2017 will go down once Dirk shows his age. If retired by 2018, there is no floor for how poor the Mavericks could be, or how high a pick the Timberwolves could get from them. By adding young players to a core including Rubio, Lamb/Jackson, Martin, Budinger, Ibaka, Pekovic, Shabazz, Dieng, the Timberwolves would have a talented team post Kevin Love. The model would be the Denver Nuggets, who after trading Carmelo Anthony for a group of players including a blue chip Danillo Gallinari and others like Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov and draft picks, continued to win and even set a franchise record a few years later. The Timberwolves would provide a fast brand of athleticism and skill that could not only compete for a playoff spot but be marketable to fans. It is hard for me to envision them doing better than the above.

However, the deal isn’t a no-brainer for the Thunder. At least not this trade deadline, where the team is rolling along and may not want to disrupt their chemistry. Still, especially if they once again fall short in the playoffs, it’s hard to turn down teaming Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love. Championships have been typically won in the NBA by having a stacked top 3 players and then the pieces fitting in around them. The Thunder have typically been one of the best perimeter defensive teams in the league in the Durant era, helping them play great D despite Kevin Love’s average play on that end. It also bears mentioning that Love may improve as a defender if needing to spend less energy on offense, just as Chris Bosh has been unrecognizably superior as a defender in Miami than he was in Toronto. On offense his floor spacing is a perfect fit to Westbrook and Durant’s driving, as is his offensive rebounding. The Thunder would likely be the most devastating offensive team in the team and impossible to match up with. While they would be giving up a lot in the above deal, it may be worth it to recapture the “3 star” model they gave up when losing James Harden. Despite paying a high price for Love, they wouldn’t empty out their young store of assets. They’d keep one of Jackson or Lamb, in addition to Steven Adams and Perry Jones III. It’s enough to continue Sam Presti’s history of young, cheap infrastructure around his stars.

Overall, this seems like the best fit for a Kevin Love deal because of how complimentary  to the Timberwolves lineup a return package like Serge Ibaka and Jeremy Lamb would be to help the team keep chugging along, Nuggets style. The Thunder truly go for a multiple title era.

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Written by jr.

February 14, 2014 at 2:41 pm

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