Ranking the potential Love landing spots, why the Celtics are in great shape

After months of dormancy on the rumor (and excitement) front -- there were finally some major Celtics-related rumblings yesterday, as Yahoo! Sports reported that the Cs are among the leading candidates to make a run at disgruntled Timberwolves' forward Kevin Love.

Love has reportedly told Minnesota that he will not be signing an extension with the team, and the team is now more open than ever to move the three time All-Star. Which means that NBA teams are lining up to get their hands on the 25-year-old superstar who averaged 26.1 points, 12.5 boards and 4.4 assists last season.

Love is not a defensive anchor, not even close, but there are those who are overrating this fact. He is a dominant force offensively and on the glass, and that showed in his +/- numbers. While Love has gotten criticism for failing to make the playoffs in any of his six NBA seasons, it's clear that the problem in Minnesota is not Love, but what happens when he goes to the bench. The Wolves were +5.6 points per 100 possessions with Love on the court last season, but -5.3 when he was sitting. That's a pretty incredible 10.9 points per 100 difference, bigger than LeBron (6.9), Kevin Durant (6.0), Paul George (6.4) or Blake Griffin (8.4). Am I saying he's better than all of these guys? No. But don't tell me that Minnesota falling apart while Love isn't in the game is somehow an indictment of his play. What's he supposed to do, yell at Jose Juan Barea and Robbie Hummel to suck less from the bench? Don't know how much that will help.

As is the case whenever a true star hits the trade market -- there is no shortage of interested teams. Yesterday, Yahoo named the Celtics, Lakers, Bulls, Warriors, Suns and Rockets as possible landing spots, which gave me an idea for a column..ranking these teams in order of what they can offer. Keep in mind, I am not Flip Saunders (in case you were confused by this), so I do not know exactly what the Wolves are looking for in a deal. So when weighing the potential packages, it's more of what I would consider the best deals for Minnesota. We'll go in order from #6 down to #1, let's get started.

#6. Warriors

Possible players: Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, Festus Ezeli

Possible picks: The Warriors traded their 2014 and 2017 first round picks last summer, meaning they cannot trade any first rounder between 2014-2018 at this moment. Once the 2014 draft passes, they could deal their 2015 pick, but not 2016/2017/2018.

In an era where first round picks are gold, the Warriors are in a world of hurt if they're trying to put together a deal for Love. Now maybe the Wolves love Thompson and would be willing to build around him (which will require a big deal next summer), but if not, Golden State doesn't have much to offer. The Warriors are also lacking a major expiring contract, making it harder to match up with Minnesota money-wise, and making it borderline impossible for them to take back any of the Wolves other contracts they may want to shed.

#5. Lakers

Possible players: Umm.. Steve Nash's expiring deal?

Possible picks: Their 2014 pick, but not until a month after the draft (deal could be agreed on but not completed until after the draft because the Lakers have already dealt their 2015 pick and can't go consecutive drafts without a first round pick). LA owes protected firsts to Phoenix (2015) and Orlando (2017) meaning they cannot deal any other picks until those debts are paid of.

Ok, let's say the Lakers land exactly where they're expected to tomorrow night -- 6th overall. That's a really nice pick, and something the Wolves would obviously like to get their hands on, but that's really the only thing LA can offer with the exception of taking some bad contracts off Minnesota's hands. Is one draft pick really giving up Love for? With some of the other offers we'll see, I really have my doubts. Now, if that pick ends up being #1 overall (I know, I know conspiracy theorists -- the Lakers are a lock to be #1 blah blah blah the league is fixed blahhhh), or even just top-three, things change a bit. But at this exact moment the Lakers aren't in a very good position, and let's hope it stays that way.

#4. Rockets

Possible players: Omer Asik, Chandler Parsons, Terrence Jones

Possible picks: Houston owns the 25th pick in this year's draft. They also own all of their own future picks, meaning they could throw in future picks in 2016 and 2018.

Again, I have no idea how much Saunders likes these players, but Houston at least has some intriguing ways to put together an offer. Something like Asik, Parsons, salary filler, the 25th pick this year and a future first would work if Minnesota considers Asik and Parsons legitimate building blocks. However, Asik will be 28-years-old next season and makes a whopping $15 million in 2013-14, and then will need a new contract. The Wolves also just gave Nikola Pekovic $60 million to be their center, so I don't know if it's really a fit. Pick wise, the Rockets have a bunch to offer, but none of them have elite value.

#3. Bulls

Possible players: Carlos Boozer (expiring), Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler

Possible picks: The Bulls have a nice little draft pick haul. They own the Bobcats 2014 pick (16th overall), plus their own pick (19th overall). They also own their own picks every year going forward.

If draft picks/salary cap relief are what the Wolves really want -- and let's face it, most rebuilding teams want that -- the Bulls can put together a pretty legit offer. They do not have any star players to offer up, but between Gibson, Butler and Boozer's expiring deal, they could take back Love and $10 million in additional salary (maybe Chase Budinger and Barea). They could also give up either (or both) of their 2014 picks, plus another pick. Unfortunately for Chicago they do not have a lottery pick to dangle, but if Minnesota likes Butler, can get 2-3 firsts, and dump some salary -- that's not a bad haul.

#2. Suns

Possible players: Alex Len, Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris, Miles Plumlee

Possible picks: Phoenix can throw a bunch of stuff in this deal. They have the 14th, 18th and 27th picks in this year's draft, plus they own the TWolves and Lakers 2015 protected picks.

I'm working with the assumption that Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe are completely off the table, but even so, the Suns can put together a nice offer. Phoenix may be the only team in the league with a better draft pick situation than the Celtics. They have three picks in this year's draft, and potentially three more next year. The only downside of these picks -- none of them are guaranteed to be in the lottery. We already know this year's won't be (well, unless you count 14th as a legit lottery pick), and if the Suns add Love, their own pick next year won't be either. And while the Wolves get back their own 2015 protected pick, that pick is protected top 12 through 2016 when it becomes two second round selections. So there's a decent chance Phoenix is never seeing that pick anyways, unless the Wolves made a playoff run (something that isn't happening if Love is dealt). But do not sleep on the Suns. They have cap space and a ton of picks, plus good weather and they're only a 50-minute flight from LA (where Love is from).

#1. Celtics

Possible players: Jared Sullinger, Avery Bradley (as a sign-and-trade), Keith Bogans (option can be declined at any point this summer, meaning you pay him nothing), Brandon Bass (expiring).

Possible picks: Where do we begin? Boston has a top-eight pick in this year's draft, which is likely to be top-five. They also have the 17th pick this year, plus two picks next season, two in 2016, the right to swap with Brooklyn in 2017, and two in 2018.

Is putting Boston #1 homerism on my part? Maybe, but I think that if the Celtics truly want Love, they have the most assets to get it done. They can offer a plethora of picks, as they own nine in the next five years. They also have a sure fire top-eight pick this year (really sure-fire top-seven), and the 2016-18 Brooklyn picks which look like they could be really nice pieces. Not locks to be anything great, but the Nets are not well set up for the future, making those unprotected picks look pretty attractive. The Celtics also have a 22-year-old power forward who's coming off of a nice 13 point, 8 rebound season, and under contract for cheap for two more seasons. If the Wolves were interested, Bradley could also head there in a sign-and-trade. But even if they're not, the Celtics have enough expiring deals to make the money work. Bogans' deal is really attractive to Minny because as soon as the trade goes through, he can be waived. That's $5.5 million off the books in an instant. Also don't forget about the $10.7 million trade exception the Celtics got in the Nets deal last summer. The Celtics could use that $10.7 mill to take either Barea or Budinger off Minnesota's hands free of charge (in a separate deal to follow NBA rules). Boston has all the assets to get this done.

But that leads me to the next question -- how much is too much? Some folks seem to think the Celtics shouldn't go hard at all, that Sully is the next Love or close to it (this is crazy to me), and that Boston should stick with the plan. Others think you do whatever it takes to make it happen.

For me, this would be my offer: 2014 Nets pick, 2015 Celtics pick (Wolves could swap with 2015 Clips pick if for some reason the Clips pick was better), 2016 Nets pick, Sullinger, Bogans, Bradley (S&T) (if Bradley/Wolves aren't interested in each other, put in Bass' expiring deal).

Trade exception for either Barea or Budinger, saving Wolves additional $5 million.

I know, crazy Mike, there's no way the Wolves go for this! Only, they might. The only team linked to Love with a top-ten pick is LA, and we've already discussed that they have nothing else in the cupboard. What would you rather have: the 7th pick in 2014 and Nash, or the 17th pick this year, a 2015 1st, a 2016 first (that could be a really nice pick), and Sullinger/Bradley? And isn't that Celtics deal on par with what the other teams listed could realistically offer? (obviously if LA lands top-three this changes and that pick becomes crazy valuable)

Now it's possible some team makes a three-team deal work that gets Minny even more assets, or one of these teams goes completely Love-crazy and offers every single asset they have. But I think that offer I listed has a shot to be the best one on the table, and the Celtics would still hold on to their own pick this season.

But whether or not this pipe dream has a shot at happening, it's clear the Celtics are going to be one of the major players here. If Ainge truly wants to find Love this summer, he will.


Report: T-Wolves looking to deal Kevin Love; Celtics to offer lottery pick in trade

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