Kevin Love presents offseason dilemma for Timberwolves

Published 2:50am Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Column: Notes from Nashville, by Andrew Dyrdal

If the Timberwolves are smart, Kevin Love will have played his last game for Minnesota.

The Internet was buzzing on Sunday as news broke that Love allegedly informed the Timberwolves that he was planning on leaving the franchise as an unrestricted free agent at the end of next season. While rumors about Love’s future have swirled for years since the team’s previous general manager, David Kahn, signed the star to a four-year deal with a player option in the final year — instead of the maximum five-year deal he deserved — this one seems the most grounded.

Whether it’s true or not — the Timberwolves’ GM Flip Saunders or owner Glen Taylor have not confirmed the report — Minnesota should expect Love to leave next season and work to ensure it doesn’t leave empty handed.

Love is still only 25 years old, and while team’s don’t always get equal value for their superstars (remember the Kevin Garnett trade?), a trade partner could get many years with the forward during the prime of his career.

The Golden State Warriors and Chicago Bulls are two teams that reportedly “intrigue” Love. Neither of those two teams could offer much in trade picks as both teams made the playoffs and will be selecting toward the end of the draft, but the Warriors do have plenty of young talent to ante up.

The Warriors’ most valuable trade assets are sharp-shooting guard Klay Thompson (age 24), power forward David Lee (31) and small forward Harrison Barnes (21). Thompson and Barnes would likely be the most attractive to the Timberwolves and would give the team two young pieces to build with alongside Ricky Rubio.

The Celtics and Lakers are reported to also have interest in Love, though neither team seems like a desirable landing spot because both are arguably further away from championship contention than the Timberwolves. The Celtics and Lakers could both end up with top five picks in this summer’s draft, which would entice Minnesota with potential stars like Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid there for the taking.

Saunders has a lot on his plate this offseason, including finding a head coach for next season. Trading Love is another major to-do on his list.

Love is coming off a healthy season in which he played 77 games and finished third to Kevin Durant and LeBron James in ESPN’s Player Efficiency Rating. The trade value won’t be any higher during next season, so it’s imperative the Timberwolves deal him while the iron is hot.

Andrew Dyrdal’s column appears in the Tribune each Tuesday.