To what lengths should the Minnesota Timberwolves go to keep Kevin Love?
Why are we even asking this question? After all, Love isn't eligible for free agency until the 2015 NBA offseason.
Let's just say that his future in Minnesota is up in the balance.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, Love's patience is running thin with the Timberwolves. Considering he's an All-NBA member that has never been to the postseason, it's rather difficult to blame Love for feeling this way.
Consider Minnesota to be on their last legs, as Love said the following:
I don't know who labels people stars, but even [T'wolves owner] Glen Taylor said: I don't think Kevin Love is a star, because he hasn't led us to the playoffs. I mean, it's not like I had much support out there.
That's a tough pill to swallow.
Love would continue to discuss his feelings of betrayal:
You walk into the locker room every year, and it's completely turned over. There's new guys everywhere. And then it happens again and again. You start to wonder: Is there really a plan here? Is there really any kind of a … plan?
I haven't been in the playoffs yet. I'm looking at my contract in the eye of two years from now, and if I haven't been to the playoffs – or it's been one playoff berth – well, it's going to be tough to say, "Oh well, I'm going to stay here and continue to rebuild."
You heard it, T-Wolves fans. It's now or never for Minnesota to make Love believe in its direction. But how far is far enough?
Matt Moore of CBS Sports takes the statistical approach in this instance, citing that Love is far too productive to let him walk. Even if he only played during the first half of a game, Love would still be one of the most productive players in the league.
Moore tells you why:
Kevin Love has 14 rebounds. FOURTEEN. AT HALF. And that's not at all surprising. Why would you not do everything in your power to keep him?— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) December 19, 2012
That's a question that's impossible to answer. That is, unless you're in the mind of T-Wolves general manager David Kahn.
The same Kahn who nearly ran Love out of town, as the power forward said (via The Star Tribune), “Yeah, I definitely considered [free agency]. I wanted to make a five-year commitment. When they weren’t willing to do, I feel like four years is good.”
If you're not open to making a five-year commitment to your All-NBA power forward, what are you willing to do to win games?
While we can't answer that on Kahn's behalf, we can say what Kahn should be doing.
Making the Case: Build for the Future
If the Minnesota Timberwolves were to trade Kevin Love, they'd likely receive multiple first-round draft choices and current NBA players with significant upside in return. Due to Love's age and statistical consistency, this is a realistic outcome.
Not just an NBA 2K dream.
Love is presently just 24 years old. He's also coming off of a 2011-12 regular season in which he averaged 26.0 points and 13.3 rebounds—just one year removed from his averages of 20.2 points and 15.2 rebounds in 2010-11.
Fresh off of an injury, Love is presently averaging 19.0 points and 14.2 rebounds for the 2012-13 season.
With this being known, it is hard to imagine a team not champing at the bit for an opportunity to acquire Love's services. It's also hard to imagine that said team would be unwilling to give up multiple pieces to get the deal done.
Building for the future sounds quite attractive with an already solid roster in place.
Making the Case: Win Right Now
Remember those numbers we posted in reference to why Kevin Love is of unparalleled value as a trade piece? They apply to why Minnesota should hold onto him, as well.
After all, who wouldn't want a player whose recovery from injury includes a grace period of 19.0 points and 14.2 rebounds per game?
Love may not have led the Timberwolves to the postseason, but he has never had the quality supporting cast to get things done. Not until Ricky Rubio, Andrei Kirilenko and head coach Rick Adelman joined him, at least.
So why not lock him up when the team is finally in position to win?
No matter how scary it may be to think of Love signing elsewhere, the best way to keep a player happy is to win games. As long as the Timberwolves continue to pick up the victories and make future postseason appearances, Love's morale will remain high.
If they cannot win, however, we won't see a Lovefest. We'll see another Dwightmare.
Learning From LeBron
As nice a sentiment as it may be, LeBron James didn't actually have an obligation to re-sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The same can be said for Kevin Love, who is eligible to become a free agent at the conclusion of the 2014-15 NBA season.
The only person Cleveland fans should truly blame is owner Dan Gilbert. He didn't get anything in return for LeBron's departure.
Minnesota cannot risk facing that same fate.
If Love is willing to commit long-term, the Timberwolves must lock him up before he can ever hit free agency. He's worth any financial investment that does not prevent the team from surrounding him with legitimate talent.
If he is unwilling to sign on until he tests the offseason waters, however, a trade is the only feasible option. As heartbreaking as it might be.