By John Schmeelk
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Kevin Love has been telling the Timberwolves that he won’t be in their long-term plans for some time, and it appears they finally believe him.
Love has a chance to opt out after next season and if reports are correct, Minnesota will be open to trading their superstar now to make sure they maximize their return. It’s doubtful a team would agree to trade for Love without some kind of guarantee he will sign a contract extension, which makes things tricky for Flip Saunders and the Timberwolves.
It’s been said that Love would prefer to land in New York or Los Angeles, but would also consider other markets that could offer an immediate chance to win a championship.
That completes the formula: superstar wanting out of small market equals people concocting trades to get superstar to New York. But unfortunately for the Knicks, as is often the case, they don’t have the assets to land him.
The one thing the Knicks would be able to offer Minnesota is salary cap relief. They have a multitude of expiring contracts (Amar’e Stoudemire, Andrea Bargnani, Tyson Chandler) that they could send to Minnesota for not only Love, but also the long-term cap-sucking contracts of Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic. It would clear Minnesota’s cap to go after the much-discussed 2015 free agent class. But that’s not enough for the Timberwolves because they can’t be confident that they can attract those upper-echelon players to commit to a place like Minnesota. They have to build through young players and the draft. Putting together a team via free agency is not a realistic option for them.
The Timberwolves are going to want more than cap relief. The only young player that has multiple years left on his contract that New York could offer is Tim Hardaway Jr. Iman Shumpert’s contract expires after next season. The next first-round draft pick that the Knicks can trade isn’t until 2018. In other words, Phil Jackson can offer nothing of value except Hardaway and cap relief. The Lakers aren’t much better, but at least they have a high lottery pick in this year’s draft.
Other teams are in much better position. The Celtics, Suns and Bulls all have multiple draft picks they could offer Minnesota, as well as young guns. If Love is willing to go to one of those locations (assuming they want him) and sign an extension, a trade wouldn’t be difficult to figure out. Their offers would be far better than anything the Knicks could conjure.
But even if Love could magically find his way to the Knicks, he wouldn’t be a good fit with Carmelo Anthony. Both are offensive-minded players best suited to play power forward. Both rebound well, but neither are considered any better than an average defender. Neither can guard today’s more athletic and mobile small forwards. The Knicks would be signing up for another round of Melo and Amar’e, two players that mimic each other’s skill sets.
If the Knicks want to win a title with Anthony, they’ll need to surround him with a real point guard, shooters that can defend and a defensive-minded center that can finish around the basket. Love can certainly stretch the floor, but he doesn’t meet those other criteria. If Carmelo decides to walk, it’s a different conversation. A player like Love can be built around, especially since his max contract would be a much better bargain than Anthony’s.
Love to the Knicks in a trade is not realistic. It is not going to happen, no matter how much Jackson might try. Unless he actually has Zen powers of hypnotism, it is not going to work.
Besides, the Knicks need to build with their young players and draft picks, not trade them away.
People are just applying the age-old “Get Them To New York” formula. But in this case, the math doesn’t add up.
– Don’t rule him out completely, but the odds that Kevin Ollie leaves Connecticut right after signing a big extension are very small. That’s another coach off the Knicks’ radar.
– With the upheaval in the front office, Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger could be let go (though reports say he is staying put) and he should be immediately be put near the top of the Knicks’ coaching list if that happens. He is the architect behind the Grizzlies’ defense, which is consistently near the top of the league. Whether it could work would depend on whether he would allow Jackson to influence him to install the triangle offense.
– It feels like Derek Fisher is Jackson’s next coaching choice. I hope he has reached out to Fisher to at least see if he is interested in coaching next season. Otherwise, waiting for the conference finals to end would be a fool’s errand. Jackson was already burned by being patient with Kerr, and he risks the same thing happening here.
Follow John on Twitter @Schmeelk for everything Knicks, Giants, Yankees and the world of sports.
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