Judging by that criteria, what do the Lakers have that the Timberwolves could possibly want? If you’re to believe Kupchak, the Lakers would consider parting with their pick in the upcoming draft. The only problem is that we won’t know how valuable that pick is until the draft lottery on May 20. But if the Lakers needed to include another first-round pick, the earliest pick they could include would be in 2019. That’s because the NBA forbids teams from trading first-round picks in consecutive drafts and the Lakers have already traded away their 2015 and 2017 picks.
Technically, they Lakers aren’t even allowed trade their upcoming pick but they could work around that by making the pick on behalf of the Timberwolves and then waiting until after the draft for it to become official. However, that strategy doesn’t come without risk. Say the Timberwolves decide there are only three players in this year’s draft they would consider taking in a trade for Love. If the Lakers end up drafting sixth, and all three of those players are off the board when it’s time for them to make their selection, that possibility might no longer exist.
**In order to avoid leaving any stones unturned, there are two other potential first round draft picks the Lakers could include in a package for Love. Both the 2015 and 2017 first-round picks that the Lakers traded to Phoenix and Orlando are top-5 protected. Meaning, if either pick lands in the top-5, the Lakers would keep it and the picks would roll over to the next year with different conditions. So technically speaking, the Lakers could offer Minnesota either or both picks, in the event that the pick(s) land in the top-5 and they retain them. The only issue there is that there is a very slight chance that a team with Kevin Love and a healthy Kobe Bryant would wind up with a top-5 pick. While it’s definitely a possibility, it isn’t enough to persuade Minnesota to pull the trigger. Would you trade a $100 bill for $20 and two $1 lottery scratchers? That’s kind of the same thing.
As far as young players on cheap contracts, the only ones the Lakers can currently include are Robert Sacre, Ryan Kelly, Kendall Marshall, and Kent Bazemore. While I like the potential of all four of those guys, there are plenty of free agents willing to play for the NBA minimum with just as much potential. Trying to convince Minnesota that those guys make your trade offer significantly better would be like a restaurant trying to convince you to pay for ketchup.
The Lakers ability to absorb bad contracts might be their only other asset. By renouncing the rights to all of their free agents, including Pau Gasol, Jodie Meeks, and Jordan Hill, and using the stretch provision on Steve Nash, they could have as much as $28.2 million in cap space. Looking at the Timberwolves spreadsheet, the only contract I’d guess they would love to dump is the three years, and $21.25M remaining on Kevin Martin’s deal. Considering they signed Martin to reunite him with Adelman for a third time, he is surely expendable now that Adelman is gone.
Assuming that Nikola Pekovic and Ricky Rubio are their only untouchables, all of their other contracts are for one or two more years at $5 million or less per season. While the Lakers might be willing to help relieve Minnesota’s payroll for next season by taking back the expiring contracts of J.J. Barea ($4.5M), Alexey Shved ($3.3M), or Luc Richard Mbah a Moute ($4.4M), I can’t imagine they have any interest in Martin eating up $7M of their cap space in 2015-16 or $7.4M the year after that. The same can be said for Corey Brewer’s $4.9M in 2016-17.
Chase Budinger, another player who reunited with Adelman in Minnesota, is owed $5M next season and has a $5M player option for 2015-16. While that might actually prove to be a bargain given his skillset, Budinger has missed 100 games over the last two seasons due to ankle and left knee injuries.
There is one other asset the Lakers have that might be of interest to Minnesota. Considering that Rubio is still only 23-years-old, the Timberwolves might have an interest in bringing in Gasol to aid in his development. While it’s true the Lakers could include a sign-and-traded Pau as part of a package for Love, Pau would first have to agree to it and that might require Minnesota to overpay Gasol, in either years and/or dollars, in order to keep him from signing with either a contender or a team in a warm weather city. That in itself might be enough to turn them off.
If the Lakers best package for Love centers around the sixth pick in this year’s draft, a 34-year-old Pau Gasol, and the ability to absorb Kevin Martin’s contract, there are far better options out there. For example, if it’s draft picks and young players on rookie contracts that Minnesota wants, the Lakers are the last team they should be discussing trades with. Compare how little the Lakers have to offer with what two other teams can offer them.
Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak On NBA Draft, No. 1 Pick And Trading The Pick