Let’s start with Phoenix…
In just this coming draft, the Suns have their own pick (likely 14th) plus the Wizards and Pacers picks (17th and 27th, respectively). They also own that top-5 protected pick from the Lakers as early as next year and a first round pick from Minnesota that’s top-13 protected this year and top-12 protected in 2015 and 2016. The funny thing is there is only one way that Minnesota would have to convey that pick in this year’s draft and that’s if Phoenix, who is pretty much assured of getting the 14th pick, miraculously ends up in the top-3 — thus dropping the TWolves from 13th to 14th.
**It’s an extremely unlikely scenario considering the Suns have a .5 percent chance at the top pick, a .6 percent chance at the second pick, and a .7 percent chance at the third pick.
If the Timberwolves don’t convey the pick to Phoenix by 2016, they would instead send them their second round picks in 2016 and 2017. Even though the pick can never be higher than 12th, the Timberwolves probably wouldn’t mind having it back. Add them up and the Suns could have as many as six first round picks in the next two drafts. I doubt they’d mind dumping half of them for Love, especially since the Lakers pick is the only one that will likely end up in the top-10.
If we’re talking about young players on rookie contracts, Phoenix currently has five players who were first round picks in the last three years: the Morris twins, Miles Plumlee, and two players taken in the first round of last year’s draft, Alex Len, the 5th overall pick, as well as 29th pick, Archie Goodwin. They also have Eric Bledsoe, a restricted free agent this summer who is expendable due to the emergence of Goran Dragic. Bledsoe would first have to agree to a sign-and-trade but if he did, he would be under contract in Minnesota for at least the next three years and it would give them the freedom to trade Rubio before having to decide if they should re-sign him or not.
What about the Celtics?
In the upcoming draft, the Celtics own both their own pick, likely to be in the top-5, as well as the Nets pick, 18th overall. Next year, they own the rights to the Clippers pick as well as a top-14 protected Sixers pick. Beyond that, they own the Nets picks in 2016 and 2018, plus the right to swap picks with the Nets in 2017. In total, the Celtics could have as many as 10 first-round picks over the next five drafts, plus the right to swap picks in 2017 with a Nets team that is nearly capped out already due to the 2016-17 contracts of Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, and Brook Lopez.
As far as young players are concerned, the Celtics have Jared Sullinger, the 21st pick in the 2012 draft, as well as Kelly Olynyk, the 13th pick in 2013. Sullinger is coming off a very good season, although his history of back issues might scare some teams away and Olynyk showed flashes during the season that he might be a good NBA player. However, I would assume that neither player has enough upside to satisfy Timberwolves fans. If there is one advantage the Celtics have over the Suns, it’s being in the Eastern Conference. While Minnesota would probably prefer to keep him out of the West, I doubt that it would prevent them from making the best deal they can possibly make.
Looking at what those two teams possess, I welcome anyone to try and convince me that the Lakers still have a chance at acquiring Love via trade. There is a popular theory out there that Love can force his way to the Lakers by telling all other interested teams that he won’t re-sign with them. On Twitter and on message boards, this is often referred to as “Pulling a Carmelo,” referring to when Carmelo Anthony forced his way to the Knicks in 2011.
While it’s true that Melo was able to force his way onto the Knicks, there were a few major differences between his situation and Love’s. First, Carmelo was sent to the Knicks at the trade deadline. Because he was an impending free agent, any team willing to trade for him was only guaranteed to have him for the 25 or so games that were left in that season. To give up the type of assets it was going to take to satisfy the Nuggets was way too big a risk for a team with so few games to make an impression. For the Suns and Celtics, who have so many picks, there is very little risk involved for them to give up two or three first round picks if they will have an entire season to convince Love to stay.
On the flip side, the Lakers had an entire season to convince Dwight Howard to stay and it blew up in their face. It cost them Andrew Bynum and a future first-round pick they’d probably love to have back right now. Consider that a cautionary tale. Imagine if they trade this year’s lottery pick for Love and he leaves after the season, just like Dwight did. They’d have no Kevin Love, their 2014 pick would be in Minnesota, while their 2015 pick is probably on the way to Phoenix. How do you explain that to your fans?
There is one other major difference with Carmelo’s situation. At the time of the trade, the NBA was staring down the barrel of an impending lockout and a much more owner-friendly CBA. Melo wanted to get his max extension under the terms of the old CBA. Things have definitely changed with the new CBA. There is no longer any incentive for players to sign extensions before they can become free agents. In other words, any team that wants to trade for Love won’t be scared away by him turning down an immediate extension offer because it’s expected he would decline it.
For example, when Dwight was traded to the Lakers, the max they could have offered him was a 3-year, $60 million extension. By waiting until he became a free agent, the max offer he got from the Lakers was a 5-year, $118 million extension. He might have turned them down but he still signed with Houston for four years and $88 million — one year and $28 million more than he would have got if he had signed the $60 million extension with the Lakers right away.
All of these things apply to any possible Lakers trade target, not just Love. The Lakers really have nothing to offer for anyone of real value right now. The only way they can add talent this offseason will be through the draft or by overpaying free agents like Anthony or Luol Deng. They can use some of their cap space to acquire a player from another team in a salary dump, just don’t expect it to be a game-changer because they still want maintain their flexibility for the 2015 and 2016 free agent classes.
I still have no idea what next season’s roster will look like. I do know that if you’re expecting Kevin Love to be on it, you probably shouldn’t hold your breath. At least not yet.
Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak On NBA Draft, No. 1 Pick And Trading The Pick