Blakely: Love suitors won't tip hand this early

Blakely: Love suitors won't tip hand this early
June 18, 2014, 3:45 pm
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BOSTON — Like the breezy gusts felt by those relaxing in Aruba, the trade winds of the NBA also have a way of changing quickly and without notice.

Just when it seemed the consensus for so many was that Boston was the leader in the Kevin Love sweepstakes, out comes reports indicating that other teams such as Golden State, Chicago and Denver want to get in and may potentially be in better position to pull the trigger on a deal.

Sorting through all the truths, half-truths and pipe dreams, there are some indisputable facts.

Minnesota doesn't want to trade Kevin Love, but has little choice because the three-time All-Star is tired of the cold winters followed by playoff game-free springs in late April and early May.

Boston is interested in making a deal for Love and have lots of assets to make it happen.

Love is interested in Boston, enough to where he came to the city to check it out on his own time and dime.

But the X-factor in this entire process is Flip Saunders, whose dual role as Minnesota's coach and decision-maker on personnel moves may be creating a conflict of personal interest.

As the coach, he wants to win now, which is understandable. He has been through enough rebuilding projects in Minnesota before.

It ain't pretty.

Eventually, Saunders molded them into a playoff team, but one that never had home-court advantage in the first round until 2004, when they advanced all the way to the Western Conference finals.

But that was so, so long ago.

Kevin Love has logged six seasons in Minnesota, with his only playoff experience being whatever he saw on TV.

And when you look at their team now, even with Love, they're on the outside of the playoff bubble, looking in.

There have been some interesting names tossed around as possible additions to the Minnesota roster in exchange for Love, but there has yet to surface a player combination that on paper at least, makes Minnesota any better than a team that could contend for a playoff berth.

If teams are willing to give you proven talent like say, Golden State's Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes, they're not as inclined to empty the shelf of draft picks, too.

That's where the Celtics come into the picture.

Boston doesn't have the kind of talent that would make Minnesota eager to do a deal, but they have a ton of draft picks.

And if the Timberwolves ever want to get back to being at least a steady playoff team (even if they don't go any farther than the first round), they're best hope of doing that is to land an impact player or two in the draft.

Minnesota, much like Boston, is not the most popular free-agent destination in the world. And while trading is always an option, facilitating such deals is easier when you can grease it with a pick here and there.

A trade for Boston would enable them to do that, plus the Timberwolves would most likely have nice young talent to add to the roster in either Kelly Olynyk and/or Jared Sullinger.

From the Timberwolves' perspective, neither of those players has any sizzle to make them or any team for that matter, excited about this deal.

Still, even in a trade in which Minnesota acquires more talent, it's hard to imagine it'll be enough to catapult them to being any better than a playoff team that starts on the road.

That's the best-case scenario Minnesota can have in a deal with Chicago or Golden State who have been on the short list of leaders for Love all along.

And while either team may throw in a pick or two, those picks won't be near the top of the draft order and probably won't be as plentiful in number as the Timberwolves would like.

Boston has three picks coming from Brooklyn, and with the Nets likely headed for a decline sooner rather than later, those picks become extremely valuable commodities.

That's why the Celtics' offerings would on the surface appear to be more enticing; at least it would to the GM side of Saunders.

Lots of draft picks means lots of opportunities to either find a player as good or better than Love; or it affords them an opportunity to package those picks with some talent in exchange for a potential impact player - similar to what the Celtics are trying to do now.

And as far as the best offer Minnesota can get, that's not going to manifest itself until the days and hours prior to the June 26 draft.

For teams, there's no point in putting your best offer out there now.

It's like a card game and you show your hand immediately after the cards are dealt.

Who does that?

For the Timberwolves, it serves no purpose to commit to any deal now (publicly or privately) with the knowledge that a better opportunity will likely come into focus on the eve of the draft.

So, as the speculation continues to escalate about which team has the best to offer, the Timberwolves will sit back and evaluate what's in their best interest.

As much as we'll focus on the types of deals Minnesota will receive, the ultimate determining factor in all this is Saunders.

Will that be Saunders the GM? Or Saunders the coach? Because in this instance, the two may not necessarily be one and the same.

And that'll keep the trade winds of speculation continuing to swirl a little while longer.