Should the Sixers pursue Kevin Love?

June 20th, 2014 by Kyle Lutz | Filed under Basketball, General, Sixers.

(AP Photo/Mike Fuentes)

Per USA Today, Timberwolves’ star forward Kevin Love is involved in trade talks with the Warriors, potentially for forward David Lee, shooting guard Klay Thompson, and a future first-round pick. That’s Minnesota general manager Milt Newton’s proposal to Golden State’s GM Bob Myers. It’s Myers’ call at this point on whether or not to approve or nix the proposal.

And if he doesn’t, or if things remain the same anyway due to various circumstances, does Sixers’ GM Sam Hinkie get involved then in potentially acquiring the All-Star forward?

It will take a lot, and rightfully so considering the talent level of Love, to acquire Love from Minnesota; but the Sixers have adequate pieces in order to be in the hunt to pursue him. Perhaps more than any team in the NBA at the moment does. This year’s upcoming draft — which will air a week from today at the Barclays Center in New York — the 76ers have two first-round picks; both within the top 10, including the third-overall pick; five second-round picks, and seven picks total spanning the first two rounds. That’s a ton of picks for any team to select from, in terms of mapping out a return piece(s) in a trade.

It all depends on needs and wants at this point, for numerous teams, especially the 76ers and T’Wolves. Love has become vocal and has made it known that he’s unhappy with the “lack of respect” by some of his teammates in Minnesota, namely (former Villanova forward) Dante Cunningham and J.J. Barea, and for his lack of minutes at times as well.

Over two weeks ago, it was reported that Minnesota’s current head coach, President of Basketball Operations, and part owner Flip Saunders fully expects Love to be apart of the club next season, despite all the trade rumors floating around the past several months.

“The last I knew Kevin was under contract with us, and I expect him to be playing for us next year,” Saunders said Sunday after a workout of draft prospects. “I don’t really dictate where guys go on vacation or what they do. They can go wherever they want to go.”

“I know there’s a feeding frenzy out there from a lot of teams,” Saunders said. “Unfortunately, they have no say. I plan on Kevin being here.”

Whether that statement’s true or not remains to be seen. Love is currently under contract for next year at $15 million. In January of 2012, he signed a four-year extension with the Wolves worth a total amount of $60 million. It’s a large sum of money, but he’s proven himself to be worth it, and to remain healthy and on the court too, to be able to have a chance to prove his worth.

This past season, he played in all but five games, averaging 26.1 points and 12.5 rebounds per game in 36.3 minutes/game, spanning 77 games. It was just his sixth professional season, all with Minnesota, after being drafted fifth overall six-years ago by Memphis in the 2008 NBA Draft out of UCLA. A pro of acquiring Love, besides his strong rebounding skills, numbers, scoring ability, and consistency would be his age; as he’s only 25, and has many more years ahead of him in the league.

Love’s not a run-of-the-mill player either; he’s special, and one of a kind. Four seasons ago, he broke Moses Malone’s 1979-80 all-time NBA record for most consecutive double-doubles (in this case, for points/rebounds) since the NBA-ABA merger of 1976 (Wilt Chamberlain holds the all-time record pre or post merger with 227 from 1964-67). During those two seasons, Malone set the record with a streak of 51 consecutive games with a double-double, and 31-years later, Love broke the record and set a new one with 53-consecutive double-doubles of his own. If Love somehow became a 76er in the near future, he would be the third consecutive Sixer to be apart of that record (pre or post merger), which is pretty cool.

Although two seasons ago Love broke the third and fourth metacarpals on his right shooting hand that required him to miss six-eight weeks, he recovered impressively this season, nearly playing in every game, after missing 64 games the year before. Outside of that aforementioned 2012-13 season, in six seasons in the NBA, he’s managed to stay pretty healthy; playing in 88% of the games during that time span. That’s a big draw as well for a contender willing to part with players/draft picks to acquire a great player like Love; a big man who can stay healthy.

Another draw for the Sixers, if they’re willing to attempt to at least try to go down that road, is the fact that he’s played well up to the standards of his contract too since signing the lucrative deal two and a half years ago. A lot of athletes, past and present, see dollar signs and play lazy, uninspired basketball and don’t live up to the type of player they were in earlier years before the high-salary contracts came roaring in. That’s good to see that Love isn’t one of those players; he plays passionately, consistently, aggressively, and up to his standards every night he’s out there; which is respectable.

The question, in terms of whether or not Philadelphia should pursue him, is what Minnesota wants in return for him from us in a trade. Newton would probably try to pry the third-overall pick in this year’s draft, plus more, from Hinkie in return for Love, but if I were the Sixers, I’d throw in the # 10 pick in this year’s draft, a bunch of the second-round picks in this year’s draft that we acquired via trade this past season’s trade deadline, and maybe a player or two. It also depends on what Newton and Saunders, for Minnesota, are willing to part with besides Love. Trading numerous draft picks and players for one great player may sound enticing, but more would need to be done on the other side in order to adequately get a fair deal in return, besides just Love. So, for discussion’s sake, maybe Minnesota could/would additionally throw in a couple future draft picks or a player/pick combo to compliment the acquisition of Love.

Hinkie’s too smart to part with such a high pick in this year’s draft, for the Sixers, that could determine and mean so much for this organization for years to come. Established superstars already in the league, young or old, will want to come play here to play alongside guys like Michael Carter Williams, Nerlens Noel, Andrew Wiggins/Jabari Parker/Joel Embiid (whoever that number-three pick ends up being), etc. Then, you can add little pieces from there that are essential to composing a formidable, championship-model team; like strong rebounders, good bench players, three-point shooters, etc. And everything will come into place, so trading the number-three pick for Love, unless the deal really favors Philadelphia, wouldn’t make much sense practically.

But if you’re Sam Hinkie and the right deal comes along, or so you think, why not pull the trigger for a young superstar, superior rebounder, and scorer like Kevin Love? And for what it’s worth, even if that means parting with the number 10 pick that you acquired via New Orleans in the Jrue Holiday deal, at least you still retained the higher, more important pick, and (presumably) some of your second-round picks as well; that could be of great use come later on, depending upon who they select with those picks.

So to answer the main question, if I were Sam Hinkie, I would trade for Love if the right deal came around; without a doubt. Additionally, it would have to mean that I hold on to at least some of my top assets too both on and not on the team currently. Of course, to acquire talent, you have to give some back in return, but it’s all bargaining at this point for his services. And if acquired, you wouldn’t have to worry either about figuring out the right deal for him going forward, as he’s already locked up financially at the moment (see financial details above).

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