Which trade should Flip make?

Kevin Love

We're late in the NBA offseason transaction-wise, and with the major free agents off the board, Minnesota's Kevin Love has again moved center stage. The skinny: Love can opt out of his contract after the season and reportedly has communicated to the Timberwolves that he intends to move on as soon as possible. So coach and personnel chief Flip Saunders is left to weigh trade offers against the risk of keeping Love around in hopes that his feelings will change.

My stance hasn't changed. I don't think Minnesota should deal Love at all. Not now. Of course, my stance is pretty irrelevant being that I don't run the Timberwolves, and despite my clear-headed analysis, the rumor mill is abuzz with Love-related talk. Our report is that the Cleveland Cavaliers are likely in the lead in the Love derby, with the Chicago Bulls in pursuit. Last month, the Golden State Warriors were rumored to be a prime suitor, and it's still believed that if Golden State is willing to give up Klay Thompson, Love would be headed to the West Coast. Rumors are rumors, but after Cleveland sent Carrick Felix to Utah on Tuesday for three nonguaranteed contracts, it's apparent that something is going on.

Let's make some assumptions:

1. Saunders believes he needs to resolve the Love situation before his team hits training camp in a few weeks.

2. Minnesota will insist on getting back a mix of rotation players and future assets in hopes of remaining a playoff contender this season, thus ruling out teams that offer future assets only, such as the Boston Celtics.

3. Saunders wants to leverage Love's considerable trade value to pare veterans Kevin Martin and J.J. Barea from his payroll.

4. The teams mentioned above are actual potential trade partners and not just the product of information leaks meant to rev up the bidding.

With all that in mind, let's assess these three scenarios from the Timberwolves' perspective, since they hold all the cards. I'll use the framework of deals from the rumor mill but will tweak them so that they work under the collective bargaining agreement's trade rules. To evaluate the potential trades, I will use a methodology similar to what we used in January to rank teams' trade assets. This assigns WARP value to assets like draft picks and cap space, as well as the players involved.


1. Chicago Bulls

The deal: Chicago sends Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler, Mike Dunleavy and a future first-round pick to Minnesota for Love and sends a future first-round pick to Philadelphia. Minnesota sends Martin to Philadelphia.

Value: 41.1 future WARP

Early Tuesday, another report emerged about the Bulls offering Nikola Mirotic, Gibson and Doug McDermott, but so far it has been unconfirmed. That package creates a whole host of problems and is only marginally better. Until it's confirmed, let's discuss the deal we detailed above from ESPN's original report.

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