If you have followed me, or this site, for any period of time you know that I am not the biggest fan of the rumor mill. It’s not that potential deals aren’t exciting, but more about the fact that once pandora’s box is opened with the thought of the Lakers making a major deal, fans start to ignore some basic truths about how deals are made and let their imaginations run wild about making the best deal for the Lakers while ignoring that the other team actually has to accept this fictional proposition.
I bring all this up to set the stage for the latest rumor making the rounds. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, quoting another NBA executive, the Minnesota Timberwolves will consider trading all-star big man Kevin Love:
The Wolves are under pressure to start considering trade scenarios for Love, who’s anxious to exercise his early termination option (ETO) in the summer of 2015 and leave as a free agent, league sources said.
“For the first time, [Saunders] sounds like looking at deals for [Love] is an option,” one rival executive told Yahoo Sports.
But that’s not all. With Love potentially available via trade, teams will be lining up the acquire the veteran. Including the Lakers:
The Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns are among many teams determined to make hard runs at trades for Love, league sources said. Boston and Los Angeles plan to make high-lottery picks in the 2014 NBA draft available in offers for Love, sources said.
No team is likely to trade for Love without an assurance that he’ll commit to a five-year, $100 million maximum contract extension. Despite a belief that Love prefers Los Angeles or New York as a potential destination, he’s open to deals in other markets where he can be part of an immediate contender, sources said.
It would be no surprise that the Lakers would want Love. Not only is he one of the top 10 to 15 players in the league, but he’s a local kid who attended UCLA and, as reported above, has expressed some interest in being a Laker. Put it all together and you have the ingredients for a deal, right? Well, not so fast…
The report above mentions that the Lakers would be willing to part with their lottery pick in the upcoming draft as a key piece to facilitating the trade. Only problem is, it’s really not that simple. On twitter I posed this question to the great Larry Coon:
Need @LarryCoon‘s insight on how the Lakers could trade their pick for Love on draft night when they have no cap space to absorb his deal.
— Darius Soriano (@forumbluegold) May 18, 2014
Coon’s answer, spanning several tweets, in summary:
They can’t. (The Lakers) won’t have cap space until July 1st, and can’t absorb Love’s salary without similar salary going out. Also, Stepien Rule is in play. Best they could do would be to agree to terms of a deal at the draft, Lakers select a player of the Wolves’ choosing, and they complete a deal in July.
Let’s tackle this piece by piece:
- As it stands today, and what will also be true on draft day, the Lakers do not have any cap space to simply trade their draft pick for Kevin Love. Instead, what they would need to do is trade a player (or players) who are under contract (and, presumably the lottery pick they are reportedly willing to include) for Kevin Love. This is necessary due to the salary cap rules that govern trades. When the Lakers make their pick at next month’s draft, they will only have 3 players under contract — Kobe, Nash, and Robert Sacre — and none of those players are a match in salary to do a simple trade with the Wolves.
- Because of the Stepien Rule — named after former Cavs owner Ted Stepien — the Lakers cannot simply trade the “pick” to the Wolves in any trade. Because the Lakers traded last year’s pick, they must actually make a selection in this year’s draft. They would be able to trade the player they drafted, however. This is why Coon mentions that the Lakers would essentially be making a selection for the Wolves (in this scenario).
- Any deal with the Wolves would need to be consummated in July because that is when the Lakers will either A). have the cap space available to make a trade due to the renouncing of enough of their free agents to get far enough under the cap to absorb Love’s salary without sending similar contracts back or B). be able to use the Bird Rights of one (or more) of their free agents to do a sign and trade with the Wolves where they send enough salary to Minnesota to make a legal trade under the CBA. Of course, it should be noted, that any sign and trade the Lakers do will rely on the player they are trying to trade agreeing to go to a Minnesota team that just traded away their best player.
If all of this sounds difficult, it’s because it is. And this doesn’t even take into account that, as Wojnarowski reports, other teams will be lining up to make offers to the Wolves which is sure to drive the price up. Considering that those other teams mentioned have some very good assets to offer (Phoenix and Boston have multiple first round picks this year and in the years to come while the Warriors have a combination of young talent and enough salary ballast to accept some of the Wolves’ bad contracts) and it is clear that the Lakers will face an uphill battle in trying to put the together the most attractive offer.
Long story short, if you were getting your hopes up that the Lakers would somehow find a way to trade for Kevin Love this summer, you shouldn’t be. The odds are stacked against them. Severely. And you were wondering why the rumor mill doesn’t really excite me.