We all know that Kevin Love is great. The 22-year old Love is almost indisputably the NBA’s best rebounder, launches threes like a guard and makes 43% of them, knows how to score inside, and is an exceptional passer for a big man. He’s not quite a go-to scorer, and his defense is an issue, but with the right team around him, one can easily imagine Love being the second or third best player on a serious title contender.
However, thanks to Minnesota’s collection of inconsistent swingmen, incompetent defenders, and lottery picks that don’t play for the team, Love is stuck on the 9-26 Minnesota Timberwolves. Love’s rookie contract has been extended to the summer of 2012 and the Wolves almost certainly will extend him one more year beyond that (he can sign an extension this summer, if the two sides can agree), but without a major change one expects that he’ll give going to a different team serious thought.
According to Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix, other players have thought about Love’s future as well, namely Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook:
Wherever Love goes, he won’t come cheap. The five-year, $60 million extensions signed by Joakim Noah and Al Horford last year will likely be Love’s starting point in negotiations. And his deal could be bigger. When asked what kind of contract Love could be in line for this summer, one league executive’s answer was succinct: Max.
Then there is this: Love told SI.com that during last summer’s World Championship in Turkey he had conversations with USA Basketball teammates Russell Westbrook (who played with Love at UCLA) and Derrick Rose about the possibility of someday teaming up in the NBA. Oklahoma City’s Westbrook and Chicago’s Rose are also permitted to sign extensions this summer.
“We all talk about playing together,” Love said. “It’s fun to talk about. When the time comes, we’ll assess the situation and figure it out.”
Well, that’s certainly interesting. Since the Bulls have already committed to Carlos Boozer, it’s unlikely that Love and Rose will play on the same team any time soon.
Love and Westbrook, however, is a distinct possibility. Oklahoma City has Jeff Green coming off the books after this season, and Love would represent a huge upgrade over the versatile but inconsistent Green. Oklahoma also has plenty of cap space, and the prospect of playing with Westbrook and Kevin Durant should be pretty exciting to a player like Love.
Love’s efficient, unselfish style of play would make him a natural fit with Westbrook and Durant. Love wouldn’t improve Oklahoma City’s biggest issue, an inability to defend the rim, but I imagine they’ll have found some way to shore up that weakness by the time Love’s rookie deal runs out and he becomes a restricted free agent.
On paper, Oklahoma City and Love seem like a perfect fit — a young star lighting it up for an irrelevant team and an up-and-coming young team looking for one more good-to-great player to put them over the top. However, as we saw last summer, it’s hard to predict what will happen in free agency before the deals actually get signed, and Love’s free agency is a long way off. We’ll see how this develops over the next few years.