Kevin Love is a battlefield

Kevin Love drives by DeMarcus Cousins. (Photo: Steven Chea)

The Sacramento Kings, like plenty of other teams around the league, have thrown their hats in the ring for the Kevin Love sweepstakes.  There is no guarantee that the Minnesota Timberwolves will deal the 25-year-old three-time All-Star, but his agent has made it pretty clear to the team that he intends to leave next summer as a free agent.  And the Kings have made it clear that they are willing to deal for the talented forward without any assurances that he would stay in Sacramento beyond the 2014-15 season.

This is a not a typical situation.  In fact, it is a very complex issue that requires an in-depth look.

Can’t Buy Me Love

We could spend all day debating whether the Kings have the necessary assets to land a player of this caliber. Let us assume for a moment that they do and that the cost is Ben McLemore, the No. 8 overall selection in 2014 NBA Draft and a grouping of miscellaneous contracts (expiring or not) that get close enough to Love’s $15.7 million salary to make it all work.

Sacramento has a boatload of expiring contracts, including Derrick Williams, Travis Outlaw, Reggie Evans and a wild card in Jason Terry. They also have a pair of power forwards – Jason Thompson and Carl Landry – that could be attached to the deal in order to absorb some of Love’s minutes.

The Power of Love

If we continue down the rose-colored path, let’s assume that Rudy Gay decides that the addition of Love makes his decision to stay in Sacramento an easy one.  With Love, Gay and center DeMarcus Cousins on the same front line, the Kings would be beyond formidable for at least one season.

Love’s PER of 26.9 ranked third in the league last season, slightly better than Cousins’ 26.1 (fifth overall).  He averaged 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists while hitting 37.6 percent of his 505 3-point attempts. He fills most of the boxes for general manager Pete D’Alessandro – a rebounding, passing big man with range.

Sacramento would have work to do to fill out the roster.  Isaiah Thomas would give the team a fourth legitimate scorer, but the Kings would still need defenders if they hoped to be more than just a great offensive team.

Love Don’t Cost a Thing

Actually, Kevin Love would cost plenty.  The No. 8 pick in this year’s draft could develop into a star.  Aaron Gordon, Marcus Smart and Noah Vonleh all have high-end potential. All three could be available when Sacramento makes its pick.

Adding to the cost would be the loss of McLemore.  The 21-year-old guard had a rough rookie season, but still has the potential to be a very good NBA player.  If he was in this year’s draft, he would still be a top-10 pick. Furthermore, playing alongside a guard like Ricky Rubio would considerably aid his growth.

Lastly, there is a potential hidden cost to making the trade.  Sacramento owes the Chicago Bulls a future first-round pick that is top-10 protected over the next three seasons.  If Love helps the team make the playoffs, or even get close to the playoffs, the Kings would lose what amounts to a third first-round draft pick for a player that might play one season and then walk away.

You Can’t Hurry Love

Love has a HUGE decision to make next summer.  He has an early termination in his contract that allows him to opt out of the final year of his 4-year, $61 million deal.  While $16.7 million is a lot to walk away from, Love is considered a max-money player that will get paid no matter what.  But there is one more issue in play.

Currently, the NBA makes approximately $930 million a year for its national television deal.  That money is divided 30 ways and is included in the league’s BRI (Basketball Related Income), which is then used to create the salary cap.

The NBA is about to renegotiate its TV deal and the early projections have the $930 million-per-year figure doubling (potentially more, even).  If those projections hold true, the NBA salary is about to take a monumental leap and any player signing a contract after that leap is in for a tremendous pay raise.

Max money for a player like Love begins at 30 percent of the salary cap with 7.5-percent annual raises.  30 percent of $63.2 million cap is a starting salary of roughly $19 million and projects out at $110 million over five years.  If Love waits and plays two years on his current contract and the NBA locks into a new, more lucrative contract, as expected, he could fetch a contract with a beginning salary around $23 million and an overall valuation well over $130 million over five seasons.

You’ve Lost that Lov(ing) Feeling

Despite the money and the potential for greatness, Kevin Love could very well walk away from this dream Kings scenario next summer.  To compound that thought, Rudy Gay (if he opts in) could do the same.  No Love, no Gay, no McLemore, no No. 8 selection and no first round-pick the next season if the 2014-15 team has success.

D’Alessandro would have to scramble to put together a team for its new arena opening in 2016.  This would be disastrous, to say the least.

Crazy Little Thing Called Love

The idea of putting Love alongside Cousins and Gay is tantalizing.  It has all the makings of a legitimate championship contender.  But once the move is made, there is no going back.

Sacramento would be putting every egg they have in one single basket – one idea.  An idea that could blossom into something great or completely undo a franchise.  If played correctly, it is the type of move that would make D’Alessandro into an instant genius.  If it goes south, I wouldn’t want to be the guy who had to tell DeMarcus Cousins.


James Ham

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