By RICK SOLEM
Everyone is talking about trading Kevin Love.
Nobody is talking about the Minnesota Timberwolves trading Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic.
They should be. When Love is gone, these two need to be, too.
It will be nearly impossible for the Timberwolves to get equal value for Love.
What Minnesota needs to do is attach all the bad decisions (terrible contracts) it made to get Love to the playoffs in order to start this overhaul.
I see two scenarios where this could be done, and the obvious one is Cleveland. Love and Co. head to Cleveland to team up with Kyrie Irving and … LeBron James.
The Cavs would get Pekovic, Martin … and James.
The Wolves would get the first pick (Joel Embiid), Dion Waiters, Anthony Bennett, Anderson Varejao and Luol Deng in a sign-and-trade.
James can opt out of his contract this season. Who would James rather play with, Irving-Love and Co. and redeem his hometown or Wade-Bosh and Co.?
The worst part of the deal is the second-best player in it: Deng. He’s an injury-prone veteran who will probably cost too much for too long in a sign-and-trade – exactly what the Wolves are trying to get away from.
A third team would need to be involved to take on whatever Deng is offered in the open market.
The deal puts a lot of onus in Embiid being a game-changer. He’s worth a shot. More than what any other team that high in the draft can offer and still give Love some semblance of a roster to contend for a title.
Remember, Love has to re-sign with the new team. He’d probably do that if James is his teammate. Probably. #Sarcasm.
One other scenario could put the Timberwolves in good shape, despite trading away one of the five best players in the league, and that’s trading him to Sacramento.
Love wants to play in California. Here’s the perfect opportunity. Love and Rubio for Demarcus Cousins and a sign-and-trade for Isiah Thomas.
No other teams in the league have a top-level talent that could make a trade worthy of Love and keep all parties happy.
And, Embiid’s the only player in this draft that completely stands out. Give the Timberwolves the choice to pick anyone else – with or without former GM David Kahn – and they’ll screw it up (see all 12 first-round picks Minnesota made in 21st century), including going 0-for-4 in landing a good one in the 2009 draft. That’s just the Timberwolves being the Timberwolves, so don’t give them a choice.
I won’t get into the draft-day blunders – trading Brandon Roy, drafting Johnny Flynn – since Kahn isn’t there anymore, but trying to get Love to the playoffs by signing Martin and re-signing Pekovic have killed the team’s future, both short- and long-term.
They should have kept Kahn on for one more year to retool this deal. Don’t sign Love for five years, but be sure to lock up Pekovic long term.
Pekovic – an injury-prone center who doesn’t block shots – signed through 2018 at over $12 million a year. And they re-signed him as a restricted free agent when no other team made him an offer. They bid and outbid against themselves.
They signed Martin, who will be 34 when his $7 million-a-year contract is up in 2017.
Love is gone. Pekovic and Martin need to go with him if the Timberwolves want any sort of restart. Then again, giving the Timberwolves and open checkbook and the ability to draft (they didn’t have a first-rounder last year) maybe isn’t the smartest thing.