Kevin Love. The name is just to damn ripe for musical puns. And I’m not gonna lie. I mulled over many different titles for this post, which as you might be able to guess, is our latest 5-on-5 about the Kevin Love rumors. I started with “Love Me Do,” then went to “What’s Love Got to do With It?” Once I came across “Bizarre Love Triangle” I was dead set on rolling with it because that song kicks ass and I love New Order, but I didn’t really see the triangle connection. I also contemplated “Whole Lotta Love,” “Lotta Love,” (the Nicolette Larson cover, though the Neil Young version is just glorious, as most all Neil songs are) “Hello, I Love You” and nearly went with “Sowing the Seeds of Love” before finally settling on “Do You Believe In Love?” because I was tired of rifling through the 700 songs on my iPod with the word “love” in them and it just fit damnit!
Ahem… Anyways, as you might be able to gather, I’m somewhat musically obsessive, somewhat crazy and entirely enthralled by this story. So is one of our loyal readers, Frederick Barteldes, who joined us in our hodgepodge examination of trading for Kevin Love. As always, feel free to play along in the comments section below by including your answers to the questions in bold.
1. What was your initial reaction to the Kevin Love rumors?
Vytis: Any time the Nuggets have even a slight chance to add their first legitimate top-tier superstar since Carmelo Anthony, you have got to be excited for the team. Visualizing Ty Lawson and Kevin Love demolishing teams with high pick-and-rolls is mouth watering.
Joel: My optimism for this offseason remains cautious, but this is a positive sign. The Nuggets are clearly committed to not only remaining competitive but being a successful playoff team. However, significant improvements must be made to accomplish that goal, and Denver’s pursuit of Love appears to acknowledge that. As such, it’s a good indication that last season served as a serious reality check for the front office, and that they’re planning to act on the lessons learned.
Erlingur: Apprehension. Do the Nuggets really have a legitimate shot at contending with other teams that have more attractive assets? Also, would Love want to extend with the Nuggets? Will he look at the roster sans Faried and Chandler (and whatever additional assets they give up for him) and think “Yes, this is my contending squad,” or as something just enough to prove he can make the playoffs to get a big payday in a year? Or is this just a part of the silly season, trying to link a new team to the Kevin Love sweepstakes to keep the clicks coming?
Bill: My initial reaction was positive, since, like so many other Nuggets fans, I’m tired of the doldrums and I want to see the front office go for something. I didn’t think (and maybe still don’t) that this is something that will actually pan out, but I like hearing Denver come up in conversations like this. I think Denver needs to put itself out there as a great place to live and play basketball. It’s a good organization and the city is doing well, but I don’t think NBA players think about it in those terms.
Kalen: Honestly… trepidation. There was a little excitement mixed in as well, but a move this grandiose from an inexperienced, first-year general manager with a fairly cryptic track record doesn’t exactly soothe my soul. I think I like the idea of trading for Love more than I do the reality of what could transpire once he arrives in Denver.
2. How does this news affect the way you view Tim Connelly?
Vytis: He hasn’t had much of a chance to do anything up until now, but the fact that he is not content with this mediocre roster and is reportedly willing to swing a major deal is reassuring.
Joel: After the season ended, Connelly repeatedly asserted the Nuggets’ intention to be aggressive this offseason in improving the roster. I take the Love rumor to be an affirmative sign that he wasn’t just talking the talk, but is indeed walking the walk — or at least attempting to. I wrote before about my doubts as to how much he can accomplish this summer, but it’s encouraging to see that he at least does not intend to stand pat.
Erlingur: He’s bold. Connelly wants to make an impact on this league. That’s plain to see. He is looking to make the team better, but sometimes he seems to focus more on fantasy stats than team fit, successful pedigree or championship potential. That applied for JJ Hickson, and to an extent, Randy Foye last year. Going for Kevin Love only strengthens that connection in my head.
Bill: It’s not an exciting answer, but I’m not sure it has really changed how I see him. He seems like a really likable dude, but I haven’t yet seen enough to have a concrete opinion of him in this role. Again, I like that Denver comes up in the conversation, but I don’t necessarily love this trade for the Nuggets (I probably would if we found a way to somehow keep our pick). I do like Love though, so I think this whole thing is a net positive for Tim Connelly.
Kalen: I respect him more, but it doesn’t change how I view his savvy. The guy obviously has balls. And I like that. There are too many GMs in this league that play kowtow to owners or quiver in the face of taking a risk. Connelly isn’t either of those and that’s something I admire. Still, there’s a fine line between being calculatedly confident and recklessly brazen and I’m not really sure which side Connelly’s walking with this potential trade.
3. What’s the most critical aspect of this potential trade that’s been talked about the least?
Vytis: Most components of this potential deal have been broken down, but perhaps the most intriguing question is how much Love actually wants to play in Denver. Would he be looking to grow with the team or would this end up being a Dwight Howard-Los Angeles Lakers type of affair? The Lakers hoped that a year with the team would convince Dwight to stick around, but the Nuggets would probably rather operate under a more certain guarantee that Love would stay.
Joel: It seems inevitable that Denver will have to ship out the 11th pick to acquire Love, and that’s a tough pill to swallow. After moving Faried and Chandler, the remaining players the Nuggets probably are willing to trade to buy back into the draft are, unfortunately, also unlikely to fetch enough value to do so. If they end up without a first rounder in one of the better drafts in recent memory, they may well live to regret it.
Erlingur: “Kevin Love has never been to the playoffs” has been talked about the most, and for good reason. But I haven’t seen a lot of people look at the effect he has on his team. What are his on/off +/- numbers, for example? The truth is, Minnesota with Kevin Love on the court is 10.9 +/- points per 100 possessions better than with him off, which is encouraging. Of course, Minnesota’s bench is a lot worse than Denver’s, which could skew the numbers. But this differential in Love’s numbers has increased steadily from his rookie season, which could tell us getting him now could be perfect timing, now that he’s hitting what should be the best years of his career.
Bill: I have confused feelings about what it means for the perception of Denver. From my understanding, Denver is not a city where top-tier athletes want to live, and I probably have residual feelings of city-inferiority from the Melodrama. I hear the nervousness in the media’s voice when they interview these pre-draft workout kids and ask, “So… what do you think of Denver? Do you like it here?” Most of them don’t have good answers. The value of this trade comes down to the re-signing next season, so the most important thing I haven’t yet heard is, does Love actually want to be in Denver? If I’m the Nuggets, I want to get as much information there as possible.
Kalen: The fact Denver would lose its first-round pick. Chandler has been injured more often than he’s been healthy in Denver and replacing Faried with Love is obviously an upgrade at the power forward position. But trading away your first-round pick in consecutive years is never a recipe for sustainable success in the NBA. The Nuggets have a real shot at landing a stud on June 26 and if Love walks so does the Nuggets’ longterm stability.
4. With Love on the roster, where would you rank the Nuggets in the West? And how far could they advance, if at all, in the playoffs?
Vytis: That is a really tough question. In such a stacked conference with a couple of teams on their way up (Phoenix, Dallas) it’s hard to say. If Danilo Gallinari is healthy, the Nuggets could field a pretty scary starting lineup and we know that the bench has some nice pieces as well. I’d say 7-8th seed could be realistic, but getting out of the first round would be tough.
Joel: Even with the addition of Love’s offensive prowess, the Nuggets would probably not go much higher than a low seed, a one-and-done team without further moves. As outlined in the rumors, the trade would not bode well for Denver defensively. Love, with his limitations on that end, doesn’t bolster Denver’s frontcourt defense, and the wing defense would suffer with the loss of Chandler, one of the Nuggets’ more capable and versatile defenders.
Erlingur: With Love instead of Faried, Chandler and whatever young gun Denver would be forfeiting in the draft (and given that the squad will be considerably healthier than last season), Denver could well contend for a Conference Finals spot. But that’s assuming a lot of ‘ifs’ and ‘coulds.’ IF Gallinari comes back healthy. IF Love gels with Lawson. IF Mozgov continues improving and finding his niche. IF the Nuggets can get consistent shooting-guard production. IF Brian Shaw can continue developing his style AND get his players to buy into it. The last thing I want to happen is a Rent-A-Star for a year, leaving the Nuggets gutted next summer, having missed out on the deepest draft in years and traded away Faried just as he was starting to show star potential.
Bill: Losing all of those pieces (Chandler, Faried, No. 11) would be a tough pill to swallow, but Love is a phenomenal player that I’m sure Shaw would be thrilled to build around. I think the floor spacing alone does wonders for a team that penetrates so well off the dribble. I’d optimistically put the Nuggets right in that exciting B-Tier with Houston, Portland, and Golden State. I think this season we will see an upswing with or without this trade, and I have to say that, with Love, the Nuggets would be ahead of teams like Dallas and Memphis. (I’m curious, though, where the Wolves end up. I think this trade would be good for them too.)
Kalen: I think this largely depends not on Love but whom else the Nuggets obtain in free agency. This team desperately needs to drop its offensively myopic bench warmers and add some defensive-minded veterans. If that happens, I could see the Nuggets potentially obtaining a top-four seed. But as currently constructed, if you only add Love, I’m not even sure this team makes the playoffs.
5. Keeping in mind he’s an unrestricted free agent in the final year of his contract, is trading for Kevin Love worth it?
Vytis: Again, it depends on how willing Love is to set his roots down in Denver. If he is not entirely opposed to the idea, I’d say yes, it’s worth it. The Nuggets would be giving up Faried, who will be due for a huge extension, and Wilson Chandler’s expiring deal. Even throwing in Denver’s first-round pick makes this an excellent deal for the Nuggets, who would acquire a double-double machine and a top 10 player in the league. Also, it’s important to keep in mind that Chandler was very erratic last season, and probably wouldn’t be missed too much.
Joel: Yes. The Nuggets won’t blow it up, instead having committed to competing in the short term, so the only way to escape from the limbo of mediocrity is to swing for the fences with some high-risk, high-reward moves. There may not be any better opportunities to capitalize on Faried’s stock being as high as it is now. And if Connelly and the front office can build a winning team around Love, Lawson and Gallo, then Love just might stick around.
Erlingur: No. Yes. Maybe. I don’t know. He has zero playoff games. It worries me. He is a fantasy monster and he’ll put butts in seats. But would he cost too much? Will Denver regret trading away one of the hardest working players in the league (Faried) for a crap-shoot at instant success? Is getting Love yet another move to stay just relevant enough to be profitable? An ill-thought attempt at glory? A mildly entertaining party today for a big headache tomorrow? Or is it exactly what the Nuggets need? I honestly don’t know. Fortunately, I don’t have to make the decision.
Bill: The big thing I’ve been getting at is this: Denver needs guys that want to stay in Denver. If Love were to re-sign with the Nuggets in a year, I’d be thrilled. But who would expect him to? Why wouldn’t he wait to “explore his options” next year? Remember when Orlando killed the Nuggets in the Iguodala-Bynum-Afflalo trade? I don’t want to give up a real Nugget like Faried for another rental, and I don’t like how this trade takes the Nuggets’ fate out of their own hands. So I have to say that, although exciting, this trade makes me very nervous — I don’t think Kevin has any reason to Love us.
Kalen: It’s a tough situation. If he re-signs then obviously its worth it. But again, Love alone isn’t going to cut it. The Nuggets still have major flaws in the construction of their roster and major question marks surrounding the team’s core players. If the Nuggets want to make a convincing argument for Love to stay, they need to execute numerous trades this offseason, ones I’m just not sure they’re capable of completing given the value of their assets. So as of right now, I’d say no, it’s not worth it — not until they get more assurance from Love that he’d re-sign and not until Tim Connelly displays the perceptiveness needed to build a championship-contending roster.