Contrary to what the Beatles claimed, Love is not all you need.
Trading for Kevin Love would pump immediate life back into the Boston Celtics and energize the fan base to a degree no single acquisition has since Kevin Garnett arrived in 2007. Love, the NBA’s reigning leader in player efficiency rating, has long been coveted by Celtics fans and could now be available to the green team, depending on the results of Tuesday’s draft lottery.
While Love would single-handedly make the Celtics a playoff team overnight, he alone would not push the Celtics back into championship contention. Even with Rajon Rondo still in the fold and the presumed promise by Love to re-sign with the team next summer, the Celtics would still be a move or two away from entering the title discussion.
Much of that is due to the cost of acquiring Love. There is a sense that Love, added to Boston’s current core, would boost the Celtics into the top four spots in the Eastern Conference. And it probably would, if that were possible. But getting Love means giving up a number of the assets Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has stockpiled over the last year.
A conservative estimate of Love’s price comes to Boston’s 2014 lottery pick, a young player such as Jared Sullinger or Kelly Olynyk, a veteran player such as Jeff Green or Brandon Bass and potentially an additional future draft pick. If the Minnesota Timberwolves are especially interested in cutting costs, they might be convinced to take Keith Bogans, who could be waived to save the remaining $10.7 million on his non-guaranteed deal.
None of those losses would be franchise-shattering, obviously, but they would bleed the Celtics of some of the secondary role players championship teams require. Love and Rondo are a tremendous duo, but they would need help to challenge the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers. Even the Chicago Bulls, with a healthy Derrick Rose, could be superior on paper, and the Washington Wizards only appear to be getting better.
All of this presupposes Love will agree to play in Boston in the first place. Love can opt out of his contract in 2015, meaning that whichever team trades for him has to believe he will re-sign, although league rules prohibit teams from getting such assurance. Love is a California kid who went to UCLA, and the Lakers could also have a pretty good pick in the 2014 draft. The Lakers are a mess roster-wise and they have nobody of Rondo’s caliber in their prime to pair with Love, but logic doesn’t always trump emotion in a 25-year-old’s brain.
Complicating matters further, the Bulls are interested in Love, too. If he’s weighing All-Star point guards coming off knee injuries, Love might put Rose ahead of Rondo.
Until the lottery balls fall, all of this is speculation. All else being equal, the Celtics will gladly take Love and figure out the rest later. But Ainge doesn’t operate that way. Every move affects another move, particularly a move as aggressive as trading for Love. Remember, acquiring Ray Allen in 2007 was only the first shoe to drop.
If the Celtics luck out on lottery night and swing a deal for Love, withhold the celebration. Ainge and the Celtics didn’t just go through a season of struggles to merely get better. They want to enter the championship conversation, somewhere Love, for all his considerable abilities, won’t put them overnight.
Photo via Twitter/@GaryDzen