With all that said, did Sunday's espn.com story really come as shock to anyone who has been paying attention?
Kevin Love has made it clear to the Timberwolves that he intends to become an unrestricted free agent after next season and has no interest in a contract extension to stay in Minnesota, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.The millisecond Love (the face of the franchise) departs the Wolves via trade or free agency, this club is once again in full rebuilding mode. Certainly the Timberwolves aren't the first pro sports team to have to endure rebuilding. However, such a scenario usually occurs after at least a modicum of success. But the Wolves haven't even come close to making the postseason in Love's six years with the club. At least when they were forced to deal Kevin Garnett after the 2006-07 season, the Wolves had made the playoffs in eight of Garnett's 12 seasons, including a berth in the Western Conference Finals in 2003-04. With that in mind, one can hardly blame Love (who will be 26 at the start of the 2014-15 season) for wanting to be one of many key cogs on a winning team as opposed to a perennial All Star on a losing team.
Although sources say Love has stopped short of demanding a trade, his position could effectively force the Timberwolves to deal the All-Star forward before next season -- or before the trade deadline in February 2015 at the latest -- if they hope to dodge the risk of losing him without compensation.
The Timberwolves, at the behest of owner Glen Taylor, have rebuffed all trade interest in Love for months, resisting all trade offers for his franchise player until, as one source put it, he "has no choice."
Teams around the league are increasingly expected to test that resolve once the lottery order is established, and The Associated Press reports that amid growing concern, that stance has softened somewhat.
Two sources told the AP that the likely asking price would include a high first-round pick in this year's draft and a veteran or two who could bring immediate leadership to a team that lacks it.
Sources told ESPN.com that the Golden State Warriors and Chicago Bulls are among the potential trade destinations that intrigue Love.
If indeed the Wolves have conceded that Love will be gone after the 2014-15 season, then it would behoove them to explore the best possible trade scenarios. In the past, the Wolves have had good bargaining chips (e.g. Sam Cassell, Derrick Williams, etc.) when exploring trades but, more often than not, haven't used that leverage to their advantage.
This will be Flip Saunders' first major test as Timberwolves' President of Basketball Operations. If he's not able to procure valuable assets (i.e. established player(s) and draft picks) in any deal for Love, it could easily be another decade of irrelevance for this franchise. As it stands right now, the Timberwolves are about as close as they've ever been to being usurped by the Minnesota United when it comes sports fans' viewing pleasure.