David Lee

T-Wolves look like they’re going to be annoyingly patient with this whole trading Kevin Love thing

I’ve gone back and forth on the Warriors’ chances of landing Kevin Love. My opinion on whether the Warriors should pull the trigger hasn’t changed. They absolutely should; he’s the only top-10 talent currently available, and an offense featuring Love and Stephen Curry would be absolutely filthy.

No, this is about the likelihood that we’ll see Love head to Oakland (and then San Francisco, possibly as early as 2017 if Joe Lacob gets his way). Back in May I wrote that it probably wouldn’t happen, since Love has many suitors and the Warriors had no picks in the 2014 NBA Draft. Also, there’s that 32 ppg MVP guy to think about.

In looking at Lee’s contract I can’t help but wonder if the Warriors wouldn’t mind looking busy while acting patiently. Because Lee becomes an unrestricted free agent at the same time as another star, one who’s decidedly more super than Love or Anthony … Kevin Durant.

Then, all the reports, rumors, chatter and whispers got to me. There was so much smoke, it seemed as if a fire was surely on the horizon. Maybe we’ll find a Love-ly surprise under the tree on Draftmas Day!

After the most boring draft in Warriors history and no news on trade front (beyond the Cavs signing LeBron James and subsequently getting into the Love mix), I’m back to feeling the same way I did two months ago. Not because there have been so many reports about how the Warriors want to keep Klay Thompson — which could be posturing, since Thompson’s going to get insanely rich relatively soon — but because I’m not sure including Thompson would even be enough at this point.

1. T-Wolves aren’t in any hurry

One of the team’s beat writers thinks Minnesota is going to wait this out and see who blinks first.

Makes sense. LeBron did his hometown team a solid by coming back, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to sit through a long stretch of losing basketball.

The Warriors are under some pressure, due to Love’s availability and two recent decisions.

2. Harrison Barnes has very little trade value

Before we get into the Lee stuff, let’s get one thing straight: Minnesota needs to get a franchise building block that’ll be around for a while, and Barnes doesn’t fit the bill. Above average NBA starters don’t regress in year two. That’s regardless of age, role, or whoever the head coach happens to be. Barnes went from a combo forward with upside to completely lost in the span of four months.


David Lee Golden State Warriors3. Lee is damaged goods

It sounds harsh to describe a player who averaged over 18 points and nine rebounds per game this way. But imagine if you were a general manager, and the most expensive piece of a trade offer had this written about him by one of the team’s beat writers yesterday.

Warriors forward David Lee withdrew from the USA national team training camp roster that was announced Monday while recovering from “very minor” surgery a few weeks ago to address a core muscle injury, according to the Warriors.

Lee, 31, underwent a surgery for the third consecutive offseason. He had procedures to repair a torn right hip flexor in 2013 and torn abdominal and abductor muscles in 2012.

Three summers, three surgeries. I don’t care how “minor” these procedures are (and if they were truly minor, the injuries would’ve healed on their own) — how excited would you be to pay a player $30.5 million over the next two seasons when he’s in his 30s and his core muscles are fraying like an old pair of jeans?

4. The T-Wolves have no use for aging, overpriced players

The only way adding Lee makes sense for Minnesota is if they can get a decent season out of him and trade him a year from now to a team looking to create cap space after the 2015-16 season, in hopes that they can get a productive player in return. Everybody seems to be bracing for 2016, but what good is cap space to the T-Wolves? They need to add players through trades and the draft, since they clearly aren’t a preferred destination for stars (like Love).

5. T-Wolves probably don’t think Lee is all that great

Tim Kawakami recently did a great job explaining the situation:

-The Warriors think Lee is a good, solid PF who gives them good numbers and fits in very well with their locker room and playing pick-and-roll with Stephen Curry.

You may have noticed that they have been willing to overlook his defensive deficiencies (and his vanished mid-range game) for years; it’s just how they’ve always over-valued Lee and it’s their right.

The Warriors do NOT consider Lee a throw-in. They believe he adds value to the offer.

(New coach Steve Kerr has also publicly and privately voiced his admiration for Lee’s game.)

-Minnesota apparently believes that Lee is an expensive throw-in and that he adds little value to the offer and in fact his salary probably drops his value close to neutral. Or less.

That’s why Minnesota is demanding Thompson–they need a quality young starter back if they’re going to move Love at this time, and Lee definitely isn’t it.

Below average defense, no three-point range, a midrange game that vanished last season … anyone watching Lee over the last year and a half can see that he’s on the downside of his career. Even if you ignore three surgeries in three seasons and his jaw-dropping salary, one wonders how a general manager who’s been watching one of the league’s premier power forwards up close could hold his nose and say yes to Lee … and Saunders is certainly NOT going to ignore those surgeries, or the salary.

***

This is why we keep hearing stuff about the Warriors giving up their 2015 first round pick and/or taking on Kevin Martin and his bloated contract. If you’re Minnesota, and you’ve got Cleveland in a hurry to contend in the wide-open Eastern Conference, plus Houston interested in saving face after losing out on Chris Bosh, why not ask for the moon?

And who knows, maybe Saunders thinks he can work magic and turn his current squad into an upper-echelon team with Love and convince him to stay. It sounds crazy because Love seems so unhappy in Minnesota, but this team isn’t as awful as one might think. Ricky Rubio is only 23. Gorgui Dieng quietly had a strong last month of the season, and he and Pekovic could become one of the better center tandems in the league. It’s difficult to imagine the team improving much on their 40-42 record after losing Rick Adelman, but Saunders probably doesn’t share that belief.

Conversely, the T-Wolves probably need to get something for Love before the next trade deadline or risk being forced into a sign-and-trade with a team of Love’s choosing after the season. So it’s a game of poker. Or chicken. Or poken. Whatever you want to call it, Jerry Zgoda is probably right. No deal is imminent.

So the Warriors will almost certainly roll into next season with the same roster, plus Shaun Livingston and whatever veteran player(s) they can sign for the minimum. That’s probably why we’re hearing so much about how Steve Kerr loves Lee’s game and wants to keep Thompson. With the T-Wolves holding the best player available — and therefore, all the cards — the stakes may be too high for the Warriors as things currently stand.

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