The Washington Wizards have established their core with John Wall and Bradley Beal at the helm. But what if an opportunity arises which could cause them to break up the duo, such as an addition of a superstar player? Kevin Love has been in trade rumors for quite some time and he’d obviously be a very good addition to Washington’s roster, but there’s no doubt that either Wall or Beal would be needed to complete a deal. In this case, Akbar Naqvi and Osman Baig have disagreeing viewpoints if a trade possibility involving Beal and Love occurred. Akbar is a huge fan of Kevin Love and would trade Beal if it meant getting him in return, while Osman would prefer to keep the core (Wall and Beal) together.
Quite frankly, Kevin Love is a top 10 player. He’s already one of the greatest rebounders in NBA history and his ability to stretch the floor is vital to his team’s offense, completely altering 90% of defensive schemes in the NBA. Not many people realize how excellent Kevin Love is on the offensive end. He’s very good in the post with an array of moves ranging from a baby hook to straight bullying his man down low. His mediocre FG% for a big man is very misleading. Love is one of the most efficient power forwards in the league because of his array of three point shots, his efficiency at the rim, and his ability to get to the line at an elite rate.
The problem with Love that has been talked about repeatedly, to the point of over exaggeration is his defense. Love was undoubtedly a minus defender in his most recent season. He consistently struggled to get back in transition and was one of the worst rim protectors in the league. However, a lot of his rim protection issues are heightened by the fact that he does not have a rim protecting center next to him. He’s fairly good at positioning himself and is a decent pick and roll defender, but he never puts his hands up, partly because of Rick Adelman’s “no fouling” defensive philosophy. A lot of Love’s transition issues come from the fact that he tends to crash the glass a lot instead of committing to get back on defense. These are definite flaws, but do not show Love’s defense to be as crippling as some make it out to be. These issues are manageable with the right system and Minnesota’s defense was above average even with Love playing so many minutes.
The real question is whether the Wizards should be willing to give up Bradley Beal in a trade for Love. My answer to this is–yes. You don’t get the opportunity to get a top 10 player often, and if all it takes is giving up your 2nd or 3rd best player, you do it. We all adore Beal’s potential, and think he can be a star, however, the chances of Beal being as impactful on offense as Love is miniscule, and his defense does not make up for it. That’s completely OK! There’s nothing wrong with not being able to reach the level of a transcendent offensive player, however, if given the opportunity and the commitment of an extension, the Wizards should pull the trigger.
Before I go into my reasoning behind why I would not trade Bradley Beal in a package for Kevin Love, let me start here; If the Wizards were unwilling to trade Bradley Beal for James Harden, then why would they package him for Kevin Love now? Kevin Love is a better player than James Harden but Beal is no longer an unproven draft pick and is coming off a breakout performance in leading the Wizards to Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. So if not then, why now? But back to the debate at hand, there are several reasons why I would stay away from any trade for Kevin Love that involves Bradley Beal.
It starts with Brad himself. He is a 20-year old who is coming off a playoff debut where he statistically improved in virtually every category, including career highs in scoring, assists and field goal percentage.
In every single one of the aforementioned categories, he improved upon his regular season results. He did this against the Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers, the top two defensive teams in the NBA this past season in terms of opponent’s points per game. He didn’t get the advantage of a James Harden type defensive sieve guarding him these playoffs. He went up against Paul George, Jimmy Butler, and Kirk Hinrich. And maybe I need to emphasize this once again because I don’t think this is fully appreciated; He’s 20 years old! Who else had the impact on the playoffs that Beal had at 20? The next closest starter who played well was Jonas Valanciunas at 22 years old. Damian Lillard who was in Beal’s draft class and had a huge 1st round performance against the Houston Rockets is 23-years old (FYI, also two months older than John Wall). Beal had an up and down regular season. Expectations were high coming off a strong finish to his rookie season and an impressive preseason and he didn’t always live up to them. He fell in love with long jumpshots, wasn’t getting to the free throw line, and had a lot of growing pains with his ball handling. That being said, the expectations were too high; the ups and downs should have been expected from a 20-year old who was still adapting to the league, his point guard, a new center, and an evolving skill set. The dividends of that up and down season paid off in the playoffs when the lights shined their brightest. Why bail on him now? Kevin Love is arguably a top 10-15 player in the NBA, but why can’t Beal develop into that as well? How many shooting guards on their rookie contracts would you take over him right now? There’s a reason Beal’s name routinely comes up in trade discussions, because executives realize this! If it wasn’t for James Harden, it was for Rudy Gay. If it wasn’t Rudy Gay, it was Greg Monroe. I’m just speculating but I’m guessing those leaks didn’t originate on F Street.
Which leads me to my next argument against making a deal; the rookie contract. The Wizards have Beal under his rookie contract for approximately $4.4 million next season and $5.7 million for the 2015-2016 season. Kevin Love is slated to earn approximately $15.7 million next season and a new max-contract for him would come with an annual salary of approximately $20 million. Between Kevin Love, John Wall, and potentially Marcin Gortat you’re looking at approximately $45 million being tied up between three players by summer 2015. The benefit of Beal’s rookie contract is it allows the Wizards to fill up their cap space while he’s on his rookie scaled deal, and then exceed the cap using Bird Rights when he’s due a contract extension. Even if the Wizards were to wait until the 2016 (Dun-Dun-Dun – The Summer of Durant), they’d be in better position with Beal’s contract extension starting at a lower annual salary point than Kevin Love’s potential next deal.
If you trade for Kevin Love, the Wizards would be boxing themselves in. I have no idea what the Wizards plan is in regards to free agency over the next couple of offseasons, but the opportunity to make a splash or even just sign a high quality free agent is there. Wouldn’t it be more prudent to clear space and add a major piece via free agency to a nucleus of John Wall, Beal, and Marcin Gortat? I’ll take John Wall, Brad Beal, Marcin Gortat, PLUS a FA > John Wall, Kevin Love, Marcin Gortat. There is no certainty that a free agent comes here, but as Mike Prada wrote recently, you have to take a chance. Over the next few years the potential list of free agents includes Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, Greg Monroe, Rudy Gay, Kenneth Faried, Marc Gasol, Lamarcus Aldridge, Chandler Parsons, Amir Johnson, DeAndre Jordan, Kawhi Leonard, Al Jefferson, Tristian Thompson, Joakim Noah, Al Horford, and Kevin Durant! A decent number of players on this list won’t ever make it to free agency, but some certainly will so Why not D.C? Washington, D.C. has long been considered a potentially strong free agent destination if they just had a team that was worth playing for. The Wizards might finally be there. Letting the opportunity for certainty dictate decisions is selling the organization short. The Wizards did just that when they sacrificed cap space for Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor in the 2012 offseason, but they were in a bad place as a team back then and that’s no longer the case.
What would the cost be for Kevin Love? Beal alone wouldn’t be enough because of the salaries. Let me say this, the only circumstance I would think a trade like this is even remotely acceptable is if Nene’s contract was included back to Minnesota. The problem is: why would Minnesota agree to that? With no shortage of suitors offering young veteran players plus draft picks, the Wizards are not dealing from a position of strength. Why would Minnesota agree to take on two years of Nene while he carries a contract at $13 million annually? With the Wizards lack of draft picks, Minnesota would likely ask for a package centered around Brad Beal and Otto Porter, with another contract and potentially additional draft picks included as well.
In my opinion the Wizards do need one more key player, but given what the Wizards would have to give up, Kevin Love is not that player. This is not about Kevin Love and his abilities, but rather the circumstances it would take to acquire him. I can’t make any definitive determination as to whether or not he holds any responsibility for Minnesota’s struggles, if he can pick up his play defensively, or if he’s closer to a top 5 player in this league or a top 10-20 player. What I do know is his statistics are off the charts so there would be no point in comparing his to Beal’s. He’s also 25 years old, so you’d be getting him in his prime. My argument centers around Beal and what he could become. Just like I can’t make definitive claims as to just where Kevin Love ranks in the NBA landscape, I equally cannot say that Beal won’t be in that same discussion in the next couple of seasons. What I do know is that at his age, his playoff debut could potentially be a sign of great things to come.