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Let’s give a golf clap to Flip Saunders for handling Love trade well

Aug 7, 2014, 1:05 PM EDT

Flip Saunders couldn’t win.

You simply cannot trade a superstar, an elite talent and get equal value back.

Kevin Love is an elite talent (if you don’t see that it speaks to your hoops IQ) and he was forcing a trade — Love wasn’t coming back and everyone around the league knew it. That wasn’t Saunders’ fault — it was all the previous GM David Kahn who screwed up picks to put players around Love (drafting Jonny Flynn over Stephen Curry and Wesley Johnson over DeMarcus Cousins) then insulting Love by not giving him a five-year max rookie contract extension — but Saunders could not repair the relationship. It was too far gone.

By the time of the playoffs and Finals this summer Love’s agent was working hard to get his client out of Minnesota and to a destination of his choosing, using he hammer of where he would and would not re-sign after this current deal is up. That started the build up.

By the time of the draft in June there a buzz and the feeling of pressure — the naive on twitter and some talking heads said, “Saunders needs to trade Love right now, the market is never going to get better.” But teams were low-balling Minnesota, thinking there really was pressure and they wanted to get the deal done sooner rather than later.

So Saunders walked away. He was patient. He knew the low-ball offers would always be there, he could wait for better.

In any negotiation, the guy with the power is the guy more willing to walk away from the table. Saunders was that guy. He took a page out of Masai Ujiri’s book when he had the same situation with Carmelo Anthony in Denver — be patient, let a trade market really develop, wait for someone to give you something you really want.

Better offers did come in, slowly. Chicago came in with Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler and future picks, but that was not enough. The Celtics had a nice package of potential picks and young players, but Minnesota wasn’t ready to go that route.

Then the Warriors came in with a tempting offer but Saunders held out for their most prized rookie contract — Klay Thompson. Golden State wouldn’t do it. A team who has great former shooting guards in key decision making positions — consultant/owner Jerry West and coach Steve Kerr — did not want to give up on Thompson and pairing him with Curry. So Saunders waited.

Eventually, Cleveland threw Andrew Wiggins in a package. Most likely because LeBron James told them to — part of the reason he returned to Cleveland is he and his guys have a lot more power in the organization there. Once Cleveland got LeBron back they became a win-now team and Love fits that better than the developing Wiggins. Credit LeBron for being a smart GM here.

Now the Wiggins for Love deal is set, it just can’t be executed until Aug. 23.

But that worked for Saunders. If not an outright win, it was as close to it as he would get.

Saunders got what he needed — a potential elite player back. We don’t know how good Wiggins is going to turn out to ultimately be — he is incredibly talented but has a long ways to go — but Saunders got a young player who at the very least will be part of the future core of this team. If not it’s leader and cornerstone. And he got a guy on a rookie deal that he can control for a while (Wiggins will eventually sign some kind of rookie contract extension in Minnesota and likely be there at least seven years, maybe more).

Saunders also got Anthony Bennett, a former No. 1 pick who will never live up to that billing but showed at Las Vegas Summer League this year he can become a solid rotation big in the NBA. And he got a future first round pick.

Combine that with the potential of Zach LaVine (athletic but a lot farther to go in terms of game feel than Wiggins), plus the still young Ricky Rubio and others you might have something to build on in Minnesota. Saunders will look to move players of some value for assets nowJ.J. Barea, Alexey Shved and others — and start to build for the future. In the deep West there is no reason for them to get vets and try to get the eight seed, rebuild the right way. It’s about player development in Minnesota.

But the key part of rebuilding is getting the cornerstone piece, and Saunders got that.

Saunders couldn’t win, but he played this all about as well as one can. He deserves a nice golf clap for that.

  1. rexgrossman8 - Aug 7, 2014 at 1:10 PM


    • twinfan24 - Aug 7, 2014 at 10:41 PM


  2. stoutfiles - Aug 7, 2014 at 1:13 PM

    And then Minnesota will continue to flounder, Wiggins will start to get really good after 3-4 years, and then he too will leave Minnesota. All the Timberwolves have are hopes and dreams.

    • kopy - Aug 7, 2014 at 1:18 PM

      Well, at least I don’t have to watch the games now. What are Saturday’s Powerball numbers going to be?

      • norcalcard - Aug 7, 2014 at 11:59 PM

        Pretty sure it doesn’t take a psychic to add up Surfer + shark…Baby+pool, child home alone + gun, Drinking + Car, Rosie O’donnel + Plate of French Fries & chicken wings, Minnesota + sports

      • greatmiamisportsmind - Aug 8, 2014 at 12:08 AM

        Doesn’t Minnesota have more basketball championships than Cleveland?

    • apkyletexas - Aug 7, 2014 at 1:38 PM

      It will be very difficult for the Wiggins-era Wolves to average fewer than 26-wins per game over a 6-year period like the Love-era Wolves have.

      • ProBasketballPundit - Aug 7, 2014 at 7:25 PM

        Why is being good a crime to you? Nobody expected Kevin Love to be half as good as he is, but now that he’s realized his potential all you can say is how he never made the playoffs and doesn’t play D.

      • apkyletexas - Aug 7, 2014 at 8:11 PM

        Because he’s never made the playoffs and doesn’t play D.

      • norcalcard - Aug 7, 2014 at 11:37 PM

        He really ,really doesn’t , almost as if he is allergic to D.

  3. cameltoehoe - Aug 7, 2014 at 1:15 PM

    I hope the Wolves have fun with Rubio & his soon to be unwarranted max-contract.

    • tved12 - Aug 7, 2014 at 1:42 PM

      Not with the Wolves. You really believe they’re going to give him that contract? Maybe you didn’t hear, Kahn isn’t the GM any more.

    • swede700 - Aug 7, 2014 at 1:54 PM

      Rubio isn’t going to get that max contract, no matter how many times his agent says he wants it. If he continues to demand that, they’ll let him walk too, because no one will give him that either.

  4. capspats - Aug 7, 2014 at 1:17 PM

    So your saying the wolves could potentially be

    • zoomy123 - Aug 7, 2014 at 4:55 PM

      Minnesota screwed up their drafts so bad it’s almost enough to make you cry. Their front office was atrocious.

      • blogsk3tball - Aug 8, 2014 at 2:42 AM

        Sacramento has been even worse. Hawes, Evans, Jimmer, T-Rob, Isaah. All left for nothing. First 4 were lottery picks

      • zoomy123 - Aug 8, 2014 at 4:48 AM


  5. capspats - Aug 7, 2014 at 1:17 PM

    *have been

  6. vikesdynasty - Aug 7, 2014 at 1:19 PM

    MN will have wiggins for his 4 year rookie deal then match any offer for him if they don’t give him the max in the first place. MN did good

  7. j0esixpack - Aug 7, 2014 at 1:28 PM

    Teams are likely already eyeing Wiggins for when he eventually refuses to re-sign and is traded

    I give Saunders credit but the real issue is that no one wants to play for Minnesota

    • bougin89 - Aug 7, 2014 at 2:49 PM

      So teams are already eyeing Wiggins when he’ll be available in either 7 or 8 years?

      • paleihe - Aug 7, 2014 at 3:41 PM

        It’s never too early to plan.

      • j0esixpack - Aug 8, 2014 at 1:40 PM

        My mistake – I thought Minnesota hadn’t locked in Love.

        Glad for the Timberwolves they’ve got another 3-4 years with him!

      • bougin89 - Aug 8, 2014 at 1:52 PM

        What? The Twolves will have Wiggins for 7 or 8 years if they want him. That’s how the CBA is designed.

  8. Hard On For Harden - Aug 7, 2014 at 1:29 PM

    “Most likely because LeBron James told them to — part of the reason he returned to Cleveland is he and his guys have a lot more power in the organization there. ”

    Really? I see this all the time on message boards, but you’re a “professional”, so unless you’ve got another unnamed “source” to back it up, throwing that in there was totally unnecessary. Do you have a shred of evidence that’s part of why he returned? This coming from the guy who mocked readers of PBT for TWO YEARS for even suggesting that LBJ could head back to Cleveland (still waiting on your mea culpa).

    • 76ersdoubletank - Aug 7, 2014 at 3:24 PM

      No, he returned as a total PR move. James is the PR king, playing fans up one side and down the other for years.

      • paleihe - Aug 7, 2014 at 3:42 PM

        Nope, not a PR move. He made a basketball move and his PR spun it as coming back home.

      • greatmiamisportsmind - Aug 8, 2014 at 12:12 AM

        No, James went back to Cleveland because Miami wasn’t willing to let LBJ have every say inside the franchise or let “la familia” run ramp-shod around AAA

  9. tn16 - Aug 7, 2014 at 1:43 PM

    Wiggins is in toronto in 5 years

    • loubearkane - Aug 7, 2014 at 1:49 PM

      Toronto is in Seattle in 5 years

      • atwatercrushesokoye - Aug 7, 2014 at 5:16 PM

        Ummm, the Raptors are profitable but even if they weren’t the holding company that owns them (MLSE) has a money printing machine in the Maple Leafs to more than balance the books, and MLSE is owned by Canada’s two largest communication companies, they have about as much financial clout behind them as any team in the NBA, the Raptors team is solid in Toronto.

    • swede700 - Aug 7, 2014 at 1:56 PM

      Minnesota is Canada South, Wiggins will feel right at home here.

  10. 2016olympics - Aug 7, 2014 at 1:50 PM

    Winner winner…someone get Flip a chicken dinner.

  11. homegrowntalentmn - Aug 7, 2014 at 1:50 PM

    I see t wolves making playoffs 2016. As long as wiggins doesnt start doing some knuckle push ups… imagine if kobe never bumped knees with rubio and love never broke his hand.. t wolves would of won atleast one playoffs series..

  12. titansbro - Aug 7, 2014 at 2:10 PM

    Y’know what they say? Never let a sucker keep his money… better yet, never let a sucker keep his #1 pick.

  13. mungman69 - Aug 7, 2014 at 2:12 PM

    With no NBA TV I will get to see Wiggins and the rest of the Wolves about twice a season. I watched the Wolves about two times a season when Kevin Garnett was in his prime. My loss.

    • zoomy123 - Aug 7, 2014 at 4:57 PM

      Stream the games illegally over the internet.

  14. jkaflagg - Aug 7, 2014 at 4:52 PM

    As noted, give Saunders credit for patience….he waited to see if someone got crazy/desperate, and Lo and behold the LeBron situation happened,

    But I have to agree with those who say Minnesota still has a long way to go; they have accumulated some young talent but I don’t see any veterans there who will teach the kids how to play basketball rather than have a dunk contest. And the fact is that Minny has been a basketball wasteland since the Lakers left in the 50’s… with Love, guys put in their time, sharpen their games and move on as soon as possible. It remains to be seen if Saunders can somehow begin to change that culture.

  15. jrob23 - Aug 7, 2014 at 5:29 PM

    stop. Saunders had as much to do with this trade as I did. The NBA orchestrated all of this. All Flip did was accept the deal the NBA made him take. How are people that blind still?

  16. onlyavoice - Aug 8, 2014 at 10:24 AM

    LMAO, Flip the Dip didn’t do jack if not for Lebron. The guy is a total clown.

  17. luvmnsports2012 - Aug 8, 2014 at 1:01 PM

    Great job Flip! Dont sleep on the wolves…u never know?! Best case scenario was the trade with Cleveland! Got Thad too!! Good job Flip!! GO WOLVES

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