Kevin Love reportedly has made it clear to the Timberwolves that he intends to become an unrestricted free agent next year and doesn't want a contract extension with Minnesota, leaving the door open for a potential trade this offseason.
The Lakers could be an intriguing trade partner.
They're the only one of those four teams under the projected salary cap this offseason, meaning they could provide salary-cap relief for the Timberwolves without trading back equal salaries. The Lakers also have a lottery pick currently slotted at No. 6, with a 21.5 percent chance to move into the top three and a 6.3 percent chance to win the No. 1 pick. The Warriors, Bulls and Knicks don't have any draft picks this year currently slotted in the top 12.
Because the Lakers are so far under the cap, they could potentially trade for Love by just offering their lottery pick.
The Lakers have a short window to win another title, with Bryant, age 35, nearing the end of his career and having only two seasons left on his contract. Even if Wiggins, Parker, Embiid, Exum or Randle make an immediate impact, trading for Love would give the Lakers a better chance to win right away.
Love had 14.3 win shares this season, easily a career high. He also set career highs in points per game (26.1), assists per game (4.4), 3-pointers made (190) and player efficiency rating (26.9).
Therefore, assuming Love is at least as productive as he was this season in each of the next two seasons, it would take a James-like player to even compare to Love in his first two seasons in the league.
Of course, there is also the money issue. Love will make $15.7 million next season and likely even more when he signs a new contract. The No. 1 pick will make no more than $5.5 million next season.
If the Lakers trade their lottery pick for Love, they still would be more than $13 million under the projected salary cap. However, with only three players under contract, that doesn't mean they'll have that much money left to spend.