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The Boston Celtics have emerged as an increasingly intriguing destination for Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star forward Kevin Love, and the Celtics' draft position coming out of Tuesday night's lottery could be telltale in determining the feasibility of a trade, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
If the lottery percentages hold to form, Boston would draft in the No. 5 slot, which could hold appeal to Minnesota in this talent-rich draft. If Boston moves up and cracks one of the top three spots, general manager Danny Ainge would have a more difficult decision to make on using the pick in a deal for Love.
Love's representatives with Excel Sports are pushing Timberwolves president Flip Saunders to find a trade acceptable to them before the beginning of summer free agency in July – preferably by the June 26 NBA draft, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Love plans to opt out of his contract in the summer of 2015 and leave Minnesota as a free agent, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Love, 25, wants a chance to play for an immediate contender, but has an open mind about multiple destinations in the league, sources said. In six NBA seasons, Love has yet to reach the playoffs in Minnesota.
The Houston Rockets also plan to make a run at a trade for Love, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Officials believe Love's close relationship and respect for coach Kevin McHale could give the Rockets an edge. Golden State, Phoenix, the Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago are among those also planning to pursue Love deals with an eye on signing him to a long-term extension.
Love has no veto power over a trade, but it is unlikely any team will unload significant assets for him without an assurance he'll re-sign a max contract.
Houston doesn't have the draft picks to offer Minnesota, but does have appealing young players in Chandler Parsons and Omer Asik to include in packages. McHale acquired Love for the T'wolves with a draft-night trade and coached him. Beyond McHale, Houston could offer Love an immediate chance to be part of a contender.
Still, Boston is the sleeper gathering momentum in a process that is still beginning to unfold. The three top prospects in the draft – Kansas' Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins and Duke's Jabari Parker – could become franchise cornerstone players in the NBA. Nevertheless, Boston has multiple picks to offer in the next several years as part of a total package for Love, as well as the salary-cap space to perhaps take back an unwanted contract from Minnesota.
Love's agent Jeff Schwartz and Ainge have a strong relationship and a good working history. Ainge helped another Schwartz client, Paul Pierce, get to a preferred trade destination in Brooklyn a year ago. The Celtics believe they can sell Love on becoming the next big Celtics star, and all the adulation that comes with that for a franchise that has won 17 NBA championships.
Love averaged 26.1 points and 12.5 rebounds for Minnesota this season.
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