Will the Minnesota Timberwolves trade Kevin Love?
"Not by the draft," said Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor on Sunday, according to StarTribune.com.
Love has two years left on his contract with the Timberwolves, although he's expected to opt out of his final season (at $16.7 million), potentially making him an unrestricted free agent.
The Lakers have been linked to the former UCLA star power forward.
Minnesota has yet to make the playoffs since drafting Love with the fifth overall pick in the 2008 NBA draft.
Taylor's comment wasn't a clear, declarative "We're not trading Love -- period."
The Lakers, who might consider offering their first-round pick to Minnesota for Love, can't make a deal until after the draft, in July.
On Tuesday, the team will learn if it has a top-three selection (21.5% chance) or a pick in the six-to-nine range. The draft will be held on June 26, but the Lakers can select for the Timberwolves in a pre-arranged deal, executing a swap a few weeks later after July 9 (following the NBA's annual moratorium).
The Lakers should have significant cap room in July (not June), enough to absorb Love's contract ($15.7 million for 2014-15), without having to send a player back to Minnesota (in addition to the pick).
The Lakers are expected to have significant competition for Love's services should the franchise decide to offer its 2014 first-rounder.
Other teams that might make a run at Love include the Boston Celtics, Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls, Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets.
The Celtics are currently fifth in the draft lottery, with a better shot at a top-three pick (29.2%) than the Lakers. The Suns have at least three first-round picks in the draft (14th, 18th and 27th), own the Lakers' 2015 pick (top-five protected) and can forgive a pick previously owed by the Timberwolves.
If draft considerations are the priority, the Knicks might not have much to offer outside of expiring contracts and Iman Shumpert.
The Chicago Bulls have two picks in June (16th and 19th) but also have the rights to one of the top players in Europe (Nikola Mirotic).
The Rockets have the 25th pick in the draft, inexpensive forward Chandler Parsons and other players like Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin to offer.
Of course the Timberwolves may decide to risk trading Love at a later date (midseason) or even in free agency next summer via sign and trade.
If Love does become a free agent in 2015, a long list of teams with cap room will pursue him. The Lakers may face the choice of keeping a high draft pick and waiting to sign Love next summer -- or giving up on the draft prospect to immediately lock in an NBA All-Star.
Given there's no guarantee Love, or another top free-agent forward like LaMarcus Aldridge, joins the Lakers in a year's time, trading the pick might appeal to the Lakers under the notion of "a bird in the hand."
The Lakers went through a similar route to land Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic, only to see him leave after one season in free agency to the Houston Rockets.
Any team acquiring Love, including the Lakers, may need assurances from Love, or even a contract extension, before giving up anything substantial on what could be an expensive one-year rental.
Love may not be prepared to make those assurances.