Minnesota Timberwolves and Kevin Love Maximum Contract on the Horizon?

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With just six days before the January 25th deadline to sign Kevin Love, the Minnesota Timberwolves appear to be set to offer the 23-year old Love the maximum contract that he has played himself into.

According to a Minneapolis based newspaper, the TImberwolves are ready to offer Love his max deal.

Love, who is 4th in the league in scoring averaging 25.2 points per game and 2nd in the league in rebounding at 14.5 rebounds per game, has performed worthy of a max contract through the first 14 games this season.

The Timberwolves have two different maximum contract options for arguably the best power forward in the NBA.

Option number one for the Wolves:

They could offer a four-year maximum contract worth upwards of 61 million dollars over the duration of the contract.

Option number two for the Wolves:

They could offer Love a five-year maximum contract worth upwards of 78 million dollars. This option, though, would make Love the Timberwolves’ “designated player.”

In the new collective bargaining agreement, each team is allowed one designated player. Meaning a player that ends his rookie contract and upon conclusion of that contract receives a five-year maximum deal from that same team. Each team is allowed one “designated player” on their roster.

According to Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

“The Wolves prefer to save that designated-player slot for the future — to re-sign Ricky Rubio in three years, perhaps — but their negotiations with agent Jeff Schwartz might depend on what deals Oklahoma City reaches with Russell Westbrook and New Orleans reaches with Eric Gordon.”

Ricky Rubio is having a sensational rookie season, and his production is assumed to grow exponentially over the next three years of his rookie contract. Saving their “designated player” option for Rubio may be the intelligent play.

Rubio is putting up 10.7 points, 8.3 assists, and 4.6 rebounds per game through 14 games this season.

While waiting on their “designated player” option may be in the best interest of the Wolves. It is Love that may also benefit from signing only a four-year deal instead of a five-year deal.

Love– who is from Oregon and played is college ball at UCLA– has always been labeled as a guy who would be extremely interested in heading west towards a larger market.

Saving himself a year on the back end of his maximum contract would save a year of his prime that he could theoretically use in his third contract that moves him out of Minneapolis and towards warmer weather in Los Angeles.

While David Kahn, Glen Taylor, and all of Timberwolves nation would hope Love plays his entire career in Minnesota, they have to be realistic. If in fact Love does sign a maximum contract with the Timberwolves, and the Wolves struggle to gain any significant presence in the NBA playoff scene during the duration of that contact, then Love would have no other option in his late 20’s but to look elsewhere to play on a contender.

Until Love signs his second contract for the Wolves, discussing his options for his third contract is relatively excessive. But know, Love is definitely thinking about that scenario; make your money now with the Wolves, and when he’s 28 or 29 he would still have prime years to move on with a contender if the Wolves haven’t made the proper strides towards contender status.

If no deal is reached by the January 25th deadline, then Love becomes a restricted free agent in this upcoming off-season. Meaning he’s free to sign with any team that offers him a contract, but the Wolves would then have the option to match that contract and Love is obligated to stay in Minnesota in that scenario.

If Love is not signed as a restricted free agent in the 2012 offseason, and no deal is reached with the Wolves during the 2012-13 season, then he becomes an unrestricted free agent in the 2013 off-season.

This deal needs to be done for both sides. If I was David Kahn I would offer Love the four-year maximum contract. He’d be able to save his “designated player” for Rubio, and it’s a deal I personally believe Love would be more inclined to sign.

Expect rumors and updates to be swirling over the next six days.

UPDATED:

According to Yahoo! Sports Adrian Wojnarowski:

“Russell Westbrook has signed a five-year, $78 million-plus max extension with Oklahoma City, league sources tell Y! Sports. Story soon on Y!”

If the Wolves and Love agree to the five-year maximum contract extension, expect it to be a mirror image to the deal Westbrook just signed with the Thunder.

-Brett Cloutier

Brett is a contributor to The Sports Bank. He covers all things Minnesota sports. He is the co-host of ‘The Backdoor Cut’ on KFAN.com. You can follow him on twitter @brettcloutier.

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