Commentary

Timberwolves make out on Mayo-Love swap

Originally Published: June 27, 2008
By John Hollinger | ESPN Insider

O.J. Mayo and Kevin LoveAP Photo/Seth Wenig, Frank Franklin IIO.J. Mayo and Kevin Love will be changing caps and taking their winning smiles with them.

Wait ... did Kevin McHale just make a good trade?

I'm pretty sure he did, when he traded Antoine Walker, Marko Jaric, Greg Buckner and the rights to No. 3 pick O.J. Mayo to Memphis for Mike Miller, Brian Cardinal, Jason Collins and the rights to No. 5 pick Kevin Love.

When we break it down, it's hard to see how Minnesota loses:

Love is, in my estimation, the better of the two prospects.

This is clearly not the consensus opinion; if it was, the Grizzlies wouldn't have thrown so much extra into this trade to get Mayo. But Love's numbers project him as a much better NBA player. And big guys have traditionally been more valued than guards in the NBA; hence the adage, "Don't trade big for small."

Love is a better fit in Minnesota than Mayo.

The Wolves already have plenty of 6-foot-4 wing players (Randy Foye, Rashad McCants) and a shortage up front, where Love's ability to shoot and pass will keep the lane open for Al Jefferson to dominate. Obviously the Jefferson-Love combo raises some concerns at the defensive end, since neither is especially tall or moves well laterally, but offensively they could be devastating.

Of the other players in the trade, Miller is the only one worth a hoot.

He's another shooter who struggles to defend, but that weakness is more apparent on a bad team for which he has to start and play 40 minutes. Stick him in a sixth-man role, and he'll be dynamite.

The Wolves are taking on fewer dollars.

In the short term, the financial considerations are pretty much neutral: Memphis pays $2 million less this year, much of which is offset by the difference between the salary slots for No. 5 (Love) and No. 3 (Mayo).

But while Jaric and Cardinal have similarly large salaries, Jaric has three years left on his deal and Cardinal only two. Buckner has only $1 million guaranteed for the two years after 2008-09, and the contracts for the other two new Grizzlies expire next year. So the Grizzlies end up taking on more salary than Minnesota does, particularly in Year 3 when Jaric and Buckner are on the books for a combined $8.1 million.

Obviously, I don't like this trade as much for Memphis. If you're a Grizzlies fan, however, a couple glass-half-full points are worth mentioning.

First, while the Grizzlies were eager to get rid of Cardinal's absurd contract, the accountants weren't behind this deal -- it's essentially cap neutral in the short term and actually takes on additional money three years out. That's a positive sign.

Second, if you really think Mayo is the superior talent, then the price Memphis paid isn't extravagant. It costs them a bit of salary three years from now and a shooter. Obviously, I don't think that's a worthwhile price because I believe Love is the better player anyway, but the consensus among scouts is the opposite. If that view holds, then it's not a bad price to pay.

Incidentally, Memphis scored a nice coup later in the draft when it traded for Kansas' Darrell Arthur, a player whose projected third-year PER ranked third among all prospects in the draft.

John Hollinger writes for ESPN Insider. To e-mail him, click here.