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T-Wolves, Love nearing Wednesday contract deadline [VIDEO]

T-Wolves management must soon decide whether K-Love is worth a max contract.
T-Wolves management must soon decide whether K-Love is worth a max contract.

Before a national TV audience on Friday night, Kevin Love shot the Timberwolves back into relevance after years of being regarded as the NBA's Siberia.

As the buzzer sounded, Love drained one of the most dramatic game-winning three-point shots in franchise history, pushing the T-Wolves past an up-and-coming Los Angeles Clippers squad (video of the shot is below the jump).

It's possible that shot could be worth nearly $20 million for the all-star power forward. That's because T-Wolves management has just three days left to sign Love to a maximum contract extension, and during negotiations, Love's Friday night heroics can only serve as more evidence he's worthy of a maximum deal.

In the wake of last summer's lockout, here's how the NBA's maximum contract system now works.

As a player in the last year of his four-year rookie contract, Love is eligible for a five-year "designated player" deal worth around $80 million total (the specific number depends on where the salary cap is set in future seasons). But each team is allowed to have only one designated player on its roster, meaning that if Love is offered a designated player deal, then the T-Wolves wouldn't be able to make such an offer to promising rookie point guard Ricky Rubio or last year's second overall pick Derrick Williams, perhaps increasing the likelihood they would bolt to another team in a few years.

Furthermore, once Wednesday comes and goes, the T-Wolves will no longer be able to offer Love a designated player contract, reducing the gap between what they can offer and what other teams can if he becomes a free agent after the 2013-14 season. (Next season, Love will still be under the T-Wolves' control, but if he wants to hit the open market in 2013 he could sign just a one-year deal.)

If the T-Wolves don't want to make Love a designated player, then the most management can offer is a four-year deal worth nearly $61 million total. The team has reportedly already offered him at least that much, but there is rampant speculation that Love is holding out for a more luctrative designated player offer.

Though Love is from Portland and went to college on UCLA's sunny campus, all indications are that he'll resign here if he receives the designated player offer. Last week, the Star Tribune quoted Love as offering the following response when asked what he'd think if a contract extension isn't signed before January 25:

It wouldn't be ideal, so it would be nice to work something out. I enjoy it here, I enjoy my teammates, I enjoy the coaching staff, I enjoy the Twin Cities, even when it's cold.

The question T-Wolves management must answer between now and Wednesday, then, is whether Love is worth a designated player offer. And while it's always easy to spend someone else's money, most informed fans of the longtime-lowly squad will tell you Love is worth the max without batting an eye.

Here's why -- Love's skill-set features an almost unprecedented blend of long-range shooting ability and rebounding acumen. He's listed at 6'10", guards power forwards and centers, and last year led the NBA with 15.2 rebounds per-game, yet he shoots around 40 percent from three-point range. There have been plenty of forwards and centers throughout NBA history who have excelled at scoring and rebounding, but few have been dominant rebounders while also playing away from the basket on offense and stretching the floor with three pointers.

Love has also gotten in the habit of adding to his game each offseason. During the 2010 offseason he developed a deadly three-point shot -- his percentage on 3's jumped from 33 percent in 2009-10 to nearly 42 percent last year. This season, he showed up to camp 25 pounds lighter and has added a variety of pump-fakes to his skill-set, which has led to his free throws per-game dramatically increasing from 6.8 per-game last year to 8.9 this year. As a 23-year-old with a strong work ethic, it appears his best days are still well into the future.

Furthermore, he's well spoken, charismatic, good looking (at least so says my girlfriend), and seems to be universally liked among teammates and former teammates -- even ex-Wolf Al Jefferson had nothing but praise for K-Love following Utah's Saturday night victory over the T-Wolves. And with the team generating buzz for the first time since John Kerry was being swift-boated, why would President of Basketball Operations David Kahn want to spoil the emerging-power-after-years-of-ineptitude narrative by not getting a deal done and initiating national media speculation about which big market Love will relocate to when he becomes a free agent?

In other words, even though it could lead to problems three years down the line, signing Love to a designated player maximum deal makes too much sense not to happen between now and Wednesday. But on the other hand, with so little about the T-Wolves making sense in recent years, it isn't inconceivable that fans will be subjected to a year of LeBron-esque will-he-or-won't-he-sign talk after Wednesday passes without an extension in place.

Without further ado, here's video of Love's Friday night game winner. Hopefully David Kahn was watching closely:


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