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Weekly NBA Draft Watch: Why Kevin Love deal has to happen soon

06.18.14 at 9:59 am ET

As this year’€™s highly anticipated NBA draft creeps even closer, the Celtics continue to do their homework.

Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens are busy students, having brought in several groups of prospects to get a better look at them in person. Aaron Gordon, Julius Randle and Marcus Smart have been the headliners so far, along with local products Noah Vonleh and Shabazz Napier. Clearly Ainge and Stevens are preparing for the draft as if they will be using both of their first-round draft picks.

That’€™s their job, after all. Which doesn’€™t necessarily mean Ainge is going to use the picks. He simply has to be ready to do so.

ESPN insider Chad Ford‘€™s recent mock draft provided us with the most positive Kevin Love outlook to date from a Celtics standpoint. Ford’€™s take:

The Celtics were very busy last feel, holding workouts with Noah Vonleh, Aaron Gordon, Marcus Smart, Julius Randle, Gary Harris, Nik Stauskas and Doug McDermott, essentially everyone they would consider with the No. 6 pick.

I still believe that Vonleh, Gordon and Smart are the heavy favorites if Boston keeps the pick, with Gordon being the choice right now given the way we have the draft board playing out.

But I continue to get strong signals that the Celtics are trying hard to use pick No. 6 and 17 along with future No. 1s and young players such as Jared Sullinger or Kelly Olynyk to persuade the Minnesota Timberwolves to trade them Kevin Love. One source close to the Wolves said that while Flip Saunders does not want to trade Love, he realizes the team likely will lose him this summer and the package the Celtics are offering is probably the best he’s going to get. Given the strength of the draft, picks 6, 13 and 17 could land them three young starters to help them rebuild their roster quickly.

As Ford implies, a trade along these lines not only makes sense for both sides, but Boston has to be considered the team with the most to offer.

Too many teams to list have been rumored to be in on the Love sweepstakes. But has Love visited any of those cities for a weekend on his personal time just to “check it out”? Whatever is/was cooking between Boston and Minnesota certainly is not dead.

So what’€™s the holdup?

Maybe Saunders, Minnesota’s president of basketball operations and new coach, is being stubborn — he would be unwillingly giving up his best player. Maybe he is awaiting a better offer to accept or take back to show Ainge. Or maybe Saunders is just stalling, in hopes of Love changing his mind.

But probably Saunders is waiting until June 26 — draft night. This trade just seems to own the feeling that it is going to get done; the draft is the perfect time. Minnesota can take as much time as it likes, but when Saunders has his back against the wall, he is going to pull the trigger.

Just think about it. What would you do?

Once the draft is over, those picks are gone if you haven’€™t yet traded for them. Do you take an absolutely huge gamble on your superstar suddenly deciding he wants to re-sign? Love is not Dwight Howard in that sense — he’€™s not going to have a change in heart.

Or do you take the No. 6 and 17 overall picks (to pair with your own No. 13 pick), along with a young talented big man (Jared Sullinger or Kelly Olynyk) to try to develop into something close to Love’€™s old role?

Keep in mind there also could be future draft picks involved, as well as more players to even out the contracts. Let’€™s say it’€™s the Clippers’€™ 2015 first-round selection with Brandon Bass (expiring contract) and Keith Bogans (can be cut immediately with no cap penalties).

That is simply too much to pass up, and Saunders knows it.

Welcome to Boston, Kevin Love. Well, on June 26, that is.

Follow Julian Edlow on twitter @julianedlow.

Read More: Brad Stevens, Danny Ainge, Flip Saunders, Kevin Love
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