With the dawn of free agency and the draft just around the corner, the NBA's silly season is nearly underway. The rumor mill has begun to act accordingly.
From the potential trade of Kevin Love to the free-agency pursuit of Carmelo Anthony, speculation abounds surrounding the storylines that could change the league's landscape next season.
Here's a look at the latest grumblings surrounding those storylines and how they might impact the league. Hint: We could have a new contender in the East.
Cleveland Cavaliers Reportedly Leaning Toward Jabari Parker with No. 1 Pick
With former No. 1 pick front-runner Joel Embiid now expected to miss 4-6 months with a foot injury, the Cleveland Cavaliers decision about who to take just got more complicated.
In light of that news, Jabari Parker has emerged as the new favorite to go No. 1 overall, according to Ken Berger of CBS Sports.
Berger writes that the Cavaliers believe "Parker is more NBA-ready" than Kansas forward Andrew Wiggins. He also notes that rival front-office personnel don't believe that the team will trade the pick and that Wiggins would likely go to the Milwaukee Bucks at No. 2.
This creates an interesting ripple effect as it makes it hard to project where exactly Embiid will land. The big man certainly is a risky pick due to his injury history, but his agent, Arn Tellem, feels confident that he will return from surgery as a capable NBA player, via Berger:
Similar to Nerlens Noel in the 2013 draft, Embiid's fall may just be one of the most compelling storylines to keep an eye on as the draft unfolds.
Potential Kevin Love-to-Warriors Trade Still Being Ironed Out
If the rumors are true, Kevin Love could wind up on the West Coast when it's all said and done. The question is who will be left on the Warriors roster when he gets there.
Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein of ESPN.com have the latest on the Warriors issues with the potential deal. Specifically, whether guard Klay Thompson will be included in the deal:
The Golden State Warriors have hit an impasse in their trade pursuit of All-Star forward Kevin Love due to what is being described as an "organizational split" on the willingness to part with prized shooting guard Klay Thompson, according to sources close to the process.
After it appeared that the Warriors were prepared to part with Thompson in a deal to land Minnesota's Love, sources told ESPN.com that Hall of Fame consultant Jerry West and new Warriors coach Steve Kerr have voiced opposition to surrendering both Thompson and a future first-round pick to the Timberwolves along with former All-Star forward David Lee for Love and Wolves guard Kevin Martin.
Others in the Warriors' organization are said to be willing to surrender Thompson if it means landing Love, who is widely regarded as the marquee name on this offseason's trade market.
Ultimately, it would be difficult to envision the Warriors pulling off this trade without parting with Thompson. The Timberwolves may have their backs against the wall with Love's contract expiring in 2015, but they still have to get a return on their investment.
Thompson being included in the deal makes sense for both sides. For the Timberwolves, it would provide a young player with a proven skill set they could build around.
The Warriors would add potentially the biggest name to change jerseys this offseason and instantly upgrade themselves in the Western Conference hierarchy.
Chicago Bulls Ramping Up Efforts to Woo Carmelo Anthony
The rest of the Eastern Conference should be keeping a close eye on this story. The Chicago Bulls are reportedly doing everything in their power to make sure Anthony is playing his home games at the United Center next season.
It's been well-documented that Joakim Noah has been doing his best to get Anthony in the Windy City. Chris Broussard of ESPN The Magazine (via ESPNChicago) is the latest to report on that connection. Now it appears that head coach Tom Thibodeau has joined in on the recruiting trail, per Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.
One of Anthony's former coaches gave Cowley the scoop on Thibodeau's role in the process:
I even told Tom that there may be days he will want to blow his own head off when it comes to Melo’s defense, but he keeps saying he knows he can make it work. It’s not that Carmelo can’t play defense, it’s just how often. And he knows every trick in the book on getting around that.
There’s no question [the Bulls] would be better with [Anthony], with or without his defensive inconsistencies. As I told Tom: "You’re in the East, Tom. Remember, you’re in the East.
The mystery coach's final point is perhaps the most important one. The Bulls finished with the No. 4 seed in the East without Derrick Rose and with no Luol Deng. They would automatically vault themselves to the top of the Eastern Conference power rankings with the addition of Anthony and a healthy Rose in the fold.
The star forward isn't the only player the Bulls have their eye on either. According to Berger, Chicago has also been in discussion with the Orlando Magic to acquire Arron Afflalo.
If the Bulls are able to turn their dreams into reality, the Miami Heat are going to have a much more difficult time reaching the NBA Finals next season.
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