The Cleveland Cavaliers are going all out in their pursuit of free agent LeBron James, who they hope to lure back home by any means necessary.
Although James is on the open market and isn't a true piece in any of the latest NBA trade rumors, he is the ultimate domino that will set all other events into motion. In fact, the Cavs have already executed a trade to free up cap space in the hopes of landing the man they drafted No. 1 overall in 2003.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports had some interesting insight into that deal, which didn't become official until Thursday:
Cavs pressed Celtics/Nets officials to complete paperwork on 3-way trade in last hour, needed it done "immediately." Cap space is clear now.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 10, 2014
Perhaps the biggest name to emerge in trade speculation is Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love. His future may be determined by what James does, according to reports.
Let's examine the latest developments in this fascinating saga that could see a superteam assembled in Cleveland. We'll also look at some other intel about another polarizing NBA figure in Jeremy Lin.
Kevin Love to the Cavaliers?
If new Cavs general manager David Griffin could somehow retain No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins, bring James back to town and add Love to the fold alongside Kyrie Irving? Well, that would be something.
But according to Wojnarowski, Love is only coming to Cleveland if James does:
Cavaliers are pursuing a Kevin Love trade with Minnesota, contingent on the signing of LeBron James, league sources tell Yahoo Sports.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 9, 2014
Brian Windhorst of ESPN reports that the Cavs are keen on acquiring Love no matter what happens with their biggest star in franchise history:
Cavs planned to make version of this trade regardless of LeBron plans, sources say. Should not be indication any LeBron decision reached.— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) July 9, 2014
ESPN Cleveland radio host Tony Rizzo has reported that an offer has been given to Minnesota:
However, another interested party is the Boston Celtics, who could swipe Love away if the Cavs can't sell him on their team in the long term. A big issue in this competition to get Love is that he's entering a contract year, so the team that trades for him won't want him for just a one-year rental given his cost.
The Boston Globe's Gary Washburn reported recently that Celtics GM Danny Ainge is attempting to package assets in an effort to win the Love sweepstakes.
"You never know what to expect," said Ainge on Monday. “When you have conversations, I have a great deal of respect in the league and what they’re all trying to accomplish. I don’t know what’s going to shake out when it’s all said and done."
Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald reports Thursday that many league sources believe James will remain with the Miami Heat, opening up a chance for Ainge to pounce on Love:
Sources say [Ainge] believes Boston is a place Love wants to play, but he knows that it will take more than the presence of Rajon Rondo to attract him. So he is continuing to find ways to gather players and picks that could set up larger moves to either get an All-Star or fetch the talent to support him.
The Celtics are also aware they could be left again, as they were last season, with a mismatched roster ripe for change. Even in that case, sources say they will hold off on doing anything drastic with Rondo, unless another club is willing to make them an offer too good to refuse.
The Big Lead's Jason McIntyre offered his analysis, describing how Wiggins may be the primary impediment to Cleveland getting the Love deal done:
This is where we are: How can Cleveland get Kevin Love *without* giving up Wiggins (who LeBron obvs wants to keep). Anyone? 3rd team?— Jason McIntyre (@jasonrmcintyre) July 10, 2014
Since the Cavs are slated to have three first-round picks in next year's draft, there are plenty of enviable assets in their corner to use as leverage.
The last thing the Timberwolves want to do is let Love walk next summer without any compensation. For a squad that still seems to be years away from competing in a stacked Western Conference, having additional draft choices can only expedite their ascent.
This is a golden opportunity for Cleveland, which wouldn't otherwise be such an attractive destination for impending free agents. Although the team's future apparently hinges on James, just about everything in the NBA offseason does. The Cavs must do all they can to make this happen.
Otherwise, they risk seeing their longtime nemesis in Boston take the court with Rajon Rondo, Love and any other pieces that can be assembled for upstart Celtics head coach Brad Stevens to work with. That could spell trouble for Cleveland and the rest of the meager Eastern Conference.
Jeremy Lin's Contract May Be Too Much for 76ers to Take On
Lin had better limber up, because he may have to get flexible with his role in Houston or elsewhere for another year. After losing his starting job with the Rockets, it appears Lin is a lame-duck player who will be traded based on Houston's pursuit of Chris Bosh, James' teammate in Miami.
Since Bosh has already reportedly been offered a max contract to join the Rockets, there's no mathematical way Lin can remain if that deal is finalized.
CSNPhilly.com's Dei Lynam cites a source who says that a potential Lin trade to the Sixers will "remain an option [for Houston], but [Philadelphia's] cap space may prove too expensive."
TNT's David Aldridge followed up that Thursday report with an update:
No official word yet on Jeremy Lin trade to Philly to clear the necessary cap room for Houston to give Chris Bosh max deal.— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) July 10, 2014
Even for a team that is in perhaps the most drastic rebuild in the Association, Lin's salary of almost $15 million for the 2014-15 campaign is a massive burden (h/t Spotrac.com). It also remains to be seen just what Philadelphia will do in terms of rebuilding the roster for the remainder of the offseason.
Which East team will be best positioned for NBA titles for the next decade?
The basketball fit with the Philadelphia 76ers makes a lot of sense for Lin. He and reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams are drastically different point guards, but they would complement each other quite well. Combining those two with freak athlete big man Nerlens Noel, plus whatever the team can get out of top draft pick Joel Embiid, could make the Sixers competitive sooner than expected.
Seeing what happens with the rest of Lin's career, where he's nary been given a chance to develop or play in a truly favorable situation, will be fascinating. At 25 years old, there is room for Lin's game to grow, and the defensive prowess of Carter-Williams, Noel and Embiid might keep him in Philadelphia beyond just one season if all goes well.
For the rest of the offseason, though, Linsanity won't be the NBA's top storyline. All eyes will continue to be on James and Love. Love is an even bigger star than Lin and will be seeking to merely join a championship contender for the first time.