While rumors regarding Kevin Love's immediate future continue to swirl at a furious pace, the presumed prize of next summer's free-agent class needs to keep an open mind and make sure his talents actually wind up hitting the open market.
Operating under the assumption that the Minnesota Timberwolves will try to extract some value in exchange for Love either at or before next season's trade deadline, the 25-year-old will find himself situated in a new locale.
Whether it's in Cleveland with the Cavaliers, the Bay Area with the Golden State Warriors or a destination that's yet to be discussed prominently, Love appears to have several suitors interested in acquiring his services.
And whether Love's willing to sign an extension or not, title contenders would be foolish not to take a gamble on his insanely unique and highly coveted skill set.
Just think about what Love would bring to the Warriors or Cavaliers.
Only two players in league history have ever averaged better than 25 points and 12 rebounds while shooting at least 30 percent from three (minimum 100 attempts) over the course of a single season, according to Basketball-Reference.com: Love and Charles Barkley.
Also consider Love's other breathtaking statistical accomplishments, courtesy of Bleacher Report's Zach Buckley:
Last season, Love became the first player in NBA history to score at least 2,000 points (2,010), grab at least 900 rebounds (963) and knock down at least 100 triples (190). He's a 6'10", 260-pound bruiser who has attempted 1,215 threes in his six-year career and converted 36.2 percent of those long-range looks.
In the world of stretch 4's, Love is as stretchy as they come.
Those aren't exactly numbers the Cavaliers or Warriors are in position to sneer at even if Love decides he won't sign a long-term deal upon arrival, especially when incumbent starters like Tristan Thompson and David Lee are confined to playing inside the arc.
That logic isn't hard to follow.
Even the thought of title contention would represent a seismic culture shock for Love, who's failed to reach the playoffs in each of his six seasons with the Timberwolves. It's not hard to see him falling in love with the idea of perennial trips to the playoffs and the brighter spotlight that would accompany the exposure he's always craved.
However, what if things don't go according to plan?
As we've seen in the past, newly assembled super teams tend not to click until continuity is established a couple of years in, if at all. Just ask members of the 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers and 2010-11 Miami Heat.
There's obvious risk inherent in inking a new deal before stepping on the hardwood, and an action of that nature would seem to deviate from Love's previous line of thinking.
Back in May, ESPN's Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne reported that Love intended to exercise his early termination option entering the summer of 2015, which would subsequently make him an unrestricted free agent:
Kevin Love has made it clear to the Timberwolves that he intends to become an unrestricted free agent after next season and has no interest in a contract extension to stay in Minnesota, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.
As crazy as it sounds, Love shouldn't shy away from taking a page out of the Dwight Howard free-agency playbook.
While rumors swirled around the center's potential trade destinations before he was ultimately dealt from the Orlando Magic to the Los Angeles Lakers in a four-team blockbuster with the Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers, Howard's camp held firm that he would not sign a long-term extension with any club prior to hitting the open market.
By all accounts, Howard's decision to remain patient, explore his options and experience some nasty lows with the Lakers gave him a better sense of what he wanted in free agency.
"Like a nightmare," is how Howard described that season with the Purple and Gold, according to ProBasketballTalk's Brett Pollakoff.
Fast forward a few months, and Howard was relieved to be starting anew in comfortable surroundings that he handpicked.
Shortly before the 2013-14 season began, here's what Howard told the Associated Press (via Yahoo! Sports) about his standing with the Houston Rockets: ''I'm in a better place mentally, physically and spiritually now.''
Those are the words of a player whose patience paid serious rewards.
Dividends were evident statistically as well, after Howard captured his eighth-straight All-Star nod en route to averaging 18.3 points, 12.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks while shooting 59.1 percent from the field.
Should Love be dealt, his experience can and may differ from Howard's.
But after watching the tumultuous season Howard endured in Hollywood, Love would be wise to keep his options open and proceed with caution.
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