Move over, Cleveland and Golden State. You apparently have company in the Kevin Love sweepstakes.
Updating the biggest NBA storyline yet to be settled this summer, ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst reported Tuesday that the Chicago Bulls have thrown their hat in the Love ring. Some considered the Bulls potential contenders for Love coming into the summer, but Chicago made Carmelo Anthony a priority before his return to the New York Knicks.
Signing Anthony outright—or at least in a cost-efficient sign-and-trade—would have given the Bulls a superstar without giving up their prized young assets. With company in the form of the Warriors and Cavaliers, Chicago knows it's getting itself into what could become a bidding war.
Stein and Windhorst did not report specifics of a potential offer. The Bulls can begin a package with forward Taj Gibson and swingman Jimmy Butler, and they have all their first-round picks along with a protected selection from the Sacramento Kings.
The Kings pick is top-10-protected for the next two summers before expiring. Chicago can also swap picks with Cleveland in 2015 as part of the Andrew Bynum trade.
Gibson and Butler are among the league's best defensive players at their positions and Tom Thibodeau favorites. The Wolves are still holding out hope that Golden State relents on its refusal to part with Klay Thompson or Cleveland agrees to trade Andrew Wiggins.
Flip Saunders, Minnesota's head coach and president of basketball operations, has been resolute in his desire to get a blue-chip young piece back for Love. It's questionable whether Gibson or Butler fills his criteria. Gibson is already 29 years old and has not been a full-time starter since his rookie year. Butler struggled with his increased offensive workload last season, shooting 39.7 percent from the field.
In terms of future assets, Cleveland has a much more enticing combination highlighted by Wiggins, 2013 No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett and possible future draft picks. A trade with the Warriors could keep Minnesota competitive with Thompson and David Lee helping to replace the offensive spark lost by Love.
The decision comes down to which offer Saunders favors, but the Bulls seem to lack a little behind the other two contenders.
Cleveland appears to have a leg up at the moment. Wiggins has the highest potential of any player named in a feasible trade, and LeBron James has been pushing for the Cavs to bring Love to his hometown. The four-time league MVP re-signed with Cleveland this month after a four-year run with the Miami Heat.
Although James will take on a more active mentoring role this time around, he also understands his career is on a different trajectory. Wiggins is a decade James' junior and is no guarantee to put his game together in the latter's prime. Love won't turn 26 until September, is the top power forward in basketball and would give the Cavs arguably the league's best Big Three.
The Cavaliers have, for now, maintained publicly that they would not entertain adding the former Kansas star in any potential trade. They've also been working on finalizing Wiggins' rookie contract, which would prohibit any deal from being agreed upon for 30 days.
"There's no reason or cause for worry on his part because Andrew's not going anywhere, as far as I know and as far as the club has expressed," head coach David Blatt told reporters at summer league.
A core of James, Love and Kyrie Irving would immediately make Cleveland the Eastern Conference favorite. The same could be said about Love being Chicago-bound, which would pair him with the returning Derrick Rose and reigning Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah. The Bulls have also added Pau Gasol and 23-year-old Spanish forward Nikola Mirotic this summer.
Essentially, how the Love triangle plays out has the potential to shape the entire NBA Finals picture for next season. No pressure or anything.
Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.
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