After LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and the vast majority of the summer's most prominent free agents decided where they'd play ball in 2014-15, Love became the center of attention.
Will he stay in Minnesota? Will he go? Will Andrew Wiggins be shipped off to the 'Wolves to get him to the Cleveland Cavaliers? Will Klay Thompson be put on the board? Does Minnesota have any leverage? Are the Cavs paying too much for his services? Will he sign an extension in his new location? Can he lead a championship charge?
The list of questions drags on and on.
But as the summer does the same, there's been no clear-cut answer as to what will happen to the trade market. The down period of the NBA offseason, one filled with endless speculation about the upcoming campaign, could promote a feeding frenzy for the teams involved, constantly outbidding one another until the 'Wolves accept a ridiculously big offer. At the same time, though, the market could dry up until the season kicks off.
Thus far, the latter looks far more likely.
Teams Dropping Out
If the market were speeding up, teams would be entering the race, staying in it and upping their offers.
Instead, they seem to be dropping like flies. Even though the Chicago Bulls have gotten involved, presumably with an offer that will center around Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler and/or an incoming rookie (hardly superstar material), there are more teams that are either failing to match the necessary requirements or just giving up entirely.
The Denver Nuggets have remained a strong contender for Love, offering a package that sources said has been the most appealing to Minnesota outside of the Cavaliers and a possible Golden State deal including Klay Thompson. So far, the Warriors have kept Thompson out of their offer to Minnesota.
Cleveland's package hasn't moved the needle for Minnesota, so even if the Nuggets are offering the runner-up deal, that's completely irrelevant. Why would Minnesota cave and take a set of players and picks it doesn't value as highly as other deals that may be on the table?
Denver hasn't upped the ante, which, while not akin to dropping out of the sweepstakes, isn't conducive to speeding up the market. At best, it's stagnation.
And how about the Phoenix Suns?
Nothing has been heard on that front in weeks, though general manager Ryan McDonough still has a boatload of young talent and draft picks at his disposal. If he wanted to put together a Godfather offer, it's something he'd be capable of doing, though there's been no indication the desert-based franchise is doing anything but focusing on contract negotiations with Eric Bledsoe.
Thus far, the Love party has centered around the Bulls, Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics, though each of the final two may as well remove themselves from contention, at least for the time being.
As A. Sherrod Blakely reports for CSNNE.com, Boston is pretty much done in its pursuit of the All-Star power forward, offseason trip to Beantown and all:
There's no waiving of the white flag just yet, but the Boston Celtics appear to be ready to move on from their pursuit of Minnesota star Kevin Love, league sources tell CSNNE.com.
'The more teams step up and show interest in Love, the further Boston falls in the pack,' a source said on Wednesday. 'Danny's a smart guy. He knows when to keep pushing for something and when to move on.'
That's why the Celtics are reportedly among the clubs to express some interest in being a third team to help facilitate a trade involving Love to what one source said has become his 'preferred' destination, Cleveland.
That's a logical step for Celtics GM Danny Ainge.
Even if he covets Love's services, there's no package he can put together that can trump what's being offered by other teams. Rajon Rondo's contract doesn't last too much longer, Marcus Smart doesn't possess the same type of upside as Wiggins (plus he plays the same position as Ricky Rubio) and a collection of first-round picks will only go so far.
The situation is different for the Warriors. They actually possess the type of talent that would sway the 'Wolves, but they're steadfastly refusing to include it in any offered packages.
"And, according to multiple sources who have remained consistent on this issue for weeks, the Warriors have made their decision," reports MercuryNews.com's Tim Kawakami. "No Klay Thompson in the offer to Minnesota."
It's still a puzzling decision, but it's what the Warriors are sticking to.
So long as Golden State refuses to include the sharpshooting 2-guard that Minnesota covets above all else, the Dubs may as well drop out of the race. And with no Warriors, Celtics, Nuggets or Suns, the 'Wolves are left hearing pitches from Cleveland and Chicago.
Of course, there are complications with both those teams.
The Rookie Contracts
As soon as this year's No. 1 pick signs his rookie contract, that effectively puts a halt on the Love discussions. Sure, negotiations can still take place, but Wiggins' contract can't be conveyed until 30 days after putting ink to paper.
That happened on July 24, as reported by Wojnarowski:
During that time, which spans until Saturday, August 23, a lot can happen.
What if Wiggins gets hurt while training? What if some other team gets desperate and puts together the most appealing package yet? What if the Cavaliers just change their mind?
There won't be so much as a handshake agreement until the 30-day period has drawn to a close, especially because the other primary suitors may well be in the exact same boat. The Bulls can put together an offer that could be moderately convincing—one centering around Butler and Gibson—but they also have to wait if they'd like to include either Nikola Mirotic or Doug McDermott.
The source said that the two headlining names in the package were Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott, 'as well as a few other assets.’
A report from Sheridanhoops.com said that Nikola Mirotic was also involved, but the source could not confirm that.
Again, there's no reason for Minnesota to do anything until the 30 days are up, as that period is also required for the Chicago rookies who signed contracts in mid- to late July. By making a move before all eligible players are actually eligible, the 'Wolves would just be boxing themselves in to taking an offer that's less valuable than one they could otherwise receive.
It's just the latest incentive for Flip Saunders and the Minnesota front office to hold tight.
The T-Wolves, contrary to popular belief, actually do have some leverage.
Not only is it a valid assumption that teams will continue trying to outbid one another, but Minnesota doesn't stand to get anything back for Love if he just walks away as a free agent at the end of the 2014-15 campaign. The team wouldn't take on any contracts in return for his services, which frees up quite a bit of money when his expiring deal comes off the books, more than would be made available if a trade was made.
On top of that, the offers are only going to get more desperate during the season.
Sure, the Cavs (or whoever manages to trump their offer) would love to enjoy the power forward's services for the duration of the upcoming campaign, but they're likely to be a playoff team even without him on the roster. Acquiring him at the midway point is just as beneficial, and they might be willing to overpay at that point, rather than risk him hitting the open market next summer.
The 'Wolves aren't just going to be left out in the cold, even if they play in Minnesota and are watching as the market dries up, at least during this part of the offseason.
Often, things that dry up never get rehydrated. However, there's no worry of that in this situation.
So long as Love is on the Minnesota roster, the offers will surely come flowing in, even if they're primed to experience delays at this stage of the ongoing process.