NBA Rumors: Latest Trade Buzz Surrounding Kevin Love and Eric Bledsoe

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NBA Rumors: Latest Trade Buzz Surrounding Kevin Love and Eric Bledsoe
Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

It's official, folks: Kevin Love trade talks have now hijacked the NBA's offseason.

The torch has been passed from Carmelo Anthony's and LeBron James' decisions to Love's potential move away from the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Love is truly an extraordinary player, a rebounding machine with a silky jump shot and excellent passing ability. 

However, he is not the only player involved in this trade rumor roundup. Let's take a look at the latest buzz surrounding Love and the Phoenix Suns' Eric Bledsoe.

 

Love Feeling the Love in the Midwest

Steve Yeater/Associated Press

According to ESPN's Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst, the Cleveland Cavaliers are the front-runners in the Love sweepstakes:

The Cleveland Cavaliers cannot officially trade Andrew Wiggins before Aug. 23, but they remain the front-runner in the trade sweepstakes for the Minnesota TimberwolvesKevin Love, according to sources close to the process. 

Sources told ESPN.com that the Wolves, at present, are higher on a Cleveland trade package centered on Wiggins than any other offer on the table for Love.

It would be truly remarkable if the Cavaliers parted ways with Wiggins at the end of the month to snag Love, who's game fits James' like a glove.

The potential is tantalizing, although the Cavaliers could absolutely lock down teams on the perimeter with Wiggins and James in the lineup.

ESPN Insider Kevin Pelton (subscription required) did make an interesting case for Love as a useful defender:

Love's reluctance to contest shots also kept him out of foul trouble and opponents off the free throw line. His 1.8 fouls per 36 minutes were the fewest of any regular big man last season (no one else was below 2.0 per 36), and not coincidentally, the Timberwolves allowed the league's lowest rate of free throws per field goal attempt.

A resume of 26.1 points and 12.5 rebounds per game is hard to pass up. It's also hard for any team to let go of.

The Chicago Bulls are still in the running for Love's services,  according to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times: 

According to a Timberwolves source, the Bulls made a 'significant offer' Wednesday morning for the three-time All-Star, and it was an offer that was considered to be the latest leader in the clubhouse. 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 Love-to-Chicago scenario creates an interesting dynamic in the frontcourt with Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah already in the fold, especially if the Bulls see all three starting with Love at small forward thanks to his ability to knock down three-pointers (37.6 percent from beyond the arc last season).

This could create problems like the ones the Detroit Pistons went through stuffing Greg Monroe, Josh Smith and Andre Drummond into the same frontcourt, although Love is a much better outside shooter than Smith.

It takes Love away from the basket—Gasol and Noah both operate better in the low post—thus sacrificing his extraordinary rebounding capabilities.

It could also hinder the Bulls' defensive balance. Noah is a stalwart, but Love and Gasol aren't exactly defensive deterrents for most teams.

Love doesn't have the foot speed to keep up with most small forwards; it's a task better suited for the likes of Jimmy Butler.

Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

Gasol allowed opponents to shoot 54.6 percent at the rim last season, per NBA.com. Those are middle-of-the-pack numbers for an NBA center. Of course, playing in Mike D'Antoni's defensive system, or lack thereof, didn't do the gangly big man's numbers any favors last year.

Another option is playing Pau Gasol as the sixth man, with Love at power forward and Noah at center. However, this is unlikely what the Spaniard—or even the front office—had in mind when he inked a three-year, $22.35 million contract, per Spotrac.com.

The acquisition of Love makes the Bulls, or any team featuring his services, an instant title contender. This is especially true in the wide-open Eastern Conference. However, Love in Chi-town creates an unenviable task for coach Tom Thibodeau and forces the team to concede speed on defense.

 

Suns Cool on Bledsoe Trade Talks

Winslow Townson/Associated Press

Speaking of roster gluts, the Phoenix Suns certainly have an interesting situation regarding point guards and playmakers.

The team's roster now features Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas and (probably) rookie first-rounder Tyler Ennis, all of whom are nominal point guards. And according to The Arizona Republic's Bob Young, the Suns don't seem to be interested in trading restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe:

Other teams can go as high as $63 million over four years, but only Philadelphia remains among teams with salary-cap room to pay it. 

By all accounts the Suns will match such a deal if necessary, even if it limits what they can do in the future. 

There also appears to be little interest on behalf of the Suns in working sign-and-trade deals involving Bledsoe because the two-playmaker system worked so well last season.

This appears to be the desired design for the team's roster. Thomas, who left a starting role with the Sacramento Kings to join the Suns, was enthusiastic about the possibility of rotating with Dragic and Bledsoe.

"I think it would work," he said, via Young's report. "We're totally three different basketball players. We could come at guys from three different directions. It's going to be tough for teams to guard us."

Indeed, all three of those players have excellent speed and ball-handling capabilities. However, all three players thrived last season by garnering plenty of minutes and field-goal attempts.

Thomas also ranked third in the NBA in time of possession, holding the ball for 7.6 minutes per game, per NBA.com. Sharing the ball with another point guard might prevent him from best utilizing his probing, in-and-out approach to getting points in the paint.

Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press
Isaiah Thomas (left) has plenty riding on meshing with Bledsoe, should the latter remain with the Suns

Thomas' 5'9" height leaves the Suns with a small backcourt if paired with Bledsoe (6'1"). This scenario also leaves first-round pick Ennis with just scraps to play with, possibly stunting the 19-year-old's growth as a player. However, Thomas' speed is tantalizing for head coach Jeff Hornacek.

Randy Hill of Fox Sports Arizona noted his commitment to up-tempo play last season:

Hornacek, the tactical maestro behind this return to a fast tempo in Phoenix, never really seemed satisfied with his team's sense of offensive urgency. Even after an opponent scored, Hornacek insisted on getting the ball hustled into the frontcourt, enabling his team to have more shot-clock-related options if the initial half-court salvo didn't yield a good look.

The Suns might be better off fleshing out the rest of the roster with a sign-and-trade for Bledsoe and committing to Thomas, Dragic and the development of Ennis. However, the organization's brass appears to be all-in on making the unorthodox roster work. 

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