With the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls bidding to acquire the talented player via trade, the possibilities for a blockbuster move have NBA fans intrigued about how the landscape of the NBA will look during the 2014-15 season.
Here are the latest rumors surrounding the Love trade saga.
Cleveland Front-Runners in Love Sweepstakes?
After the Cleveland Cavaliers signed small forward LeBron James to a free-agent contract, the focus of the franchise turned to surrounding him with the proper weapons to contend for a championship immediately.
Point guard Kyrie Irving is a great piece to run the offense and find the open James, but Cleveland needs an inside presence. The best answer available on the trade block is Love, but the asking price reportedly involves 2014 No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Wiggins.
For a Cavaliers team looking to win now, this is a move they must make.
According to Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com, Cleveland must wait before making an official trade with Wiggins involved, but the team is confident a deal will get done:
The Cleveland Cavaliers cannot officially trade Andrew Wiggins before Aug. 23, but they remain the front-runner in the trade sweepstakes for the Minnesota Timberwolves' Kevin 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.
ESPN.com reported Tuesday that the Cavaliers, meanwhile, are increasingly confident about their chances of landing Love and firmly believe they are progressing toward a trade framework that the Timberwolves will accept in exchange for the All-Star power forward, which would enable Cleveland to pair him with Olympic teammate LeBron James.
The trio of James, Irving and Love would be tough to beat. With Irving controlling the pace of the offense with his court vision, James taking over with his physical gifts and Love collecting rebounds and scoring from the paint, the Cavaliers would be the top contenders in the Eastern Conference.
Love averaged 26.1 points and 12.5 rebounds last season with a mediocre team around him, and he would expect to see his numbers climb as the defensive focus of his opposition will be on James.
There is no doubt that Wiggins has the potential to blossom into a star, but Cleveland is in win-now mode. Wiggins is a valuable trade asset who will help the Cavaliers land the missing piece to their potential Big Three.
Chicago Not Going Out Without a Fight?
Cleveland has looked liked the front-runner to land Love for weeks, but the Chicago Bulls have emerged as serious contenders over the last several days.
Chicago has faced turnover at the power forward position with the departure of Carlos Boozer and the addition of Pau Gasol, but the Bulls are reportedly gathering the pieces to make a substantial offer to Minnesota for Love.
In a report from Chris Sheridan of SheridanHoops.com, the team is offering three of the most promising players on the roster for Love:
The Chicago Bulls have offered a package of Taj Gibson and rookies Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic to the Minnesota Timberwolves for All-Star forward Kevin Love, a league source told SheridanHoops.com on Wednesday.
The package is extremely intriguing to the Timberwolves, but there is a catch; it cannot be completed for another 29 days because McDermott and Mirotic signed their rookie contracts Tuesday. NBA rules prohibit rookies from being traded within the first 30 days of inking their rookie deals.
Love is a talented player who could make any team better, but he doesn’t quite fit Chicago’s defensive mentality. While he can be a force on the glass, his inconsistency against top offensive players would be a liability for a Bulls team that finished the season No. 1 in the league in points allowed.
Add in the fact that Chicago would have to give up Gibson and elite rookie prospects McDermott and Mirotic, and this is not the smart long-term plan for the Bulls, especially if Love doesn’t re-sign with the team when he becomes a free agent next offseason.
Chicago may not land Love, but they can drive the asking price up and force Cleveland to overpay. The rivalry between the Bulls and Cavaliers is already heating up.
Latest Chatter Surrounding Love’s Contract
While many NBA fans and experts are focused on his landing spot, there are rumors swirling about Love’s contract options and what he will do once dealt to his new team.
Love could become an unrestricted free agent after the upcoming season if he exercises his player option, and there is some uncertainty surrounding whether he would sign a long-term extension wherever he goes.
According to Terry Pluto of The Cleveland Plain Dealer, there are some who believe he will opt to become a free agent after next season:
5. If Love picks up his option for 2015-16 this summer, the most that a team can immediately add is a two-year extension. I know, this gets complicated. The point is there are a variety of reasons for Love to keep his current deal, and then hit the open market in 2015.
6. I'm hearing Love will not pick up his option -- that he would prefer to go to the Cavs on his current deal, then presumably enjoy being successful playing with LeBron James. Remember, he also has done a commercial with Kyrie Irving. He sees marketing possibilities in Cleveland -- along with a chance to win big.
7. I'm hearing the Cavs realize they may have to accept Love's current deal and gamble on him enjoying playing in Cleveland and with James. Then they will try to sign him for a maximum deal in 2015. So don't be shocked if a deal is made with his contract situation staying the same.
The signing of James meant that all conventional thinking for the franchise needed to be thrown out the window. Cleveland understands that James wants to win now, and if the team wants him in the fold for the long-term, it must add the pieces needed to win now.
There is uncertainty about Love’s future if he's traded to the Cavaliers, but at the very least, James will be happy with the team's effort and stay with the franchise. If Love finds success with Cleveland (this is likely a foregone conclusion), it will be easier to convince him to stay.
Despite the calculated risk, the Cavaliers must pull the trigger on this trade when they can.
*Stats via NBA.com.