The Minnesota Timberwolves have put themselves in danger of losing Kevin Love without any compensation in return. Love is reportedly interested in a long-term future alongside LeBron James with the Cleveland Cavaliers and nothing else at this time.
Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer has the latest rumor amid the Love offseason saga:
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.
Love has the power to opt out of his current deal in Minnesota to test the free-agent market next offseason. Therefore, his current organization would do well to broker a trade before it's too late to score anything in return for Love's irreplaceable value.
One of the stipulations that has stalled negotiations is rumored to be the Timberwolves' interest in No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins, with whom Cleveland has been firm in its stance to not deal.
Although conflicting reports surfaced about the Cavs' willingness to move Wiggins, they signed him to a contract and thus had a month or so before they could include him in a trade package. Those actions spoke louder than the alleged whispers behind the scenes.
ESPN insider Marc Stein brought forth some recent revelations regarding the trade discussions:
Fox Sports Ohio's Sam Amico did the same, suggesting Love has indeed requested a trade to Cleveland:
Head coach David Blatt was impressed with what he saw from Wiggins in the summer league, per ProBasketballTalk.com's Kurt Helin:
I was looking at Wig’s performances. Guy was in double figures every game, he rebounded, he defended, he went to the foul line, he played with intensity on both ends of the court. I thought for a rookie, for a guy with a lot on his shoulders as the first pick in the draft, for a 19 year old, I thought he played extremely well. We’re real happy with what he did.
While it isn't impossible that Wiggins will be shipped away, Cavs general manager David Griffin may now have the means to get it done at a modest cost, all stakes considered.
And it's thanks to Love's wish to play with James; to compete for championships—something that can't be promised in Minnesota. The St. Paul Pioneer Press' Charley Walters reports that Love has "no chance" of remaining in the Twin Cities and will get out through a trade or as a free agent in the summer of 2015.
If Love does indeed have an eye toward playing with the Cavs and only them, he is going about this in a way that benefits his future immensely. The less Cleveland has to give up for him, the better the supporting cast will be around James, Love and point guard Kyrie Irving.
The more Love demands to be let go in a trade, the better the chances are of the Cavs retaining most of their assets. Timberwolves coach and president of basketball operations Flip Saunders must figure out how to acquire as much as he can out of Love as soon as possible—perhaps by including a third team.
Minnesota is not built to win now with or without Love in such a competitive Western Conference. Even including Wiggins in a deal—whom the Cavs have proven reluctant to shop—wouldn't bring about a sudden run to the playoffs. That would still be two years away, and Wiggins has yet to prove he can be the face of a franchise.
Even a trade isn't the best of options for the Timberwolves, but they really have no choice. Now that Love has likely scared other teams away due to his privately professed desire to go to Cleveland with James, the offers from the Cavs' top competitors can't be nearly as rewarding—and that's saying something.
A combination of Anthony Bennett—who seems vastly improved in the summer league entering his second NBA season—Dion Waiters and a first-round pick is something Minnesota ought to take and run with. Even including Tristan Thompson, who would swap starting lineups with Love at the 4, wouldn't crush Cleveland if it meant landing someone of Love's caliber.
Neither Waiters nor Thompson have come close to reaching their ceilings, and Bennett has as much room to improve as any top overall draft choice in recent memory. That may not sound like an overwhelming haul, but the leverage Love has created through back channels has backed Saunders and Co. into a corner.
It's an unenviable position, but one Minnesota must make the best of to ensure a positive future on its horizon within the next two seasons. Otherwise, another regime change for the perpetually unstable franchise could be in store, creating further travails in the wake of losing Love.