While it seems like Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love will end up with the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James, you never know when a dark-horse contender like the Phoenix Suns could come with an offer that proves to be more enticing.
It's going to be tough for Phoenix to provide the Timberwolves with anyone more valuable than Cleveland Cavaliers rookie Andrew Wiggins, but if something falls through, Phoenix could easily make a strong play for Love.
Remember, it wasn't all that long ago that Phoenix was being hyped as a potential landing spot for Love.
Suns interested in Love deal w/best assets Dragic, Bledsoe & picks.NBA sources say it will take full max deal to control free agent Bledsoe.— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) June 7, 2014
Although it certainly seems like a long shot at this point, you never know what can happen. The Los Angeles Lakers thought they had Chris Paul, but then David Stern vetoed the deal. While nothing like that will happen again, the Los Angeles Clippers can attest to the benefit of being next in line.
It may take a serious injury or a change of heart somewhere, though, as it seems like the Timberwolves are ready to move Love soon.
Here's Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press:
The Timberwolves say now that they expect to trade disgruntled all-star Kevin Love and that a deal is expected Aug. 23 or Aug. 24.
'I'm saying it's most likely because Kevin has made it pretty clear that that's what he wants to do,' Wolves owner Glen Taylor told the Pioneer Press.
Taylor's preference, though, is that Love remain in Minnesota. The August dates for a trade are because that's when the Cleveland Cavaliers officially can deal their first-round draft pick, Andrew Wiggins, to the Wolves.
It's interesting that Phoenix has largely fallen out of the conversation, as you could argue it is in an even better position to take on Love than it was earlier this offseason. Phoenix still has cap space, and with the signing of Isaiah Thomas, either Goran Dragic or Eric Bledsoe are now much more expendable than they previously were.
The situation with Bledsoe is particularly interesting. He's still a restricted free agent, and it doesn't appear any team is going to give him a sizable offer at this point.
Would the Timberwolves want to pair up Ricky Rubio and Bledsoe in the same backcourt together?
Here's what Grant Hughes of Bleacher Report wrote earlier this offseason:
What we don't know—and what we very much need to know if we're trying to gauge Phoenix's chances of making a deal—is what it's willing to surrender. That's something distinctly different from listing its valuables.
Let's say Eric Bledsoe is on the table, just for the sake of argument. The Wolves could do a whole lot worse than pairing a ridiculously athletic, exceptionally physical combo guard with Ricky Rubio in the backcourt.
So, really, all the Suns have to do to put themselves in the best position to win the Love sweepstakes is decide whether they're really willing to send off so many promising (and relatively inexpensive) assets. If they are, they've got a great chance of landing a legitimate superstar who could fit in perfectly alongside Dragic.
While Wiggins could be an absolute star, the same could be said for Bledsoe. He's a more proven commodity, even if he comes with more questions, an injury history and what would have to be a more expensive salary.
A sign-and-trade centered around Bledsoe for Love could work, however, so long as Bledsoe was willing to end up in Minnesota. Given the crowded backcourt there, and all the scoring opportunities he'd get next to Rubio, perhaps that's not out of the question.
The Suns also have some unsigned first-round picks to deal right away. Both Tyler Ennis and Bogdan Bogdanovic have yet to sign, which means they can be dealt now and not count as salary going to Minnesota.
Minnesota would need more, of course.
Here's Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press with Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor on what head coach and president Flip Saunders might want:
A Love trade could give the Wolves a brand new look, with multiple players coming and going.
'I think when you move somebody like Kevin, who's been an all-star, that you've got to get a number of players on your team that have the potential of replacing him,' Taylor said. 'Flip (Saunders, Wolves president) has looked at this team and offensively, he's got a pretty good team. Defensively, it's got to be better, so I think that's where some of the areas will be replaced.'
An intriguing option at the 4 to replace Love would be Markieff Morris, who still has one year left on his rookie deal. Morris can stretch the floor a bit, rebound, score and defend multiple types of frontcourt players thanks to his strength and mobility.
It's also important to keep in mind that the future picks Phoenix could offer should be more valuable than most other teams', mainly because the Timberwolves won't be getting it from a team with LeBron James on it.
In addition to having all of its own selections, Phoenix has the Los Angeles Lakers' 2015 first-round pick. That could easily end up being a top-10 pick, as it's only top-five protected this year and top-three protected next season.
When you add all that up, Phoenix could potentially trump an offer of Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and a future first-round pick.
Bledsoe, Morris, Ennis, Bogdanovic, the Lakers' pick and a future first-rounder from Phoenix is arguably a better deal, and there are other assets like Alex Len, Marcus Morris or others to potentially offer in addition to that. Phoenix could also take back some undesirable salary, like the contract of Kevin Martin.
Point being, the Suns could get involved if they were willing to make a Godfather-type offer to Minnesota. The only issue is whether Thomas, Dragic and whatever was leftover would be enough to entice Love to sign long term and not just enter free agency in 2015. That's obviously a massive risk, as that core might not be good enough to get into the postseason in a stacked Western Conference.
It makes sense for Phoenix to try and enter the trade talks during this waiting period, though, as Love would be an ideal fit in its uptempo system that's predicated on getting floor spacing from their big men.
Here's James Herbert of CBSSports.com:
As great as Dragic and Bledsoe were together, moving one of them in a Love deal would make sense. Phoenix would still have one fantastic point guard, and it would gain a power forward who is as good as it gets. This year was a huge, surprising step in the right direction for the franchise, and to wind up with Love two years after a 25-57 season would be an incredible turnaround for McDonough.
What's the right price for a star? Again, it certainly seems likely that Love ends up in Cleveland at this point, but Phoenix does have some pieces to potentially make things interesting if it chooses.
With the situation with Bledsoe still unresolved and assets to utilize, perhaps it's still too early to rule the Phoenix Suns out of the race to acquire Love.