Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James reportedly wants his team to trade for Carmelo Anthony so much he is willing to lose Kevin Love in the process.
Frank Isola of the New York Daily News, citing a league source, said Monday that James is pushing Cleveland's front office to acquire his friend Anthony "even if it means trading Kevin Love, which is something Cavs management is opposed to doing."
This echoes a recent report from ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein that said the Cavaliers are interested in Anthony, but only if they can land him without parting with Love.
After the Cavaliers defeated the Washington Wizards 140-135 in overtime on Monday, James called the rumor "trash," per NBA on TNT:
Kevin Love also weighed in, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com: "It's a lie. What do they say? A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to put his pants on."
From New York's perspective, Adrian Wojnarowski and Chris Mannix of The Vertical said team president Phil Jackson "is determined" to move Anthony before the Feb. 23 trade deadline and is prepared to start a rebuild around 21-year-old big man Kristaps Porzingis.
However, Jackson accomplishing his goal means Anthony would have to waive his no-trade clause. Isola said there is a "consensus" he would do so to play alongside James on the defending champions but pointed out the Knicks would need at least three role players in return to match salaries if Love isn't included in the deal.
Shelburne and Stein said the Knicks are also discussing a possible Anthony trade with the Los Angeles Clippers and Boston Celtics and have opened up "theoretical three- or four-team trade constructions because of the complexities involved in trading Anthony with two seasons and $54.2 million left on his contract after this season."
James isn't the only player among those potential landing spots who would like to play with Anthony. Keith Smith of RealGM reported Chris Paul has pushed Clippers management to trade for the Knicks star as well.
James' desire for Cleveland to acquire Anthony comes after he expressed concerns with the roster. He said in January, "We're not better than last year," per McMenamin. "We're a top-heavy team. We have a top-heavy team. We top-heavy as s---. It's me, [Kyrie Irving], [Kevin Love]. It's top-heavy."
Swapping Love for Anthony wouldn't exactly solve that top-heavy problem, but McMenamin also said James was calling for the addition of a playmaker to lessen the strain on himself and Irving.
What's more, Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com reported there was tension between James and the Cavaliers' front office regarding payroll spending even though they have spent more than any team in the league in the last three years.
If nothing else, trading Love for Anthony would appease the team's centerpiece, which has become something of a habit for the Cavaliers' brass. Isola pointed to last season's decision to fire head coach David Blatt and the initial trade for Love as examples of when Cleveland's front office made moves intended in part to "placate" James.
Anthony would give the Cavaliers a nine-time All-Star who led the league in scoring in 2012-13. He was averaging 22.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game entering play Monday and could provide respite for James (37.5 minutes per game) and Irving (35.0 minutes per game).
However, Cleveland would have three ball-dominant players together when James, Irving and Anthony were on the floor at the same time.
According to NBA.com, Anthony was third in the league in in frequency of isolation plays at 24.3 percent as of Monday, while Irving was eighth (20.8 percent) and James was ninth (20.7 percent).
Love, on the other hand, is known for his outlet passes and often starts breaks for James and Irving.
Love sacrificed his role as the clear-cut alpha with the Minnesota Timberwolves when he joined Cleveland but is coming into his own as a member of the Cavaliers. He made his first All-Star team since joining Cleveland this season and was averaging 19.9 points and 11.1 rebounds per game entering play Monday.
He is also shooting 38 percent from three-point range as someone who frequently takes advantage of openings created by James and Irving.
The 28-year-old Love is younger than the 32-year-old Anthony and has championship experience with his current teammates. While it is hard to argue Anthony would solve James' desire for a playmaker, losing Love would be a hefty price.