The news came suddenly and almost in anti-climactic fashion when LeBron James announced he was going home to the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was supplemented with a heartfelt letter explaining his situation and everything that went into the decision to return to the franchise that drafted him over 10 years ago. The sincerity and love that gleaned through the words was touching and struck right into the heart of not just Cavaliers fans but NBA fans in general; it was a standup move of pure class and maturity from a player who once coldly turned his shoulder in a quest for gold rings.
But that was only the beginning. LeBron’s decision was the key that opened the NBA free agency floodgates, as swarms of rumors, signings and more flowed through the pages of Twitter and all over the Internet.
As things stand right now, the Cavaliers have their King back, the Rockets were completely shunned, the Lakers spent way too much money today and the second-best signing came out of Phoenix. That just about sums up the day for the NBA.
However, despite the day’s nonstop action, there are still some big time pieces ready to fall into place. For one, Carmelo Anthony is still a free agent, despite visiting with teams earlier in the week. Pau Gasol seems to be a hot commodity for one of the top contenders. And everyone seems hot on the trail of the market’s “Plan B’s” such as Luol Deng and Trevor Ariza amongst others.
Next to Melo, the biggest name has still yet to fall, though and he’s not even a free agent. Kevin Love is still on the trade block, waiting for a new home. Sources close to the situation tell me that the relationship between Flip Saunders and Love has all but dried up in recent weeks, so the likelihood of him starting the season in a Wolves jersey are quite slim. That’s not to say he won’t because the market still determines that fate.
At this point, once Melo chooses his destination (Reports say it’s down to Chicago and New York), the Love market is going to be what it is. The Warriors still retain interest but also still refuse to offer up Klay Thompson in a deal. The Celtics have always been in the thick of things but their package of picks and so-so young talent has much to be desired (Not for me but for Flip and co.)
But today’s developments opened things up a tad bit — at least for a while. When LeBron’s news resonated, in classic Twitter fashion, everyone asked ‘What’s next?’ The rumors linking Kevin Love to Cleveland couldn’t be ignored, especially after word came from his camp that he’s “intrigued” by the situation in Cleveland (Sidebar: What an arrogant asshole with an ego as big as LeBron’s four years ago?) After all, Love, just 25, is in the prime of his career, wants to be on a contender right now and was teammates with LeBron on the USA Team. The fit is there, as are the potential trade pieces that Cleveland can offer.
Andrew Wiggins, 1st overall pick this summer, looks like he could be very, very good. Anthony Bennett has trimmed down and looks more engaged than his horrendous rookie season. They also have the disgruntled but offensively promising Dion Waiters and a defensive stalwart in Tristan Thompson, who could be a starter on a good number of teams in the league. Obviously Wiggins is the crown jewel of the bunch but, sadly, the Cavs have already told him he’s not being traded for Kevin Love, according to reports (That could always change.)
Now, with Love, the Cavs are immediate contenders, featuring two of the best five players in the NBA on one team, including one of the best point guards in the league in Kyrie Irving in the mix as well. Without Love, the Cavs are still a contender in the East — maybe not a championship caliber team now but one with a very bright future because of Wiggins and company. Either way, the Cavs’ general outlook is pretty positive, which doesn’t bode that well for negotiations in a Love deal. Why give up the ship now when things could be even better in a year or two?
Subsequently to the LeBron news, Chris Bosh to the Rockets for their max offer seemed like a foregone conclusion. But then he signed for even more money and years to stay with Miami, leaving the Rockets as the summer’s biggest losers thus far — again I might add. At first, a Love swap to Houston made sense because a package of Chandler Parsons and Terrence Jones might’ve been enough, but since Mark Cuban partied with Parsons and signed him to an offer sheet, Parsons can’t be traded until December, regardless of which team he’s playing for by then. So that just about wipes out the Rockets’ hopes. Sorry, guys.
So, along with LeBron’s news came the potential news that Love’s market has grown, when, in fact, it’s actually starting to decrease a bit. The potential for a bidding war on Love’s services has gone down greatly pretty much since Wiggins suited up for the Cavs in tonight’s Las Vegas Summer League bout with Jabari Parker and the Bucks, in which both players showed out. It’s not that everyone underrates Love’s value as a player but that no teams are willing — or, in the Rockets’ case, even able — to throw the ship at the Wolves in an attempt to drive up the price and acquire the All-Star forward.
But there’s still a small glimmer of hope in my opinion. Today, Jerry Zgoda revealed that Flip Saunders in fact does have a dream offer that he’s trying to leverage, and it’s coming from Chicago. A package of Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler, rights to Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott is what he covets, and for good reason. Two of these players are starters right away and two others could become extremely valuable offensive weapons. That’s almost like a potential starting lineup alongside Ricky Rubio right there. But this seems a tad desperate on the Bulls’ end to give up so much for Love, especially considering they’re still out in free agency shopping for guys like Melo and Gasol.
The Bulls are the only chance that Flip and the Wolves have left at driving up the value on a Kevin Love trade this summer and starting any type of bidding war to win his services. If Melo and Gasol sign elsewhere — say Melo goes back to New York and Gasol goes to Spurs, as reported — then the Bulls are the only team with the assets available to pair with the stench of desperation to get a deal done. They can offer something out of the package listed or the exact deal listed to get the fire started. Once a deal is officially on the table that has a little bit of that desperation involved, then Flip can take that and go to a place like Cleveland or Golden State to try to maneuver a bidding war to ensue. His prize out of something like that would be a Wiggins-centric package from Cavs and Thompson-centric package from Warriors or still heap of players from Chicago. Once all the suitors have their offers lined up, then it just becomes a dessert buffet. Hmm, do I want the molten chocolate lava cake? Or am I feeling like banana cream pudding? Who doesn’t want to decide amongst those kinds of options?
The only other way I see the Love rumors light up and the trade offers start lining up is if LeBron simply wants Kevin Love on the team with him. After all, LeBron’s heading back to Cleveland a new man but he still dictates how things happen just like before. I said it on Twitter before, LeBron is now their star player, their on-court coach/leader, their GM and their owner, as long as Dan Gilbert knows what’s good for him. That franchise is indebted to the King, so he’ll get his way no matter what. If LeBron feels that Kevin Love gives them the best chance at a championship — even if it means trading Wiggins, Bennett and whatever else — the Cavs will do it and not think twice. Although this isn’t a very realistic situation and I don’t see it going down like this, it is a possibility to consider.
But, in my honest opinion, without an actual offer that wreaks of desperation, the market for Love may dry up even quicker than it moistened with the Love-to-Cavs rumors that came right off the bat. To me, the only team that can saturate the table once more are the Chicago Bulls, which will get others to jump on board in an all-out push for Love. Sadly, all of this is contingent on two other pieces that have yet to fall, Melo and Gasol. Until those two make their decisions, nothing will become of Love’s quest to get out of Minnesota, and that should be as hurtful to the fans than it should to his own agenda.