The Minnesota Timberwolves were engaged in serious Kevin Love trade talks with no teams other than the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday, adding to the growing belief around the NBA that Love teaming up with LeBron James is inevitable, sources have told ESPN.com.
As has been the case for a week, the Cavaliers remain the front-runners to acquire Love in a trade co-headlined by No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Wiggins. However, sources this week have described the Cavs as the only team in contention for Love.
Those sources say the Chicago Bulls have become increasingly pessimistic about their chances of trumping Cleveland's offer, while the Golden State Warriors remained unwilling to bend on their longstanding refusal to surrender Klay Thompson in a deal for Love.
Wiggins is not eligible to be dealt until Aug. 23 after signing his rookie contract last week, but numerous league insiders -- some of whom are gathered in Las Vegas for this week's Team USA training camp -- have begun to describe a Love-to-Cleveland trade as a "when" transaction as opposed to an "if."
With three weeks to go until Wiggins is eligible to be swapped for Love, one source said Wednesday that James himself already is "looking forward" to the prospect of welcoming the All-Star power forward as his newest teammate.
NBA officials are adamant that there can be no acknowledgement of a trade, from either the Wolves or the Cavaliers, until the 30 days pass from Wiggins' signing. Sources say that, furthermore, the teams continue to discuss potential trade constructions, such as bringing in a third team or adding players beyond the widely reported principals.
The expectation remains that the Wolves will emerge from this saga with no less than Wiggins, 2013 No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett and a future first-round pick from the Cavs in exchange for Love.
Last week, ESPN.com reported that the Bulls had re-emerged as a serious suitor for Love, despite the fact they had a few more trade assets to offer Minnesota before last month's NBA draft. But sources said this week that Chicago essentially has conceded to the Cavs, knowing it can't furnish a player with both Wiggins' superstar potential and his favorable rookie-scale contract.
Chicago general manager Gar Forman, who has been attending this week's Team USA camp in Las Vegas, wouldn't rule out another trade before the start of the season but insisted to assembled reporters Wednesday that the Bulls "really like the group we have" after the free-agent addition of Pau Gasol and with the looming arrival of prized rookies Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott.
Various other developments over the past few days have only added to the perception that a Minnesota-Cleveland swap will be consummated as soon as league rules allow it.
As ESPN.com reported, Minnesota has begun exploring its options for acquiring Thaddeus Young from the Philadelphia 76ers, targeting Young to potentially replace Love in the Wolves' starting lineup as their power forward next to center Nikola Pekovic.