CHICAGO -- The trade rumors surrounding Kevin Love and the Chicago Bulls have become an annual staple over the past few seasons. Since the feeling around the league over the past few years is that the Bulls are a superstar away from genuine title contention and Love is a superstar in need of a new team, a potential pairing is routinely mentioned.
That's why the latest report from ESPNBoston's Jackie MacMullan should come as no surprise.
- "The Timberwolves privately maintain they already have fielded better offers from other teams, among them the Chicago Bulls, who can offer draft picks and some combination of Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson along with Carlos Boozer, whose bloated $16.8 million contract expires next summer and represents the kind of cap space rebuilding teams crave. If you are Kevin Love and can choose to join a team with top dogs Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah or Rondo and Jeff Green, which way are you leaning?"
Again, the fact the Bulls are a potential suitor is fitting. The belief that Love could land in Chicago was stronger when former general manager David Kahn was still in charge of the Timberwolves given his track record of questionable decisions. When veteran coach Flip Saunders took control of the franchise as team president that excitement was tempered.
That's why it's so intriguing that Saunders said Thursday that he is going to return to the sidelines and coach the team next season. ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne reported last month that Love has made it clear that he wants out of Minnesota. Saunders appears to be doing all he can to keep Love by taking over for the retired Rick Adelman himself and hoping to lead Love into the playoffs for the first time this season.
But let's push this forward and say that Love holds firm in his desire to get out of Minnesota. There are two things to keep in mind from the top:
1. The Bulls aren't going to do any deal for Love unless they know he would sign a long-term extension with them. They wouldn't give up a combination of Butler, draft picks and/or Gibson, Boozer Nikola Mirotic unless they knew Love was in the fold for the long haul.
2. Carmelo Anthony remains the top priority for the Bulls this offseason. As much as the Bulls would love to add Love, Anthony is still the prime target. Of course, the Bulls would rather not part with Gibson, which would mean that Anthony would have to take a multi-million dollar pay cut to come to Chicago. If that does not happen, Love would be a great consolation prize.
To that point, let's say Love ultimately lands in Chicago. It's a deal the Bulls would make in order to get them closer to the Miami Heat and a deal that would give them a powerful trio on paper in Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Love.
But how much better would a Love deal actually make the Bulls?
It's tough to answer given the fact that nobody knows what kind of player Rose will be when he returns from his second serious knee injury -- and if the former MVP will be able to stay healthy throughout an entire season. Let's say Rose returns to an All-Star level. But is that core, combined with whoever they add via free agency, enough to contend for a title?
Love's numbers (26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds) are eye-popping on paper, but is he the type of player you can hand the ball to and count on delivering in crunch time if Rose goes cold or is out? There's no question the addition of Love would make the Bulls better, but in the short term, Anthony is still the player who gets the Bulls closest to a title.