The Cleveland Cavaliers are increasingly confident that they will eventually complete the acquisition of Kevin Love, but the Chicago Bulls are making a late push to try to get into the trade mix for the All-Star power forward, according to sources close to the process.
Sources told ESPN.com that the Cavs firmly believe they are progressing toward a trade framework that the Minnesota Timberwolves will accept in exchange for Love and enable Cleveland to pair the versatile big man with Team USA teammate LeBron James.
Cleveland's offer, sources said, would be headlined by No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins, 2013's No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett and a future first-round pick, with one source close to the process insisting Tuesday that the Cavs are destined to acquire Love. At least one more player might have to added to the package to satisfy NBA trade rules.
ESPN.com reported the trade pieces the Cavs are offering on Friday.
To increase their options, sources said the Cavs executed a trade on Tuesday that sent the guaranteed contract of guard Carrick Felix, a future second-round pick and cash to the Utah Jazz for guard John Lucas III and forwards Erik Murphy and Malcolm Thomas. Lucas, Murphy and Thomas all have nonguaranteed contracts.
Making this deal gives the Cavs more roster flexibility and trade assets to make a future move that could be related to acquiring Love. The combined salaries of Lucas, Thomas and Murphy total more than $3 million.
Sources say that the Bulls, though, have re-entered the race and would appear to be the biggest threat to the Cavs thanks largely to the Golden State Warriors' resolute unwillingness to add longtime Wolves target Klay Thompson in any deal.
Although the full extent of the Bulls' offer wasn't immediately known, it is believed Minnesota would seek a package from Chicago featuring forward Taj Gibson and defensive ace Jimmy Butler in addition to other assets. The Bulls shelved their Love interest while trying to sign Carmelo Anthony away from the New York Knicks but, according to sources, have re-emerged as contenders.
Bulls general manager Gar Forman said Wednesday that it's the team's "job to have conversations with everybody around the league and get a feel of what's happening, who might be available."
"Anytime there's something that is available that we feel could improve our team, we've got to take a look at it," Forman said Wednesday on 87.7 FM in Chicago. "That's our job. But we like where we're at with the additions that we made."
ESPN.com reported as far back as May that Golden State and Chicago were prime destinations that interest Love, who holds more than the usual sway in this process because he can become a free agent next summer.
The Cavs, though, rocketed to the upper echelon of Love's wish list of potential trade destinations from the moment James agreed to return to Cleveland. ESPN.com reported this month that even James' short-term contract with the Cavs -- which spans only two seasons and includes a player option to return to free agency next summer -- would not dissuade Love from committing to Cleveland.
Wolves owner Glen Taylor insisted again last week that he wanted to keep Love and that Minnesota is prepared to open the season with Love on the roster. But sources say numerous rival teams think that Minnesota will ultimately part with Love before the start of the new season, given the extremely public nature of Love's unwillingness to commit to the Wolves beyond this season.
As ESPN.com reported Sunday, Cleveland plans to formalize a contract with Wiggins this week. A trade involving Wiggins can't be done until 30 days after he signs his contract, which means the Cavs would have to wait a month to officially complete a deal with Minnesota even if the sides came to terms on a swap.
The Cavs' delay in signing Wiggins is not related to their pursuit of Love, sources say, but they ultimately would need to have Wiggins under contract to facilitate such a trade. The packages Cleveland has been offering to Minnesota, sources say, have included Wiggins' projected salary-cap number of $5.5 million, which can be factored into the trade only if he's under contract.
Although James is said to be intrigued by Wiggins' potential and to have tracked his progress during summer league, sources say he has backed the Cavs' win-now pursuit of Love, with whom he played on the United States' gold-medal-winning team at the 2012 London Olympics.
ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard reported last week that a Cavs-Wolves trade appeared close to completion but quoted sources close to the process as saying Minnesota wants more than Cleveland has offered to this point.
Sources say that the Wolves and Warriors also appeared close to completing a deal in June that would have sent Love to Golden State, but the Warriors ultimately decided not to part with Thompson, offering a combination of David Lee and Harrison Barnes instead.