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Nothin' but Net: Have to give a little for a lot of Love

By Jim Brighters, NBA Editor

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The lone remaining shoe to drop in this hectic summer of NBA movement is a large one.

It's the one that belongs to Kevin Love.

Ever since reports surfaced that Love would not sign any long-term extension, the market has been turned upside down like double-coupon day for seniors.

We have a legitimate top-10 talent on the trading block and not only that, but our All-NBA guy is just 25 years old. Love is the only available talent who is barely allowed to rent a car.

Love owns career averages of 19.2 ppg and 12.2 rpb. He's shot 45 percent from the field and 36 percent from the 3-point line, which is a pretty healthy number for someone who measures 6 feet, 10 inches tall.

The numbers aren't flattering enough of Love's game. He's potentially lethal in the pick-and-roll game, is very competent with his back to the basket, is decent off the dribble and absolutely ferocious on the glass.

Love is a stretch-four, the new trendy term for a big man who shoots it from a long way. He makes his fair share, but what separates Love from other well- shooting bigs is that he rebounds. Think of any good shooting big man and none rebound like Love. There may not be anyone in the NBA who rebounds like Love.

Yet, the major teams interested in acquiring Love are balking at moving certain pieces to make it happen. This is mind boggling and not in a fun way like trying to follow along with the plot of "Back to the Future III."

Love is not a perfect player. Defensively, he's lacking. That's being kind, but the most prolific complaint against Love as a member of the Timberwolves is that he's never advanced them anywhere meaningful.

A top-10 player in the league should be able to lead his team to the postseason on sheer will and talent. Love has never done that. Granted, he's toiled in the brutal Western Conference and the Timberwolves haven't overflowed with talent, but it's reasonable to question if Love is really a franchise superstar.

Those aren't nit-picky complaints; they are real and Love should work hard to improve upon them.

But none of the main suitors for Love's services should be deterred from acquiring him over defense, or questions about making the postseason. The positives far outweigh the negatives.

With due respect to the Boston Celtics, let us focus the Love sweepstakes on three teams: the Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors and Chicago Bulls.

All three are playoff-bound, barring serious injury. And all three have superstars higher than Love on the totem pole in LeBron James, Steph Curry and a healthy Derrick Rose. That will go a long way to alleviate any potential problems Love may have leading his brethren into summer basketball.

The Cavs are hesitant to include Andrew Wiggins in a potential deal for Love. They'd feel more comfortable if the deal was Dion Waiters, Anthony Bennett and some first-round picks.

Flip Saunders, decision-maker extraordinaire for Minnesota, should reply to those requests with a smiley-face emoticon and an "LOL." Then, he ought to tell Cleveland to shove it where the sun don't shine and respond with one word: "Wiggins."

If a team wants a top-10 player in the league, and one is who just 25 years old and willing to sign a long-term extension, then sacrificing the first pick in the draft is the price.

The case against trading Wiggins is that he could be an immense talent in this league, maybe even the Scottie Pippen to James' Michael Jordan. At 19, Wiggins will improve throughout time and I'm firmly entrenched in the camp that believes he will be a superstar. His ascension could also coincide with James' possible downswing.

Here's the thing - Love is a superstar right now, no waiting. If James' Big Three in South Beach proved anything, it's that a trio of superstars can band together quickly and reach the highest level. The Heat made the NBA Finals after their first season together.

A James/Love/Kyrie Irving core instantly makes the Cavaliers the favorites in the Eastern Conference. Hell, they may be favored without Love since James is just that good, but an elite player alongside LeBron, especially one in the infancy of his prime, is enough right now. The East is a free-for-all.

Pick-and-rolls between Love and James, or Love and Irving, would be borderline unstoppable. Factor in that Love could drift to the 3-point line with efficiency instead of rolling to the basket, and the proposition becomes even more dangerous.

Trading a prospect, which is still just what Wiggins is at the moment, is worth the price for immediate gratification. Love is just six years older, and that's a lot, but Cleveland wouldn't be getting a 32-year-old ending his relevance in the sport. Quite the opposite in fact.

The Warriors have been in on Love since the beginning, but they aren't willing to part with shooting guard Klay Thompson. They'd give up David Lee and his $30.5 million over the next two years in a nanosecond, but Minny wants Thompson.

(Also, worth noting at this point, I'm not worrying about the other pieces in these trades like Kevin Martin, or J.J. Barea going with Love. Martin makes money and has some years left, but I'm ignoring that.)

Thompson is a polarizing guy to me. I understand his value as a shooter and above-average defender. That last part is huge for the Warriors considering he has to mark the best guard every night to compensate for Curry's deficiencies on that end.

The Thompson I see is the one of a great 3-point shooter, a great jump-shooter in general, but the rest of his game hasn't evolved into an All-Star level. He's not a creator off the dribble and his contract situation complicates things a bit.

Thompson is up for an extension and wants a max one. Is he worth it? Not in my mind, but if other players signed for top dollar, it's reasonable to see Thompson's point as a top-flight shooter and plus-defensive wing.

Kramer would say, "listen to the little man inside you." My little man inside says Thompson is not a good enough player to prevent the Warriors from attaining Love. Again, we are talking about a ready-made stud who is just one year older than Thompson.

As for the Bulls, their offer differs upon the report you read. Some say, Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler and Mike Dunleavy for Love, but others claim the offer is Gibson, Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic.

The first proposal is very interesting. Gibson is a great player who could flourish in any other system, although he's great with the Bulls as a grunt forward with scoring talent. Butler can be described virtually the same way, but as a shooting guard. Dunleavy is filler.

The second offer shouldn't entice the Timberwolves too much. McDermott is not a better prospect than Wiggins, and Saunders should be looking to hit this trade way out of the park. Gibson, McDermott and Mirotic don't provide that. The first incarnation of this trade should make Saunders think. However, again, there isn't the home-run factor that exists with a Wiggins deal.

The other alternative is that Saunders holds on to Love and waits until the season or the trade deadline to make a move. That's possible, although since the Cavs are willing to part with Wiggins, it feels like this whole situation should be over before camps breaks.

Love wants to play with James. The homecoming king called Love in a mini recruiting ploy and reports indicate Love would sign long-term in Cleveland to play with James.

The Cleveland package is the best. Saunders should make the deal, get a possibly transcendent talent in return and rebuild with the future Scottie Pippen.

And the pursuers need to realize what a special talent they are seeking. And what a young one to boot.

RANDOM THOUGHTS

- Donald Sterling, I am so sick of you. The bottom line, if I'm reading things correctly, and again, my law degree is from watching "Law & Order," is this: The judge rules in Shelly Sterling's favor that she had standing to sell the team, the sale should go through; or, the judge rules for Donald that Shelly had no right to sell the team and the NBA moves forward with its owners vote to terminate ownership. This is a constant headache and a fair point now is if Steve Ballmer gets tired of this circus and bails. My hunch is still that Ballmer owns the Clippers before camp breaks and Doc Rivers doesn't have to resign.

- Greg Monroe is this year's late free agent du jour. I get it with Eric Bledsoe, his negotiation with the Phoenix Suns is about money, but Monroe gets no love. He's 24, has started 229 games of a possible 230 the last three seasons and averaged 15.5 ppg and 9.5 rpg. Phoenix is kicking the tires and that's not a great fit. Monroe is more of a back-to-the-basket kind of guy, while the Suns are going with spacing and athleticism. Although, the Suns could use someone to open up the 3-point line and Monroe on the block could be that guy. I'd still bet he ends up back with the Detroit Pistons, but only on a qualifying offer.

- LeBron James sent a lot of cupcakes to his neighbors in Ohio as an apology for the inconvenience he caused. Well, LeBron, you've caused me plenty of headaches this summer and I do like cupcakes. Make this right.

- Movie moment - In a massive upset, I enjoyed "The Internship." Vince Vaughn is a natural, but Owen Wilson has always been hit or miss with me. This movie is more predictable than a sunrise, but I didn't hate it. I went into ready to mock it as I watched, but that didn't happen. Upset on every level.

- TV moment - I'm not saying this because I'm a writer, but I believe I could pen a fully capable episode of "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse." A little predicament; four tools, including one mystery; hot dog dance and Fin.

07/24 11:48:54 ET

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