NBA’s top lingering storylines: The LeBron/Wiggins/Love triangle

July 15

With most of the NBA’s top free agents settled, Kevin Love ‘s name dominates the rumor mill as a top trade target. (Ann Heisenfelt/AP File Photo)

LeBron James put free agency in motion with a poignant love letter to his home, a commitment to the Cleveland Cavaliers and a dramatic leveling of the Eastern Conference.

James then departed for Brazil to attend the World Cup finale, leaving behind a flurry of activity that witnessed Chris Bosh staying in Miami, Carmelo Anthony staying in New York and the Houston Rockets’ grand plans of acquiring Bosh or Anthony and keeping Chandler Parsons ending with them losing out on all three and settling for stealing Trevor Ariza from Washington.

But while the most important decision of the summer has made, there is still more that need to be settled – and will discussed heavily – between now and the start of training camp. Each day this week, we’ll examine the lingering key storylines that figure to dominate NBA discussions between now and the end of the month. Starting with what may likely be the next domino to fall for LeBron and the Cavaliers.

The LeBron/Wiggins/Love triangle

Either it was an accidental slight or an omission signaling other intentions but Andrew Wiggins was left out of James’s letter when he mentioned the talent on the Cavaliers’ roster. James also softened expectations by stating that Cleveland wasn’t ready to win a championship right away. That could all change if the Cavaliers can make a deal with Minnesota for all-star Kevin Love. But a move of that magnitude would likely require parting ways with Wiggins, the No.  1 pick last month. Cleveland would prefer to send a package that includes Anthony Bennett – the 2013 No. 1 pick whose name was also left out of James’s letter – and Dion Waiters. But a person with knowledge of the Timberwolves’ thinking said the team wouldn’t consider moving Love in any deal that doesn’t involve Wiggins.

Executives, coaches and scouts around the league are split on whether surrendering Wiggins is too much, considering his athleticism and upside. While most believe Cleveland would become an immediate favorite in the East with a trio of James, Love and Kyrie Irving, at least one Western conference assistant coach stated that Love’s “selfish” pursuit of numbers has contributed to him never making the playoffs in six seasons.

Cleveland’s new coach, David Blatt, spoke in Las Vegas as if he expected to have Wiggins around for a long time. Wiggins has a laid back personality and relies almost exclusively on his physical gifts. He would certainly benefit from James’s playmaking ability and desire to win.

If the Cavaliers are unwilling to sacrifice Wiggins to acquire Love, the Timberwolves will have to wait for a quality offer or enter training camp with the distraction of a player who has made it clear he will not be with the team after his contract expires in 2015.

Minnesota hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2004, the longest drought in the NBA, and Flip Saunders didn’t take over as head coach to continue losing in the manner he did in his previous stop in Washington. The Timberwolves can’t risk making a Kevin Garnett-type move that builds a championship contender while they bottom out again. They have yet to get a trade offer for Love to make them budge and are wiling to take a deliberate approach through the trade deadline, with the hope the team can be in playoff contention while other potential suitors – in Houston or Golden State, perhaps – get desperate and give them an attractive deal.

The Cavaliers could end the suspense by putting one name in the mix — Wiggins. With James holding the power to become a free agent next year, there’s a good chance that if wants to go all in for Love, owner Dan Gilbert will do whatever it takes to bring Love to Cleveland.

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