Basketball / Sports

Cavs positioning themselves closer to Love deal

MINNEAPOLIS -- And on the next day closer to a Kevin Love trade...

Cleveland completed a trade with Utah that brought back three players with non-guaranteed contracts Tuesday, assets they can use to make a trade for the Timberwolves star work under the NBA's complicated salary-cap rules.

Also Tuesday, Wolves President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders pulled owner Glen Taylor out of the third quarter of the WNBA's Lynx game at Target Center, presumably to attend to an urgent Wolves' matter in the team's upstairs arena offices.

He returned to watch the end of the Lynx's double-overtime victory and then quickly returned to the Wolves' offices.

In a matter of days, the Cavaliers have gone from insisting they absolutely will not trade No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Wiggins to positioning themselves for a blockbuster trade that'd acquire a third star to go along with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.

The Cavaliers did so Monday by swinging a trade that sent away guard Carrick Felix's guaranteed minimum contract, a second-round pick and $1 million to Utah for guards John Lucas and forwards Malcolm Thomas and Erik Murphy.

Those three players' contracts combined total about $3.3 million that the Cavaliers could trade along with Wiggins, 2013 No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett and a future first-round pick or picks in exchange for Love, who is set to make $15.7 million this coming season.

Wiggins and Bennett together will earn a little more than $11 million this season after Wiggins signs his rookie contract, perhaps as soon as Wednesday.

The Wolves could acquire all three players the Cavaliers picked up Tuesday and then waive them without it costing the team anything. Yahoo!Sports reported Tuesday that the Cavaliers are interested in keeping Thomas because his $948,000 salary would make him an inexpensive role player the team needs for frontcourt depth.

The Wolves had some interest to acquiring Murphy, a young "stretch" power forward, when the Bulls waived him late last season before Utah claimed him on waivers. His $816,000 contract becomes partially guaranteed Aug. 1 if he is not released by then.

Wiggins' salary-cap worth in a trade is zero until he signs a rookie contract that will pay him about $5.5 million this season.

If they sign him, they have to wait 30 days before trading him, but the two teams could agree to the terms before that.

The Cavaliers' trade further establishes them as the favorite to acquire Love, although the Wolves still conceivably could use the Cavs' interest to leverage better offers from teams such as Golden State or Chicago.

Love intends to opt out of his current contract and will become an unrestricted free agent in July 2015. He will turn 26 in September.

The Wolves have sought to include the contracts of J.J. Barea and Kevin Martin in a Love trade, but likely will have to do so by finding a third team that has salary-cap room -- and possibly a veteran player they want to trade -- because the Cavaliers will be stretched to their cap limits. James, Irving and Love all are signed to maximum-salary contracts. In return, that third team also would receive a future draft pick(s) and/or possibly a young player as well.

Barea's expiring contract will pay him $4.5 this season and Martin has three years and $21 million remaining on a four-year contract to which Saunders signed him last summer. Guard Alexey Shved's expiring $3.1 million contract could be included in such a deal instead.

(c)2014 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

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