- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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Sources told ESPN.com that the Wolves, while continuing to discuss trade proposals that would send Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers, have been exploring their options for acquiring Young from the Sixers, either through a separate transaction or as part of an expanded Love trade.
Whether Philadelphia proves willing to part with Young, though, remains to be seen.
Young has two years left on his contract, including a player option for the 2015-16 season, valued at a combined $19.3 million. Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie said in June that he anticipates Young starting next season in Philadelphia, but it's believed that the club is willing to move Young if the assets acquired in return are sufficiently attractive.
Because of his ongoing trade limbo with the Wolves, Love has removed himself from the Team USA squad that started training camp Monday in Las Vegas in advance of the FIBA Basketball World Cup that starts Aug. 30 in Spain. With Love widely expected to be dealt before the start of next season, both he and the Wolves deemed risking injury with the national team before a trade was consummated to be too risky.
ESPN.com reported last week that LeBron James' Cavaliers remain the front-runner in the trade hunt for Love despite the fact Andrew Wiggins -- Minnesota's top target in Love discussions -- can't legally be dealt before Aug. 23.
Sources say that the Wolves, at present, are still higher on a Cleveland trade package centered on Wiggins than any other offer on the table for Love. Sources say that the Cavaliers, meanwhile, are increasingly confident about their chances of landing Love and firmly believe they are progressing toward a trade framework that the Timberwolves will accept in exchange for the All-Star power forward, which would enable Cleveland to pair him with Olympic teammate James.
The fact league rules prevent Wiggins from being traded for 30 days after finally signing his rookie contract Thursday would appear to give other suitors a window to put together an offer for Love that trumps Cleveland's. But the Cavaliers' main current threat in the Love sweepstakes -- Chicago -- has to sweat out a similar wait if it hopes to entice the Wolves with either of its prized rookies.
The Bulls signed sharpshooter Doug McDermott last Tuesday and top European prospect Nikola Mirotic on July 18, so they'd likewise have to wait 30 days from those respective signings before including either in a trade package for Love. ESPN.com reported last week that the Bulls have re-emerged as a determined trade suitor for Love, but it's believed that Chicago would need to package at least one of those rookies -- and maybe both -- along with Taj Gibson to have a shot at competing with Cleveland's ability to offer Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and a future first-round pick for him.
The Golden State Warriors have long been regarded as Minnesota's preferred trade partner in a Love deal, with ESPN.com reporting as far back as May that both Golden State and Chicago appealed to Love as potential destinations. But the Warriors have been consistently unwilling to surrender Klay Thompson in a Love trade, with Minnesota known to be unwilling to consider any deal with Golden State that does not include Thompson.
One source insisted earlier this month, however, that the Wolves -- especially owner Glen Taylor -- actually now prefer a package headlined by Wiggins to a Thompson-led haul for Love because Wiggins is widely seen as possessing superstar potential. As a bonus, Wiggins is also just starting out on a rookie contract. Thompson is eligible for a lucrative contract extension from the Warriors or any team he's traded to between now and Halloween, which would theoretically put a financial burden on the Wolves after they signed center Nikola Pekovic last summer and while they're in the midst of negotiations with point guard Ricky Rubio on Rubio's own contract extension.
League rules do not prevent the Cavs or Bulls from striking an agreement in principle with Minnesota on a Love trade involving one of their freshly signed rookies during the teams' respective 30-day waiting periods. But league rules do forbid any public announcement or confirmation of such verbal agreements until the 30 days pass.
After a lengthy delay while using all of its remaining cap space to try to fortify the roster around James, Cleveland finally signed Wiggins on Thursday to a four-year deal with a starting salary of $5.5 million to start the 30-day clock. Yet the Cavs have long maintained that a trade for Love ultimately would be easier if their prized rookie is under contract -- despite the mandatory wait -- since Wiggins' new salary can make the cap math easier in a potential Love deal. Had he remained unsigned, Wiggins' rights would have carried no monetary value in a trade.
Although the Cavs would prefer to keep Wiggins, their interest in Love is understandable given how well the big man's combination of elite rebounding, passing and long-range shooting ability could complement James' game. With Love, Cleveland would rank as the undeniable favorite to win the Eastern Conference, something the Cavs managed only once in James' initial seven-season stint with his home-state franchise.
Love holds more than the usual sway in terms of where he winds up thanks to his ability to become a free agent in July 2015. Apart from the Denver Nuggets, who have continued to pursue a trade for Love even though sources say they have little to no hope of securing a long-term commitment from him, it's believed that no team in the hunt for the 25-year-old is prepared to surrender its most valuable trade assets without assurances that Love wants to play there and stay there.
ESPN.com reported earlier this month that James' short-term contract with the Cavs, which includes a player option to return to free agency next summer and spans only two seasons, would not dissuade Love from giving Cleveland such a commitment. James' arrival, sources said, immediately put the Cavaliers at the same level as Chicago and Golden State on Love's wish list.
Minnesota's Taylor insisted again recently that he wanted to keep Love and that the Wolves are prepared to open the season with Love on the roster. But sources say numerous rival teams think Minnesota ultimately knows it has to 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.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have expressed interest in Philadelphia 76ers power forward Thaddeus Young as a potential replacement for Kevin Love, according to sources close to the situation.