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NBA AM: Is Denver The Front Runner For Love?

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The Pursuit Of Love:  With the NBA Draft just a week away, teams have not only ramped up their decision making process on draft picks, but several teams have ramped up their pursuit of trades involving veteran players and none of them are bigger than Minnesota’s Kevin Love.

For a few weeks it seemed as though the Boston Celtics would win out in the race to nab Love, not only because they had a hefty offer, but because Love’s camp has apparently indicated re-signing in Boston could work for him.

The Celtics’ offer is believed to be centered on their two draft picks this year (the sixth pick and the 17th pick) and a choice of either Jared Sullinger or Kelly Olynyk. Boston’s offer is also believed to include at least two future first rounders, including the pick the Celtics hold from the Brooklyn Nets deal last summer.

Unfortunately for Boston, that does not seem to be enough to get a deal done.

The Golden State Warriors are apparently offering a package built around David Lee and Harrison Barnes and possibly future first-round draft picks. There has been talk that the Wolves would want star guard Klay Thompson in the deal, which apparently is a no-go for the Warriors.

The Chicago Bulls have a seat at the table with an offer built around Taj Gibson, Tony Snell and/or Jimmy Butler and possibly both of their first-round picks this year (the 16th pick and 19th pick).

The Denver Nuggets are reportedly offering forward Kenneth Faried, swingman Wilson Chandler and either their 11th pick or involving a third team to net the Wolves another veteran in their package. It’s possible Danilo Gallinari gets included, however he is several months removed from surgery and still somewhat questionable on whether he’ll be ready for training camp.

Timberwolves president Flip Saunders is apparently more interested in landing established players for his star asset, and believes that the return for Love could go up in the coming days, which is likely why the details of offers are leaking out.

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The Celtics are very much still in the mix on this, as are the Cleveland Cavaliers, who hold the top overall pick and a roster filled with younger talent.

The Houston Rockets and the Brooklyn Nets are said to be at the table with the Wolves, but do not appear to have the kinds of assets that it will take to land Love, given what’s being offered elsewhere.

Love is scheduled to earn $15.71 million this season and can opt out of his contract in July of 2015. His camp has made it clear that Love would like a change of scenery and that hitting free agency in 2015 was the goal.

Most of the teams at the table are willing to take the risk on Love, but there continues to be a defiant stance from the Minnesota side that they may not trade him at all.

This could be some poker playing on Minnesota’s part, but there is inevitability to the idea that the Wolves have to trade Love at some point. Although their stance has been if they cannot get the right level of return for Love, their best course may be to play out the start of the season with him and look to dump him at the deadline.

You can expect the heat on Love trades is only going to increase, especially with seven more days until the NBA Draft gets underway.

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From The Grape Vine:  There are a number of smaller tid bits related to the draft, so let’s get into those:

Smart Off The Board In Orlando?:  For a while it seemed as though Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart was the Orlando Magic’s guy with the fourth pick. However, after two workouts there is a sense that neither went particularly well and that Smart may no longer be the guy. No one will say he had a bad showing, but there is a sense that there were things the Magic expected to see and did not. On the flip side, both Noah Vonleh and Dante Exum were said to have impressed in their workouts, which is why there was so much hype about Vonleh to the Magic over the last week and why Exum is still very much an option at four.

The Magic are holding a “vet camp” this week in Orlando and are looking at potential summer league invites that includes Kalin Lucas, Josh Magette, Cam Jones, Kelvin Lewis, Matt Bouldin, Mfon Udofia, Scott Suggs, Marcus Johnson, Derwin Kitchen, Edwin Ubiles, Seth Curry, CJ Williams, Michael Bramos, Josh Selby, Rodney Williams, Trey McKinney-Jones, Bogdan Radosavljevic, Zach Graham, Ivan Aska, Zeke Marshall, C.J. Leslie and Ahmad Nivins.

Most NBA teams use “vet camps” to audition players for summer league and possible training camp spots.

The Magic open Summer League play in Orlando on July 5.

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Vonleh to See The Sixers:  How high is Noah Vonleh’s stock? He is getting a look from the Sixers with their number three pick. Now before we get silly here, the Sixers have been talking about trade down scenarios so this may be covering their bases, but sources close to the process said Vonleh’s camp wanted assurances that he was genuinely an option for the third pick before they would agree to come in, which they received and he is doing.

The Sixers are said to be extremely high on Andrew Wiggins and have talked about trade up scenarios. However, there is a scenario that should things go massively awry that Philly wouldn’t be opposed to trading down a few spots, if they cannot get their guy.

It’s believed the Sixers have Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Dante Exum at the top of their board, so the Vonleh workout may be an exercise in covering bases, although Voneleh’s camp believes he is a genuine candidate.

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Randle’s Foot:  Let’s get to the point on Kentucky big man Julius Randle’s foot. There is nothing wrong with it today. In fact there was nothing wrong with it all season at Kentucky. What surfaced in the medical review at the combine is that while in high school he had what’s called a Jones fracture of the fifth metatarsal of his right foot. He had a screw inserted to stabilize the foot; he missed three months and has had no issues since. The problem is that apparently the MRI’s at the combine revealed a “malunion,” which is a fracture that has healed, but that it has healed in less than an optimal position.

There is a belief among some teams that Randle will at some point need a surgical procedure to remove the screw and re-align the bone.

The best way to think about this, is knowing you need your tonsils out. Until it becomes a problem, Randle is likely fine; however, there is a chance that at some point the “malunion” causes a problem, such as swelling or soreness and it will need to be addressed.

The concern among teams is that he should have this done this offseason and ensure that the 82-game grind doesn’t turn this small routine problem into something major.

Randle, of course, is playing defense on this, telling reporters this week that he consulted with the top foot doctor in the country and that doctor said nothing was wrong and that no corrective measures were necessary.

NBA teams are going to go with what their medical staff is telling them, and that’s going to impact Randle’s draft stock, however there is a reality. He can play today, he can play tomorrow and he might be able to play for five years and it never be an issue and that’s something teams will consider. The flip side is he could get into day three of Summer League and require surgery.

This is a routine part of broken bone surgery, so this is nothing to kill the kid over, but with so many top-tier prospects that do not have the the red flag of surgery, there is a chance Randle is going to land in the six to ten range in the draft, which frankly is where he was likely going to land any way.

Elfrid Payton At No. 7?:  Every draft there is an improbable rise into the top ten. This year it looks like Elfrid Payton. He has been crushing workouts everywhere he goes and while other more prominent names are getting talked about, Payton seems to be on the fast track to the green room next Thursday.

It’s believed that his floor is now 12 to the Orlando Magic and that Philadelphia at 10, Charlotte at nine, Sacramento at eight and the Lakers at seven are all seriously pondering Payton with their pick.

Considering when this process started in April most had Payton in the mid-to low 20s, he has done very well for himself.

He still has to get drafted there, but his stock seems to have moved the most dramatically in the process.

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About Steve Kyler

Steve Kyler

Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 16 seasons.