The Cleveland Cavaliers made a deal to increase their trade asset flexibility in pursuit of Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star forward Kevin Love, absorbing three non-guaranteed contracts in a trade with the Utah Jazz on Tuesday, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
The Cavaliers unloaded the guaranteed deal of Carrick Felix – along with a future second-round pick and $1 million – for John Lucas, Malcolm Thomas and Erik Murphy, sources said.
Cleveland has been determined to acquire Love since it signed LeBron James to a free-agent deal.
Those three players can be included in packages as preludes to a Love deal, or in a Love deal itself to give Minnesota salary-cap relief. The Cavaliers hold an interest in keeping Thomas, who could be an inexpensive role player to strengthen their frontcourt depth, sources said.
Cleveland has to be creative in solidifying a deal for Love, who the Timberwolves want to package with Kevin Martin and J.J. Barea, several front-office officials told Yahoo Sports.
Cleveland's discussions with Minnesota have escalated with the Cavaliers' willingness to include No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins in the deal, sources said. Without Wiggins, there's no other combination of Cleveland players and picks that would interest Minnesota. Once Wiggins signs his rookie contract, a trade involving him can't be formally completed for 30 days.
The Denver Nuggets have remained a strong contender for Love, offering a package that sources said has been the most appealing to Minnesota outside of the Cavaliers and a possible Golden State deal including Klay Thompson. So far, the Warriors have kept Thompson out of their offer to Minnesota.
Minnesota wants a package for Love to include Barea, who has $4.5 million left on his expiring deal – and possibly Martin, who has three years and $21 million left. As part of a larger deal, the Cavaliers want to include 2013 No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett and a future No. 1 pick for Love.
The Cavaliers have been offering future first-round picks for an experienced center, league sources said.
Love has demanded a trade before the start of next season, threatening to opt-out of his contract in July 2015 to sign elsewhere as a free agent.