Kevin Love reportedly has informed the Timberwolves of his desire to play for a contender, telling the team that he plans to become an unrestricted free agent by opting out of the final year of his contract.
Love is signed through the 2015-16 season, but an early opt-out clause allows the three-time All-Star to hit free agency after the upcoming 2014-15 season.
If Love does leave, the man who will apparently take over the leadership role is Ricky Rubio, who said he wants to step up if Love steps out.
"He's a special player, the numbers he puts up are incredible, but we need a different leader," Rubio told a Basketball Americano, as translated by Bleacher Report. "He's our leader in points and other things, but vocally he's not the type of player that wants to be, or that can be the leader. There are different types of leaders. It didn't have to be him. It could have been Kevin Martin, who has a bit more experience, or I could take a step forward and be the definitive leader."
The New York Daily News reported that Love wants to play for the Lakers, but also is open to playing for the Knicks.
League sources told Yahoo! Sports that the Celtics, Bulls, Warriors, Lakers and Suns all plan to make a hard push to acquire Love in a trade. The Lakers and Celtics plan to include first-round picks in the upcoming NBA Draft in any deal for Love.
Los Angeles and Boston will both have high-lottery picks. Boston has the fourth best odds to win the No. 1 overall pick (8.8 percent chance) while the Lakers have a 6.3 percent chance obtain the top spot, according to Bleacher Report. The draft order will be set on Tuesday through the annual lottery.
Wolves President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders maintained his stance that he doesn't plan on trading Love, however, Jon Krawcyznski of the Associated Press reports that Saunders has "softened" his stance on trading Love – but only for the right deal.
A likely asking price would include a high first-round pick in this year's draft and a solid veteran or two who would come in and contribute right away to a team that is lacking in veteran leadership.
If the Wolves do not get an offer they feel is worthy of parting with the second-best player in franchise history, they are content to move forward with a plan to show Love that Minnesota is where he belongs, much the way the Portland Trail Blazers did with LaMarcus Aldridge last offseason.
Former Timberwolves GM and head coach Kevin McHale, who now coaches the Houston Rockets, would like to make a run at Love, too.
One Bleacher Report writers believes to team to watch out for is Golden State. The Warriors can send forward David Lee and his $15 million salary to Minnesota, along with the rookie contract of sharpshooter Klay Thompson.
It's an ominous position for the Timberwolves to be in as it seems clear that they'll lose Love for nothing unless they trade him.