With a trade package that is expected to include guard Klay Thompson and forward David Lee, the Golden State Warriors are considered the front-runners to land Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star forward Kevin Love in a deal, NBA sources told the Globe on Thursday.
A source close to the situation pointed out that “nothing is imminent” with regard to a potential deal, adding that pieces involved are still being discussed. Trade talks between the Timberwolves and several teams pursuing Love, including the Celtics, are expected to intensify leading up to the June 26 draft.
“Like anything else, they’re going to say, ‘We’ll wait until the last minute to see if anyone can up the ante,’ ” a league source said.
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And though recent reports indicated that Thompson only recently became part of the talks between the Warriors and Timberwolves, a league source stressed that Thompson has always been available.
“That’s who [Minnesota] has always wanted from the beginning,” the source said. “Minnesota’s thing has always been about Klay Thompson.”
The 24-year-old Thompson, who averaged 18.4 points per game this past season, is especially coveted because there aren’t many quality shooting guards in the NBA who are also quality defenders.
Reports have speculated that Minnesota would have tried deal for just Lee, Warriors forward Harrison Barnes, and possibly a future first-round draft pick.
“If that was the case, a deal would have been done weeks ago,” the league source said. “That was never the deal.”
Chicago and Denver are also considered to be potential suitors for Love.
The Bulls, according to league sources, could offer guard Jimmy Butler and forward Taj Gibson, along with a draft pick.
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The Nuggets could offer forward Kenneth Faried and forward Wilson Chandler, along with another player they might acquire through a deal with another team before sending that player to Minnesota, the sources said.
Some teams pursuing Love still doubt that Timberwolves president and coach Flip Saunders has fully committed to the idea of dealing Love. However, the belief remains strong that Saunders wants to win now, therefore preferring proven players instead of draft picks.
For the Celtics, that could mean that their only chance at dealing for Love is to get creative, especially involving other teams in a potential deal.
But with as many as 10 first-round draft picks over the next five years, the Celtics have more than enough assets to deal with other teams for quality players that they could then trade to Minnesota for Love.
During an appearance Thursday on ESPN’s “Numbers Never Lie,” Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo talked about Love, including their meeting up at a Red Sox game during Love’s recent weekend trip to Boston.
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“Not recruiting at all,” Rondo said. “Kevin is under contract. With the CBA, the NBA takes that very seriously: no recruiting. We were at the game, I was sitting on the Monster seats, had some great seats, enjoying myself. I took a glove out with my son and we tried to catch a ball, but none never came.
“As I was exiting, Kevin Love was at the box suites and I spoke to him, said hello, no pitch, just wanted him to enjoy his time in Boston, and that was about it.”
Rondo said the rebuilding Celtics need more than Love, though.
“We need a couple pieces, but having a guy like Kevin Love wouldn’t hurt, as well,” Rondo said.
And if the Celtics don’t land Love, Rondo said he will understand.
“No. I can’t go to sleep every night wanting to try to play with Kevin Love,” Rondo said. “Right now I’ve got to go with what we have now in our locker room and coach [Brad] Stevens, so that’s what I’m focused on now.”
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Baxter Holmes can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @BaxterHolmes.