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James saga moves from Cleveland to Minnesota, and could include Love

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Getting another star player to join him in Miami four years ago wasn’t difficult for LeBron James.

But that might not be so easy this time around, with James returning to Cleveland, especially if the player he covets is Minnesota Timberwolves all-star Kevin Love.

What King James wants, he gets.

But the Wolves will have something to say about that. They need to get enough talent in return to justify trading their best player.

“They’ve got to get something,” NBA TV analyst Rick Mahorn told the Pioneer Press on Friday. “You do need a (superstar) in return, if you’re able to facilitate that. They gave up Kevin Garnett and got Al Jefferson with some other players from Boston (in 2007). It’s about what your thought is as a GM and owner of a team: Where do want your team to go?”

Love’s agent made it clear this offseason that his client would opt out next summer if still under contract with the Wolves this season.

So keeping one of the best power forwards in the game obviously is not an option.

But what if Wolves coach and president of basketball operations Flip Saunders and owner Glen Taylor aren’t offered a sweet deal from Cleveland that includes this year’s No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins?

ESPN’s Chris Broussard reported Friday that the Cavaliers told Wiggins he’s not being traded, and that they’re trying to get a deal done for Love that would involve a third team.

Golden State certainly has players the Wolves might want, and a trade with Love seemed to be a possibility before the NBA draft two weeks ago. The Wolves and Warriors still appear to be talking, but reports say Golden State remains firm in not wanting to trade Klay Thompson, and that seemingly is a deal breaker.

“If you got Klay Thompson, he’s a proven shooter and proven scorer,” Mahorn said. “He’s a guy who would be an upgrade for your team. But if you can’t get who you want, you still have to negotiate.”

James’ decision to return home was announced in a letter posted online by Sports Illustrated on Friday morning. The attention quickly turned to the two lucky players who could complete the next “Big Three” with him.

In Miami, it was Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, and they helped James win two NBA championships in four NBA Finals appearances after he left the Cavaliers as a free agent in 2010.

Now Cleveland fans are speculating on which players will help James win a first title for the Cavaliers.

Most of that speculation has focused on Love and talented young Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving as the next “Big Three.”

“You add Kevin Love, it’s a dramatically different team,” ESPN analyst and former NBA coach P.J. Carlesimo said on Friday’s telecast. “You need to tweak this roster if you’re going to win some rings. They’re too young right now.”

ESPN’s Marc Stein tweeted Friday that Love was “intrigued” by the possibility of going to Cleveland, and that he could sign a long-term deal with the Cavaliers if traded there.

But what are the Cavaliers willing to give up?

Wiggins, the No. 1 pick in this year’s NBA draft, is an athletic 6-foot-8 swingman who showed the potential to be an NBA star during his one season at Kansas. He’s an exciting finisher who can defend, maybe even a rookie of the year candidate.

But Cleveland’s initial offer to the Wolves reportedly did not involve Wiggins; the Cavaliers offered up shooting guard Dion Waiters, power forward Anthony Bennett and a future first-round draft pick.

Waiters is a proven scorer, averaging 15.9 points in 70 games and 24 starts last season for the Cavaliers. But Bennett, the No. 1 pick in 2013, was a major disappointment, averaging just 4.2 points and 3.0 rebounds in 52 games. The big knocks on him: At 6-7 and 260 pounds, he’s undersized and overweight.

So far it’s unclear whether Cleveland is willing to part with Wiggins. Magic Johnson tweeted Friday that “LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Andrew Wiggins have the potential to be a great ‘Big 3’.”

But James didn’t mention Wiggins, or Bennett, in the letter he wrote explaining his decision.

“I see myself as a mentor now and I’m excited to lead some of these talented young guys,” James wrote. “I think I can help Kyrie Irving become one of the best point guards in our league. I think I can help elevate Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters. And I can’t wait to reunite with Anderson Varejao, one of my favorite teammates.”

So does that mean Thompson, Waiters and Varejao aren’t going anywhere?

James knows who he wants to play with, just like he knew he wanted to return to his home-state team while everyone else fretted about his next move.

But this time the decision isn’t in his hands. It’s up to Minnesota and other teams to determine how good the Cavaliers can be right now.

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.