2014 NBA free agency rumors: What LeBron's return to Cleveland means for the Warriors' pursuit of Kevin Love

USA TODAY Sports

With LeBron James headed back to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Golden State Warriors face another legitimate challenger in the Kevin Love sweepstakes.

There has been a belief among some Golden State Warriors fans that the franchise held all the cards in the Kevin Love sweepstakes because the Warriors' offer was the best available and that the Minnesota Timberwolves would eventually be forced to make the deal with no other options available.

Now that LeBron James has decided to go to Cleveland, it's really difficult to push that reasoning (which was always somewhat shaky).

SB Nation has plenty more reaction to the James' decision itself and Dave Zirin of The Nation has published proof that he predicted this last year with all the narrative goodness you can handle.

But for now, a look at how LeBron's decision hurt the Golden State Warriors.

Cleveland is now a legitimate contender to get Love

With Cleveland landing LeBron James they're expected to set their sights on Kevin Love next, adding a contender to the sweepstakes.

We sort of discussed this possibility yesterday and there's more at SB Nation and Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune wrote more after James decision, but the short story is that any potential offer they make is probably better than the Warriors' offer for a simple reason: the centerpiece, Andrew Wiggins, is a young player with plenty of upside and he won't have the option to walk next season. In addition, Cleveland has a number of other young assets as well as future draft picks.

Of course, there's no guarantee that happens: if Love indicates that he won't re-sign with Cleveland next year, they'd be much better off keeping their young pieces to grow around LeBron. But Cleveland is now a distinct possibility.

Houston is likely out of the running for Love

With LeBron going to Cleveland, Chris Bosh is now headed to the Houston Rockets. The good news is that they have no reason to pursue Love anymore. The bad news is they now have a really good top four with Bosh, James Harden, Dwight Howard and (a matched) Chandler Parsons.

Parsons has been the trade chip that connected Houston to Love for some time, but with Bosh around - and already needing to clear cap just to sign him - there's not much reason to make that deal. Of course, Bosh could decide not to sign, but all indications are that this is a done deal.

But this still makes things worse for the Warriors: as they look at moving up in the Western Conference hierarchy, adding Bosh to Houston did not make things any easier.

Chicago is... still in limbo, waiting for Carmelo Anthony

With LeBron's decision made and Bosh going to Houston, we should probably be rooting for Carmelo Anthony to go to Chicago.

Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times broke down that scenario well, which includes the notion that the Bulls offer was rumored to be the best available for Minnesota about two weeks ago.

If the Bulls get Melo, their current mix of defensive players is a great complement for him, as described by Coach Nick of BBallBreakdown. The potential sticking point there is that Anthony would have to take a paycut for Chicago to sign him outright or the Knicks would have to sign-and-trade him, which could chip away at some of those pieces that would complement him so well.

Did Boston facilitate their own demise?

A more subtle impact from this process, was the deal Cleveland they made with Boston to clear the cap room required to sign James. Brian Robb of Boston.com has already discussed this at more length, but by helping to make Cleveland a player in the Love sweepstakes, they pretty much put themselves in the same position as the Warriors: with an inferior potential offer than Cleveland.

What will Minnesota do next?

Suddenly, Minnesota is in a pretty good position to sit back and field offers, which means holding back assets will do competing suitors no good.

There is a chance that every other offer dries up, leaving the Warriors as the lone offer: Love could say he doesn't want to go to Cleveland, Chicago could be forced to trade away assets and cap room for Anthony, and Golden State could be the best offer remaining on the table. So it's not impossible that the Warriors get Love, but it just seemingly became more difficult to take a stance that "posturing" is a good idea at the moment.

And ultimately, we don't really know what has gone on in negotiations between Golden State and Minnesota (e.g. whether the Warriors have withheld Thompson, Thompson made it clear that he wasn't interested in playing there long-term, or the Warriors were simply asking for too much aside from Thompson). Yet if indeed a fascination with Thompson's potential has been the reason for a trade not happening, it could be a decision the Warriors regret for years to come as they're stuck in fighting for a bottom playoff seed in the Western Conference standings.

For more on the Warriors pursuit of Kevin Love, check out our storystream.

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