Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love is expected to miss a month and a half after he goes under the knife for knee surgery.
ESPN’s Dave McMenamin initially reported the news, and it’s not something that Cavs fans want to hear. Love recently got selected to his fourth All-Star Game after putting together his best statistical year since 2013-14.
Love is Cleveland’s third-leading scorer at 20 points a night and is also their leading rebounder at 11.1 per game. As invaluable as he is on the backboards, the Cavaliers will miss his presence on the three-point line, and this is a team that’s been without fellow marksman J.R. Smith since mid-December.
Collectively, Cleveland shoots 39 percent from downtown and Love is one of their eight guys who nail more than 38 percent of their attempts. His 119 makes are a team-best, and that equates to 2.6 a night, tying him with newly-acquired Kyle Korver for the lead in nightly volume.
Six weeks brings us to Mar. 28, which gives Love just enough time to get back and get re-acclimated before the playoffs start. It goes without saying that the Cavaliers need their team at full strength to make a championship run, and we have the 2015 Finals as evidence. Even on the shoulders of LeBron James‘ superhuman effort, the lack of his fellow stars proved costly.
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Love’s been able to stay healthy for the regular season during his short stint in Cleveland, and he hasn’t missed a significant portion of pre-postseason action since 2012-13 when he broke his shooting hand — twice. Since becoming more perimeter-oriented, Love’s durability isn’t tested on a nightly basis with constantly being banged around in the post and on the backboards; with the Cavs, 43.7 percent of his shots are threes, compared to 23.6 with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
As for Cleveland, they’re going to struggle. In the seven games that Love has missed this year, the Cavs are 4-3, and their offense is 6.1 points per 100 possessions (down to 110.7 from 116.8) worse with him not on the floor. What’s more shocking, since Love isn’t exactly a stopper on defense, is that the team’s defense rating per 100 jumps up to 112.2 with him sitting compared to 106.3 when he’s not.
What’s worrisome is the possibility of a setback, and anything that limits Love from coming back for the playoffs really puts a damper on the Cavaliers’ title hopes. As the trade deadline nears, Cleveland could be in the market for yet another option to keep them afloat since the top-half of the East is becoming increasingly competitive.
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