Just a day after Kevin Love was ruled out of the Cleveland Cavaliers second-round matchup in the playoffs, General Manager David Griffin provided even worse news for the fans. According to a tweet from Tom Withers of the Associated Press, “#Cavs GM David Griffin says Kevin Love likely done for season, shoulder extensively damaged.”
#Cavs GM David Griffin says Kevin Love likely done for season, shoulder extensively damaged.
— Tom Withers (@twithersAP) April 28, 2015
After listening to the interview from the team’s practice facility in Independence, Griffin offered very little hope for a Love return—but also did not provide an update on whether or not he would be seeking surgery. Without surgery being scheduled, there will always be hope for some Cavaliers fans that he could potentially return for the NBA Finals if the team makes it there, but for now, it looks like the Cavaliers are going to have to move on from Love for the remainder of the 2015 NBA Playoffs.
Playing in 75 of the team’s 82 games in the regular season, Love had an “up and down year” in the eyes of many while trying to find his role on the team. He shot 43.4 percent from the floor, 36.7 percent from three-point land, averaged 16.4 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. Finding his way alongside of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, Love’s scoring and rebounding numbers were down from 26.1 points and 12.5 rebounds per game a year ago, along with his shot attempts being down just under six attempts per game.
Despite his regular season numbers, Love was showing glimpses of coming around in the playoffs against the Boston Celtics. He ended up averaging 14.3 points and seven rebounds in the series, but his 23 points and nine rebounds in game three were huge with Irving having a down night in that one.
With Love now gone and J.R. Smith suspended for the first two games of the next series, the Cavaliers will have to turn to their veteran bench to fill two major holes in their lineup. Shawn Marion, Mike Miller, James Jones and Kendrick Perkins will likely all be relied upon much more than any of them expected as the playoffs continue.
Jones has played the most minutes in the playoffs of the group, averaging 2.5 points per game in 11.5 minutes in four games. Perkins has played in two games thus far, averaging three minutes and scoring 1.5 points per game. Marion logged one minute in one game, and Miller has yet to see the court. To say this group is well-rested is the understatement of the year.
Aside from their group of veterans, one can expect Tristan Thompson to likely see a bump in his 25.5 minutes per game averaged in the opening series against Boston. Thompson—as he has been all season—has been a spark off the bench, averaging 7.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. The soon-to-be restricted free agent can certainly assist in the rebounding aspect of Love’s game, but he brings a different dynamic when it comes to offense—and that is where the Cavaliers are going to have to get creative.
Love’s biggest role all season has been to provide floor spacing for the likes of James and Irving. His ability to not only space, but knock down three-pointers has kept defenses honest all year. This is simply something that does not exist with Thompson, as opposing defenses will now be able to keep an additional man in the post to help defend James and Irving when they drive to the lane.
With this in mind, Cavalier fans should not be surprised if we suddenly see Miller emerge from his cheerleader role off the bench. A career 40.7 percent three-point shooter with plenty of playoff experience, Miller is already very familiar with the spacing needs having played next to James in Miami for three seasons. Though he played in just 52 games as a Cavalier this year (13.5 minutes per game), do not think for one second Miller cannot come in and provide valuable minutes (say 15) per game to help replace what Love brought to the offense.
The only difference when Miller is in the game is that the Cavaliers will have to change up their lineup, since he is a shooting guard/small forward and Love is a power forward. This could mean we could see lineups of Irving-Miller-James-Thompson-Mozgov, or Irving-Shumpert-Miller-James-Mozgov. Basically, head coach David Blatt is going to have to get very creative moving forward.
Does it hurt to likely lose Love for the remainder of the playoffs? Absolutely. However, when you have the greatest player on the planet in James and one of the game’s best point guards in Irving, you are never out. Add in the fact that James has won more with far less (see, Cavaliers run to the finals), and there is still plenty to get excited about for Cavaliers fans beginning on Monday in round two.