The defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers could be in some trouble. Kevin Love is slated to miss at least six weeks forcing the Cleveland Cavaliers to hold off the competition of the Eastern Conference. It is a great possibility that the Cavaliers will have to add a temporary replacement for Love, or risk losing ground to the Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, and Washington Wizards.
The injury bug was already unkind to the Cavaliers, with shooting guard J.R. Smith out. Now with the news of Kevin Love missing time (courtesy of Yahoo Sports) after having his knee scoped, Cleveland is scrambling looking for answers. Despite the recent NBA trade rumors involving Kevin Love as a target for the New York Knicks in a Carmelo Anthony deal, the Cavaliers could least afford to lose the power forward.
Love has been a stalwart in the Cavaliers’ system. His willingness to sacrifice his game for the betterment of the team cannot be overlooked. The Cleveland Cavaliers are stuck playing a different style without him. The next six weeks will be an uphill battle for the Cavaliers.
For now, it is next man up (courtesy of ESPN), according to LeBron James, who may see a slight increase in his playing time with Love being out.
“Sucks! It’s just our road every season. One of our key guys get hurt and this year has probably been the worst out of all years — having our starting 2-guard [J.R. Smith] out for so long and now having our All-Star power forward out for an extended period of time.
“It’s just next man up and we just hope for a healthy and speedy recovery for our All-Star.”
With no true replacement for Kevin Love on the roster, the Cavaliers might be forced to do something. Playing LeBron James extra minutes at power forward could work as a short-term solution, but there is a downside to that option.
Playing James more could risk him wearing down in the playoffs. So the question becomes — can the Cleveland Cavaliers afford to sacrifice homecourt advantage in the Eastern Conference Finals? The good news is the Cavaliers have about a week to decide on what they should do.
If LeBron James had his way, the Cleveland Cavaliers would make a minor move prior to the NBA trade deadline. Doing so would allow the Cavaliers to keep things afloat until Kevin Love is cleared to return. It would also allow the Cleveland Cavaliers to fend off the other teams chasing them in the Eastern Conference standings.
Serge Ibaka: "I have an opportunity to play for a great team, great organization, great city, so I'm very excited" pic.twitter.com/0lU4ldNXCR— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) February 15, 2017
Shortly after the news broke about Kevin Love having knee surgery, the Toronto Raptors traded for (courtesy of the NBA website) power forward Serge Ibaka. Having Ibaka on board will give the Raptors a competent third option on offense, as well as a rim protector.
The Raptors pushed the Cleveland Cavaliers to six games in the Eastern Conference Finals with Bismack Biyombo protecting the paint. They could push the Cavaliers even further with a motivated Serge Ibaka.
Due to the Kevin Love injury, the Boston Celtics will also look to make a trade. It is likely that the Celtics will step up their efforts to try and pry Jimmy Butler from the Chicago Bulls. If the Celtics get a sense that the Cleveland Cavaliers are vulnerable, they can try to offer the Bulls a huge package for Butler.
For the Celtics, Jimmy Butler could be the difference in an NBA Finals appearance or a second-round exit. The Celtics can offer the Bulls a couple of players and desirable draft picks, without taking much away from their core group. Doing so will allow the Boston Celtics to seriously challenge the Cleveland Cavaliers.
With the Celtics and Raptors already in position to challenge the Cavaliers, the Wizards could be the team poised to take the defending champs out. If the Wizards can add a low-post scorer for second unit, they will be dangerous. The Cavaliers have to tread carefully the next six weeks.
Look for the Cleveland Cavaliers to kick the tires on a minor trade. What the Cavaliers hope for is some inspired play from power forward Derrick Williams.
Williams, who signed a 10-day contract (courtesy of Yahoo Sports) less than a week ago, could help fill the void left by Kevin Love by playing with energy, rebounding, and providing solid defense. If his addition can help keep the Cavaliers on steady ground, there would be no need for a trade. For now, until Kevin Love returns, Derrick Williams is a solid option for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
[Featured Image by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images]