How does Kevin Love's injury affect Celtics and the Eastern race?
Player injuries are changing the landscape of the Eastern Conference race. Boston is in first place at 36/15, followed closely by Toronto at 34/15 and then Cleveland third at 29/20. Injuries are also affecting potential dealing leading up to the February 8th trade deadline. Kevin Love's hand injury, expected to keep him out of action for 6-8 weeks, will have a major impact on both Cleveland's fight to retain third place in the East and their trade plans.
Love is Cleveland's top rebounder at 9.4 per game, and he is second in scoring at 17.9 PPG. He is tied with Kyle Korver for three-pointers made per game at 2.2. He can hit from inside or past the arc. He can play center or power forward. In short, he has versatility that will be difficult to replace. Here is Cleveland.com's Chris Fodor on Kevin's injury:
Unless head coach Tyronn Lue is willing to replace Love with Channing Frye, who scored 20 points in Tuesday's loss against Detroit, the shooting in the starting group will take a significant hit and the offensive efficiency may follow.
Jae Crowder, who got the early nod at power forward this season with the Cavs wanting to incorporate a small-ball lineup designed to help them long term, has struggled from beyond the arc all season. Crowder, after shooting a career-best 39 percent from deep in Boston last season, is at 32.4 percent. Jeff Green, another option to pick up more minutes, is slightly worse.
Early on in this transition, teams will likely sag off, clogging the middle and making things much more difficult for James and Isaiah Thomas.
The Cavaliers were also in a push to acquire Sacramento guard, George Hill, possibly sending Channing Frye away in the deal. Frye may now seem more valuable as part of the solution to lessen the impact of Love's injury. This is Cleveland.com's Chris Fodor again:
(Channing) Frye's impact on this team is tough to quantify. He's a vital piece behind the scenes and makes a positive impact every time he gets a chance. But he also appeared pivotal in Cleveland's quest for roster upgrades at the trade deadline.
With limited assets, Frye's expiring deal was part of the package in a rumored George Hill trade with Sacramento. Will the Cavs no longer feel comfortable using Frye as trade bait, needing him more to fill out the rotation? And if that's the decision, what other pieces could facilitate a trade?
(Isaiah) Thomas is the only other player with an expiring contract, at least one with a higher value than the veteran's minimum. That's something owner Dan Gilbert and general manager Koby Altman will need to figure out.
Cavaliers guard, Isaiah Thomas, has indicated he is only 75-80% back from his hip injury, so Cleveland has to decide if he has more value as a team member to help keep the Cavaliers near the top of the East, or does he have more value as a trade chip.
The Cleveland drama involves a number of past, and would-be, Celtics. Thomas, Crowder and Green are all former Celtics, and Love once considered Boston as a destination in free agency. Fodor has argued that Cleveland is not built to withstand the impact of Kevin's loss. I agree totally, but no one can be sure what moves the Cavaliers will make prior to the trade deadline. One thing is for sure, as Chris Fodor stated, "They are about to realize that Love, the team punching bag, isn't easy to replace".