It’s official: Kevin Love is out for the rest of the playoffs due to his dislocated shoulder, which makes Kelly Olynyk the most hated man in Cleveland, using both his hands to cause the injury and probably end all hope for the Cavaliers to win the NBA championship in 2015.
Was it intentional? Probably. Sure, it was the spur of the moment kind of thing. Olynyk didn’t go into the game thinking to himself that he’s going to dislocate Love’s shoulder and end his playoffs. But one thing led to another, and in that specific fight for the ball, Olynyk didn’t armbar Love by mistake. He did it, knowing he was going to hurt him. The rest? You know the rest.
There aren’t that many options for the Cavaliers now. They were able to fix their problems during the season with some smart trades that landed them Timofey Mozgov, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, while getting rid of someone like Dion Waiters, who was a problem on the court and off of it. You can’t make those fixes in the postseason, so it comes down to what they have on the bench, which isn’t much.
Tristan Thompson is the only other natural power forward on the roster. He often plays center for the Cavaliers, but it’s more about what he can and can’t do than his position. He’s a very good rebounder, better defender than Love and a great athlete, usually showing his stuff in the paint. But he’s not a shooter, and Love was mainly used to stretch the floor.
The Cavaliers have shooters on the bench: James Jones and Mike Miller, both of them small forwards who can’t really play defense anymore. Obviously, there’s the option of moving James to power forward, or giving Shawn Marion, who can play power forward and even offer some outside shooting if he’s left wide open, more minutes at the ‘4’. No solution is perfect, especially in the first two games of their next series, which will include the absence due to suspension of J.R. Smith.
Can the Cavaliers overcome this? In the short run, which means the conference semifinals? Possibly, maybe even probably. But further down the line? Highly questionable in the conference finals or even before that if the Bulls make it out of their series with the Bucks. But assuming they somehow make the NBA finals? Without Love? Against one of the Western teams? Seems highly unlikely that they go all the way and actually complete the job.