As bad as the Cleveland Cavaliers’ winter has been, it seems that things can and will keep getting worse.
The Cavaliers got manhandled by Andre Drummond on Tuesday night in Detroit in a 125-114 loss to the Pistons. Drummond, an All-Star for the second time this year, scored 21 points and added 22 rebounds and seven assists for a Pistons team missing newly acquired power forward Blake Griffin. Cleveland pulled within two points in the fourth quarter, only for Detroit to power away again for just their second win in ten games.
The Cavaliers are now just half a game ahead of the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference, while the John Wall-less Washington Wizards are also closing in.
Those standings may look worse in a few weeks, after Cleveland lost Kevin Love for a significant period of time on Tuesday night. Love has a, “Non-displaced fracture of the fifth metacarpal on his left hand,” according to the Cavaliers, suffered in the third quarter of the defeat at Little Caesars Arena. ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reported on Wednesday that Love will “likely miss six to eight weeks.”
The injury deprives the Cavaliers of a prolific scorer—Love is second on the team this season at 17.9 points per game—and their top rebounder. It also means Tyronn Lue and the Cleveland front office has far less room for manoeuvre ahead of the NBA trade deadline on February 8.
If the Cavaliers were looking to make a major trade before the deadline, Love looked one of the more likely players to be moved on. As a five-time All-Star, the 29-year-old could have potentially been used as part of a package to take someone like Drummond or DeAndre Jordan to Cleveland to give the Cavaliers a dominant defensive presence at center.
Now, as Kevin Pelton of ESPN explains, any trade proposals involving Love are off the table. Pelton suggests a number of ways the Cavaliers could get around Love’s absence, including playing more "small ball" with Tristan Thompson at center. While that might improve Cleveland’s defense, it would leave a hole in point-scoring that would have to be filled elsewhere on the team.
Pelton suggests the Cavaliers are stuck for trade options now if they want a center before the trade deadline. If they keep Channing Frye, Pelton notes, “The only other expiring contract for more than the veteran's minimum that the Cavaliers have to offer teams in trade belongs to starting point guard Isaiah Thomas.”
The Cavaliers’ front office already faced some tough decisions before Love went down for up to two months. Those decisions just got a lot tougher.