Cavs: Kevin Love playing starting share during rest of year seems unlikely, when he’s back

Cleveland Cavaliers big Kevin Love warms up before a game. (Photo by Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports)
Cleveland Cavaliers big Kevin Love warms up before a game. (Photo by Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports) /

At this point, we have barely seen Kevin Love in game action for the Cleveland Cavaliers this season. Love reaggravated a right calf strain in a convincing win on Dec. 27 versus the Philadelphia 76ers, and he’s been hampered by that ailment throughout most of the way.

Love did return in Cleveland’s first game post-All-Star break, in what was a blowout loss at the New Orleans Pelicans, but played only 10 minutes in that one. He was on a minutes restriction then, which was standard operating procedure, really.

Love played very, very sparingly in Cleveland’s next game, in what was a rough loss, thanks to an awful fourth quarter, at the Atlanta Hawks two days after that Pels loss, from there. We have not seen Love in game action since that point, though, and it appears uncertain as to what the potential timetable could be for him from here.

These comments from Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff on Wednesday, via Chris Fedor of, seem to play further into that uncertainty too, frankly. Bickerstaff did state, on the plus side, that Love went through Wednesday shootaround, and that he believes Love is “making progress.”

But it’s tough to say, really, given the injury concerns with Love in the past, and calf injuries are so difficult to gauge, particularly for bigs.

Given the injury struggles, it’s tough to foresee Love playing a starting share for the Cavs during the rest of this season, when he’s back in the fold.

Love has only appeared in four games so far this season, with the last one again him only playing a few minutes. He’s played in 14.5 minutes per outing in those appearances, and averaged 5.8 points on a 40.9 percent effective field goal shooting clip, and 3.3 rebounds.

The gyst is this: factoring in the uncertainty regarding the injury for him, it’s tough to foresee the 32-year-old playing a starting minutes-share even semi-regularly from here for Cleveland the rest of the campaign. Could Love at times play more than half of games for the Cavs at points during the rest of the year?

Sure. I could be wrong. But I wouldn’t anticipate that to be the case with any regularity, really. We’ve barely seen Love in action for the Cavaliers during this campaign, and with the league’s/the Cavs’ condensed schedule, that’s even more so the case I’d think.

When we do see Love back, whenever that ultimately is, perhaps during Cleveland’s current road trip, and when he’s playing, period, I still foresee him starting at the 4. That I wouldn’t think would change.

But what I’m getting at is we shouldn’t expect to see Love regularly play more than half of games/a starting minutes-share in his appearances from here through the rest of 2020-21. There’s again the injury concern/condensed schedule for one thing.

And along with that, though, is how Larry Nance Jr. has filled in, when he’s been in there, for Love as Cleveland’s starting 4, and looks to be mostly back physically from missing an extended period with a fourth metacarpal fracture on his left hand.

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Nance is definitely not the perimeter shooting presence of Love, no, although he has been largely effective when he’s been fully healthy/not affected by the injury from deep. And he’s one of Cleveland’s best defenders that’s had 1.9 steals per outing, and he’s a highly effective passer, rebounder and rolling lob threat.

Plus, while if/when Love is back in the fold, I’d still expect Dean Wade to be getting his share of burn, and he could even fill in in spurts as a jumbo 3 at times.

Wade, frankly, should be a rotational regular for the Cleveland Cavaliers from here, considering he’s also been a quality defender in his minutes, and has connected on 39.8 percent of his triple attempts on the season, and 44.0 percent in his past 13 games.

Anyhow, as a side note, Kevin Love has been somewhat mentioned in trade rumors, as has been the case throughout his tenure with Cleveland, realistically, but it’s still tough to foresee him actually being moved by Thursday afternoon’s deadline.

And while he has plenty of reported interest, as Sam Amico of Forty Eight Minutes and OutKick highlighted, it’s still seemingly not at all likely that Cleveland trades Nance. Whereas on the flip side, Cedi Osman/Taurean Prince and/or JaVale McGee, given recent rumors/reports, could seemingly very well be moved.

So to drive it home, however, it seems pretty unlikely that even on a semi-regular basis, we’ll end up seeing Love playing a starting minutes-share the rest of this season.

Perhaps Cleveland would end up moving Love in the upcoming offseason, when he’ll have only two years left on his deal? He’ll still be set to make $60.2 million over those years, for context, though.

We’ll have to see on that front. But hopefully, we still will be able to see Love, who had 17.6 points, 9.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists last season, when he was mostly healthy, make his presence felt as a quality rebounder and floor spacer.

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That’s at least somewhat and/or in closing lineups, I would imagine, during the closing stretch of this season.