Cleveland Cavaliers General Manager David Griffin announced Tuesday that Kevin Love is “highly unlikely” to play the rest of the postseason after dislocating his shoulder against the Boston Celtics in Game 4 on Sunday.
The Cavaliers are 29-12 this season when Love reaches double figures in rebounds, and his splits dramatically improved after the all-star break. During the regular season, the Cavaliers had a net rating of plus-6.6 with Love on the court; without him, it plummeted to minus-1.5, and the team had a lower assist percentage, rebound percentage, effective field goal percentage, offensive rating and assist-to-turnover ratio, plus a higher (worse) defensive rating. Cleveland’s offensive rating also dropped from 112.7 to 107.9 when Love left the court during the regular season, while the opponent’s offensive rating, effective field goal percentage and total rebound percentage rose with him off the floor.
Since the playoffs began, the effect is even more prominent: Cleveland has a net rating of plus-17.4 with Love on the floor; without him, it dips to plus-7.0. Cleveland’s offensive rating plunges from 122.3 — an incredible figure — to 97.6, and the team’s effective field goal percentage drops by 14 percent when Love sits.
Although the Cavs have played their big man fewer minutes per game since the playoffs started (26.7 compared with 33.8), that likely has more to do with the margin of victory the team averaged in the first round against the Celtics.
Love stretches the floor exceptionally well and is one of the deadliest catch-and-shoot players in the NBA. He finished with 467 catch-and-shoot points during the regular season (eighth most in the league), and finished in the top 10 in spot-up points (333).
His numbers haven’t regressed all that much in the postseason: Love has the seventh-most catch-and-shoot points of any player (28), connecting on 47.6 percent of his attempts. He’s essential to Cleveland’s perimeter attack and helped the team collapse Boston’s perimeter defense in the first round, attempting five three-pointers per game and connecting on 43 percent of them.
The Cavaliers attempted the second-most three-point field goals during the regular season (27.5) and only increased their volume when the postseason started (30.5). Love has accounted for 23 percent of Cleveland’s three-point field goals in the postseason.
Love also is a formidable threat in the low block, ranking in the 85th percentile in post-ups, with more post-up points than Tim Duncan, Andre Drummond and Marcin Gortat during the regular season. As a team, Cleveland ranked fourth in effective field goal percentage and second in points per possession on spot-up plays, which will likely dip without Love as a scoring option.
Cavs with Kevin Love: +7.5 per 48. Cavs without Kevin Love: -1.0 per 48. pic.twitter.com/cVlAtCFXJt
— Jacob Rosen (@WFNYJacob) April 27, 2015
The attention now shifts to the upcoming series, with Cleveland facing either Chicago or Milwaukee. Without Love’s presence on his floor — and his rebounding prowess, in particular — more strain will be put on Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov. Both have been stellar in the second half of the season.
Josh Planos has been published at the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, the Guardian, the Pacific Standard and VICE, among other publications. He has been heard on CBS Sports Radio, Fox Sports Radio and ESPN Radio. Planos is currently a Digital Editor at KETV NewsWatch 7 and a freelance writer.