It’s been a long season for the Cleveland Cavaliers. While a dip in overall performance was expected in the post-LeBron James era, many believed the Cavs would remain competitive in 2018-19 and some even projected Cleveland to hang around the playoff race for the majority of the campaign. That, of course, did not come to fruition, as the Cavaliers deploy a defense that has been historically poor throughout the season and the team’s offense isn’t nearly good enough to overcome that lack of resistance.
As a result of Cleveland’s struggles, the jokes have been flying throughout the season. In some ways, the Cavs have earned the snickering with wholly impotent play. Still, there is a giant caveat that has been overlooked for much of the journey: the notable absence of Kevin Love.
From the moment James inked a multi-year deal in Los Angeles, Love has been the best player on the Cavaliers roster and the franchise inked him to a four-year contract extension that hasn’t yet kicked in. Given his age (30) and previous role as a supporting piece, that deal was immediately met with skepticism and, frankly, it is easy to see why. After all, it usually isn’t a good idea to invest that combination of years and dollars in a player of Love’s age, particularly when that player isn’t a full-blown superstar capable of carrying a team to the playoffs and beyond on his back.
Love’s situation was doubly treacherous, as the four years and more than $120 million represented a payment for services rendered rather than for future contributions. On cue, reality struck when Love appeared in the first four games before suffering an injury that kept him out of Cleveland’s lineup from late October to early February. His absence, combined with all kinds of roster and coaching issues, placed the Cavs in a hole that they were incapable of emerging from during the season and, in general, Love has almost been forgotten as a result. It would be unwise, though, to forget that Love is still good at basketball.