The Cleveland Cavaliers almost won their first ever NBA title last year, despite missing two of their best players during the NBA Finals. Kevin Love was knocked out due to a dislocated shoulder in round one, while star point guard Kyrie Irving (knee) only lasted one game against the Golden State Warriors in the most important series of the year.
As it turns out, Irving may not be back for a lot longer than expected. Per reports, Irving does not plan to rush back from his knee surgery, and could end up sitting out until January. That estimated time away from the court would mean the Cleveland Cavaliers would have to endure at least two months without one of their best players.
In the short-term, not having a healthy Kyrie Irving is obviously bad news. That could put more pressure than wanted on both LeBron James and Kevin Love to get the season going, while it also could spark issues with team chemistry once Irving returns in January. Of course, that’s assuming the January return timetable even holds true. It’s naturally possible Irving sets a set-back or just doesn’t recover as expected. Even worse, after missing all of that time, it’s entirely possible Irving could re-injure himself at some point during the second half of the season.
Safety is the key here, as the 23-year old Irving and the Cavs aren’t just thinking about the 2015-16 season, but Irving’s future with the team, as well. The good news is the Cavs should be able to withstand a lengthy absence on paper. Cleveland brought in former Cav Mo Williams this summer, and he proved last year that he still has the scoring and playmaking to be a competent starter in the NBA. With Cleveland’s loaded roster helping around him, he could be even better than we’ve seen recently. The addition of Williams allows Irving to take his time and make sure he’s fully ready when he returns, and when he makes it back he can also take his recovery slow and build his minutes back up naturally without forcing anything.
NBA Finals Bound?
In the long run, Irving taking as much time to heal is actually good news. Mo Williams allows that to happen, while Matthew Dellavedova can play the point in a pinch, while James and Iman Shumpert also can assist with play-making. Irving missing the entire year and/or the playoffs would obviously be a huge hit, but we knew he had a knee issue and had surgery. Irving missing time to start the year shouldn’t keep the Cavs from holding down the top spot as the favorite to win it all this year. That being said, thinking for a second this doesn’t impact Cleveland during those two months on a daily basis is foolish. Anyone doing NBA betting may want to scale back on going crazy with the Cavs, especially when they go up against squads with strong defenses or elite point guard play. No Irving could hurt their scoring and create mismatches at the position on some nights, rendering them a weaker bet than originally thought.