NBA

Biggest X-factors for each NBA title contender

Cleveland Cavaliers: Kevin Love

Kevin Love

Love is currently sidelined after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee and expected to return sometime around the start of the playoffs (more on that here).

The power forward’s health is vital to Cleveland’s success — he was a key cog in their title run last season and will be this year if they repeat.

Whether he can stick with more agile forwards or switch onto smaller, speedier guards may not matter in Round One against whichever dreck emerges from the Detroit-Miami-Milwaukee-Charlotte blob at the bottom of the East.

But the Cavs will be tested in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards are all capable of pulling off an upset. Against those teams, Love will have to bang around with the likes of Al Horford, Serge Ibaka and Markieff Morris to prevent that from happening.

In all likelihood, the Cavs will have to play two of those three teams. An unhealthy Love won’t just hurt their scoring — Love is averaging 22.6 points per 36 while shooting 38.4 percent from 3 — it could also kill their rebounding. Love leads the team with a 19.1 rebound percentage.

If he’s hurt during key playoff games, it diminishes a massive advantage over teams like the Celtics and could result in an embarrassing defeat.

About the author

Ethan Sears

Ethan Sears

Ethan Sears is the publisher of sports web site EthanSears.com and will graduate in 2017 from Rye High School in Westchester County, New York. He has loved sports from an early age and intends to have a long career in journalism.

Ethan interned at the New York Post in the summers of 2015 and 2016. He also writes for Giants Wire, USA Today's New York Giants blog. In addition to writing and editing his own website, Ethan is the sports editor for his school paper, Garnet and Black. You can follow him on Twitter @ethan_sears.