Kevin Love will miss eight to 10 weeks after he undergoes surgery on the third and fourth metacarpals on his broken right hand. According to multiple reports, the surgery will take place next week.
Love flew to New York Wednesday to consult with Dr. Andy Weiland, a hand specialist at the Hospital for Special Surgery who treated Love’s past two hand injuries. The decision to have surgery was made, meaning Love will be out until mid-March, most likely, missing about 35 more games.
Love left the Jan. 3 game in Denver with 4:15 remaining in the third quarter, and X-rays taken on his right hand came back normal. But when the swelling hadn’t gone down 36 hours later, the team elected to take an MRI, which revealed the break. It’s the second time Love has broken that bone this season; he broke the third and fourth metacarpals in his right hand on Oct. 17.
Love’s first hand injury this season occurred while he was doing knuckle push-ups at his home with his trainer. Love missed the first nine games of the season before making his surprise return Nov. 21 against Denver. He scored 34 points that night but has had an up-and-down season since, including three games in which he scored fewer than 10 points.
Love bruised his right thumb in New Orleans on Dec. 14., and the next night he suffered from flu-like symptoms and missed the team’s home game against Dallas. He was then poked in the eye against Oklahoma City on Dec. 20 and missed the next game, Dec. 23 in New York, with that injury.
In the 18 games he played between hand injuries, Love averaged 18.3 points on 35.2 percent shooting and 14.0 rebounds. That shooting mark is the lowest of his career, and Love has been inconsistent on offense since his return. Still, though, he’s the Timberwolves’ leading scorer (18.3 per game) and rebounder (14.0 per game), and his injury will create a huge hole for a team that’s clinging to its hope of breaking the longest playoff drought in the NBA.
With Love out for approximately two months, the Timberwolves will likely look to acquire an additional forward to take some of his minutes — by the time the Love returns, the team’s playoff chances will likely be decided or close to it.
Derrick Williams has been playing well of late, but he’ll need to continue this level of play, if not improve it, in order for the team to stay afloat. But Williams has struggled with consistency since he was drafted second overall in 2011. Dante Cunningham has had a solid season, but he’s most impressive on defense and hardly offers a similar skill set to Love.
The question, though, will be this: Should the Timberwolves give up assets now for a temporary fix at a power forward position where they have one of the best players in the league under contract for two more seasons, or should they simply go on as is and, yet again, look to next year?
In an ideal world, they could acquire a scoring wing player who might compensate for Love’s points and hope that his rebounding hole might be filled by the combination of Williams, Cunningham and center Nikola Pekovic. That solution, though it will likely be difficult to achieve, might provide the best balance between succeeding now and mortgaging the future for a team and a fan base in dire need of a winning season.
The Timberwolves are 7-6 in 13 games without Love this season. With him, they’re averaging 96.4 points per game and allowing 96.8. Without him, they’re averaging 95.1 points per game and allowing 93.8.
The team has been holding its head above water without Love and while he’s struggled with his shot, and it may continue to be decent without him. The problem, though, is that decent teams don’t make the playoffs, at least not in the Western Conference, and so the team will likely be active as the Feb. 21 trade deadline nears if it wants to cling to its postseason aspirations.