The Golden State Warriors shouldn’t feel glad about Kevin Love’s broken hand, but they’re entitled to be excited about what it means. With Love out for a reported 6-8 weeks after breaking the third and fourth metacarpals on his right hand, one of the Warriors’ main competitors for a bottom-half playoff spot in the Western Conference will now struggle to survive without its best player well into November.
Without Ricky Rubio slated to miss most of the season’s first two months—and Love now sidelined as well—the Minnesota Timberwolves will have to rely on Brandon Roy’s knees and Andre Kirilenko’s psyche bearing a heavier load than expected. Those guys, along with newcomer Chase Budinger and second-year player Derrick Williams, were supposed to be bit players in a show headlined by Love and Rubio. Now, they’re thrust into the spotlight.
Just for reference, last year’s Wolves won just two out of the 11 games Love missed due to injury. They scored nearly nine fewer points per game and got crushed on the boards without their star power forward. The offseason additions will certainly help to mitigate some of the damage, but there’s no question Minnesota will be hurting without Love.
For the Warriors, Love’s injury is a blessing, as macabre as that sounds. But in the cutthroat West, there’s no room for sympathy. After all, does anyone really think the Timberwolves are crossing their fingers for Andrew Bogut’s return to full strength or Stephen Curry’s recovery from ankle surgery? Of course not.
The weakened Wolves won’t be playing at a disadvantage forever, but with the Western Conference projected to be such a dogfight, the 15 or so games he misses will mean a lot. It’s possible that the Wolves struggle early without their stars, falling a handful of games further down the standings than they otherwise would have. Who knows, that handful of games might be the difference between a playoff berth and another disappointing season for the Warriors.
Plus, there’s the reality that Love’s injury is to his shooting hand. It could very easily affect his stroke for the rest of the season, hurting the Timberwolves with less severity than his total absence, but for a lengthier period of time.
In the end, Love’s injury is a lucky break (pardon the pun) for the Warriors; there are no two ways about it. But the Dubs will have to play well enough to take advantage of their good fortune.