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The Cavs move on from Kevin Love as they look ahead to the playoffs

Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers in action against the Washington Wizards during a game on February 6, 2017 at Verizon Center in Washington, DC.
Keith Allison
Wikimedia Commons
During the All-Star break, the Cavs parted ways with Kevin Love, the last remaining member of the 2016 championship team.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are 38-23 with 21 games left in the regular season. They’re in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, five games behind Boston, followed by Milwaukee and Philadelphia.

Ideastream Public Media sports commentator Terry Pluto said the team has been exceeding expectations all season, especially as they've been dealing with a number of injuries to stars Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell.

“You tell anybody with a realistic view of the team that they would be 15 games over .500 at the All-Star break, which basically is two thirds of the season, if you think that wasn't very good, you're being unrealistic," he said. "That's a really nice record to have with a team whose starters are all 26 and under.”

Pluto said the team has achieved all of the goals that coach J.B. Bickerstaff established at the beginning of the season.

“One was to have the best defensive team in the league and actually they do. And then, secondly, was to figure out how to get Garland and Mitchell to play together. And for the most part, it took a while, they've been able to do that," Pluto said. "Third was to help Evan Mobley develop as a player. By the way, since January 1st, he's averaging almost 18 points a game.”

During the All-Star break, the Cavs parted ways with Kevin Love, the last remaining member of the 2016 championship team. Love was in his ninth year in Cleveland and in the final year of a four-year, $120 million contract extension.

Love was benched for the last 12 games after shooting about 35% from the field and about 30% on three-point attempts since injuring his right thumb on Nov. 18. Those are not great numbers. Still, team president Koby Altman said the team had no plans to buy out Love’s contract.

Pluto said Love then asked for a buyout.

“He's going to be a free agent in the summer. So, had Kevin stayed here and basically been a 6’10” mascot on the bench, that's hard to get a new contract. And the Cavaliers didn't want to hold him hostage or anything like that," Pluto said. "Also, I mean, this guy, he was a really good player for the Cavs. I'm not going to say he's a super great player, but a really good one. He deserves to have his number up there in the rafters. But he's 34 years old, and so he needs to go show he could play somewhere and the Cavs are not going to play him."

Love has signed with Eastern Conference rival Miami, which could be a potential playoff opponent for the Cavs.

“I think the Heat are giving him $3 million. They bring him in [and] if he could help them win, great. And if he can't? Okay,” Pluto said.

Pluto said the Cavs are taking a similar approach by signing veteran Danny Green, who’s returning from major knee surgery in the offseason.

“Green is not the same type of player as Love because he's much smaller. He's more of a shooting guard, small forward. Nonetheless ... they're looking for somebody else to make some three-pointers," Pluto said. "So, these teams do this this time of year, the teams that are pretty good. They'll kind of shop around for a reclamation project.”

As for the playoffs, Pluto said he’s taking a wait-and-see approach.

“It'll be fascinating just to see how they actually perform there because so few of their players have been in the postseason," he said.

"Now, Donovan Mitchell is the exception. He's played 39 postseason games. He's averaged 28 points in those games," Pluto said. "But right now, the fact is, even last year, the thought of them being 44-38 this year with a chance to win 50 games, that's a remarkable turnaround when you didn't go out and get a LeBron James or kind of the instant-success guy.”

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