Last year's Eastern Conference champion could be without a key piece months into the 2015-16 season. That might not be such bad news for the Wizards.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported Thursday that the Cavaliers are rehabilitating point guard Kyrie Irving slowly and deliberately after he suffered a fractured patella in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. His recovery timeline was slated for three to four months after surgery in early June, and even though he has not suffered any setbacks, it's possible he won't return to the court until January.
The Cavs' prudence may be warranted given his extensive injury history. A healthy Irving is much more valuable down the stretch and into the playoffs than in the first few months of the season.
Cleveland also brought in Mo Williams this offseason as an insurance policy. The veteran's ball handling and scoring abilities should help offset any extended absence by Irving, but there's no replacing such a dazzling playmaker.
If Irving does indeed miss the first two-plus months of the season, other Eastern Conference hopefuls have a better chance of keeping pace with the Cavaliers out of the gate. Cleveland would face the Bulls, Hawks, Raptors, Wizards and Heat (twice) without their starting point guard.
An extended absence also changes the calculus for the February 14th All-Star Game in Toronto.
Irving would have a little more than a month back before the All-Star break -- not enough time to secure a spot on the East team. That would eliminate the biggest competition for point guards like John Wall, Derrick Rose and Jeff Teague. Because the rosters don't distinguish between guard positions, Irving's absence also could open the door for an additional shooting guard, presenting a huge opportunity for Bradley Beal to earn the first All-Star invite of his career.
Both of those answers edge closer to 'yes' the more time Irving misses.
Of course, the Cavaliers' Finals performance proves that they're always competitive with James in the game. As long as the King is healthy, Cleveland definitely makes the playoffs.
But if Irving and Kevin Love are both 100 percent in the postseason? Simply put, no team in the NBA is safe.
MORE WIZARDS: Wizards simplify 2015 preseason schedule