According to Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Cleveland Cavaliers forward Lauri Markkanen is sidelined indefinitely after entering the NBA’s health and safety protocols.
Fedor reports that Markkanen is “expected to miss a handful of games” and unlikely to travel with the team during its two-game road trip against the Toronto Raptors and New York Knicks. Markkanen joins fellow Cavalier Kevin Love in health and safety protocols. The veteran big man is also out indefinitely. Fedor says Cleveland’s entire roster is vaccinated.
First and overwhelmingly foremost, the goal is for Markkanen to be healthy and make a safe, smooth return to the court in due time. His absence, however, further jeopardizes the Cavaliers’ already shaky wing depth, which is vastly secondary to Markkanen’s well-being but a subplot nonetheless.
Despite serving as a power forward and center for much of his career, Markkanen has started each of Cleveland’s eight games at the 3 and provided viable on-ball defense as he hopes to rediscover his jumper.
Fedor says Dean Wade is” likely to enter the starting lineup” in place of Markkanen. Although Wade has previously flashed some capability as a rotation forward, he’s not someone who should be tasked with starter’s minutes and Markknen’s floor-spacing — albeit, off to a slow start thus far — helped stretch a rather cramped front-court. Wade takes triples, but won’t command the respect of Markkanen.
When healthy, second-year wing Isaac Okoro would supplant Markkanen, but he’s listed as day-to-day while dealing with a hamstring issue and will miss Wednesday’s contest against the Portland Trail Blazers. The Cavaliers’ other current options at small forward are Dylan Windler, who’s struggled to healthy in his NBA career, and Lamar Stevens, who is better suited as a 4 playing at the back-end of a rotation.
All of these recent absences are disappointing developments for a Cavaliers team off to a 4-4 start.