Welcome back to Beyond the Arc. This time we’ll be taking a look at the All-Star lineups for the most injured players this season and how these players have impacted the success of their teams. To qualify for a spot on this prestigious roster, a player has to meet a combination of the following guidelines:
Player X is ruled out for the whole season/remainder of the season
Player X is coming back from an injury from the previous year that falls under (1)
If Player X doesn’t satisfy (1) or (2), then he must have miss a minimum of 15 games during the current season.
Player X, abiding by (1), (2), or (3), must be considered a starter on his respective team or is a pivotal bench player.
If (4) is undetermined, Player X has to play at least 10 minutes per game for his respective team in conjunction with (1), (2), or (3).
Player X can’t be an All-Star from the current season, unless you’re Dwayne Wade.
The format for the line-ups will follow the same format as the usual All-Star lineups with a little twist:
While there are numerous injuries and players that could appear on this list, we will only focus on the 5 starters and 2-3 honorable mentions for a reserve spot. Without further ado, your 2014 Injury All-Stars:
-Stats reflect all games played through Saturday, March 29th.
-Through Saturday, March 29th, approximately 75 games have been played per team
– (Player Name/Team/Games Missed/Dominant Injury/Reasoning)
G: Deron Williams / Brooklyn Nets / 17 games and counting / Ankle
—Williams has been dealing with ankle issues frequently over the past seasons. He missed over 20 games in 2011-12 and rebounded nicely last year, only missed four games in total. The struggles of the Nets this season has a lot to do with the absence of Williams; they’ve managed to go 7-9 during the games Williams has missed. Prior to January 15th of this year, Williams had already suffered three sprained ankles in this season alone.
G: Dwayne Wade / Miami Heat / 20 games and counting / Hamstring
—It’s hard to tell whether the injuries to Wade are legitimate or he is finally showing signs of slowing down. Wade’s overall offensive efficiency is slowing down and it is not because LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined the team. Wade’s ppg averages from the 2008-09 season and on (30.2, 26.6, 25.5, 22.1, 21.2, 19.2). In 2008-09 people forget that he lead the league in scoring. Even though he is the only player on this list that played in the actual All-Star game this year, his injuries and health are a huge factor in the Heat’s quest for a three-peat.
F: Luol Deng / Chicago Bulls & Cleveland Cavaliers / 16 games and counting / Ankle
—Deng has been dealing with a nagging ankle all season, but that isn’t his biggest concern. He had to carry the Bulls scoring load when D-Rose went down and after playing his first 10 seasons in Chicago, got traded before the deadline to Cleveland. Unfortunately he has not adjusted well, in 35 games with the Cavs he’s averaging 14.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.4 apg, while shooting 42% from the field. When he was with Chicago, through 23 games he averaged 19.0 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 3.7 apg, while shooting 45% from the field.
F: Brook Lopez / Brooklyn Nets / 58 games and counting / Right Foot
—Brooklyn fans must be honored to have TWO players starting for the 2014 Injury All-Stars. The reason for Brooklyn’s struggles has a lot to do with the absence of Lopez and Williams but Brooklyn has found ways to cope with the loss. Through the first 17 games, Lopez was averaging 20.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg, and 1.8 bpg while shooting 56% from the field and 81% from free throws (both career highs). Missing this type of production can hurt a team in the long-run; especially Lopez’s presence on the defensive end.
F: Al Horford / Atlanta Hawks / 46 games and counting / Chest
—Before the injury, Horford was one of the top centers in the league. He averaged 18.6 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 1.5 bpg, and shot 57% from the field. The irony of his injury is that he suffered a torn right pectoral muscle; one season removed from tearing his left pectoral muscle. When he went down the Hawks were 16-13 and in 3rd place in the East; currently they’re 31-40 and trying to fend off the Knicks for the 8th seed.
UTIL: Rajon Rondo / Boston Celtics / 49 games and counting / Knee
—Rondo has finally come back after missing the first half of the season and parts of last season due to an ACL injury. In the 25 games he’s been back, he’s quietly averaged 11.3 ppg, 9.4 apg, 5.1 rpg. His shooting has gone down (38% this year compared to 48% last year) but that is expected as he readjusts himself to the usual day-to-day grind of the league. He’ll continue to miss games on occasion since the Celtics are destined for a potential top-5 pick in the upcoming draft, and also as a pre-cautionary measure to rest what could be the future of the Celtics organization.
UTIL: Tyson Chandler / New York Knicks / 27 games and counting / Leg
—It’s tough to pin point one reason for the Knicks subpar season but they’re only 1 game out of the final playoff spot. Injuries have hurt this team but when Tyson Chandler broke his leg at the beginning of November, the Knicks season went into a spiral. The Knicks started a modest 1-2 and after Chandler got hurt in the fourth game of the season, they followed up with a 6-15 record over their next 21 games. The Knicks season may make the post season, but the injury to Chandler cost them a chance at a higher seed.
G: Russell Westbrook / Oklahoma City Thunder / 32 games and counting / Knee
—Westbrook is one of the most frustrating injured players this year. He came back almost a month earlier than expected, only to miss another whole month. He’s been rested on back-to-back nights and somehow the Thunder are only 3 games out of the #1 seed in the West. When healthy he is one of the top 10 players in the league and one of the top three point guards in the league. He gets a nod on this list because the Thunder are a completely different team when Westbrook and Durant play together.
G: J.J. Redick / Los Angeles Clippers / 44 games and counting / Back
—Towards the beginning of the season, Redick averaged the most points in the 1st quarter of any player. He was the go to shooter to start the game off. On top of that, the injury he’s sustained has limited him in a season where he is averaging career highs. In 30 games, he’s averaged career highs in ppg (15.7), free throw % (.914), field goal % (.459), and steals (0.8). Luckily for the Clippers there are other pieces to the puzzle (i.e. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin) so the loss of JJ isn’t catastrophic but having a shooting guard with his shooting touch can come in handy in the playoffs. Remember this?
F: Marc Gasol / Memphis Grizzlies / 24 games and counting / Knee
—What a relief it was to see Gasol come back to the Grizzlies sooner rather than later. He may be having one of his worst offensive seasons to date, but his presence on the defensive end goes beyond the stats you see. The Grizzlies as a team allow the fewest amounts of opponent’s rebounds. On top of their rebounding abilities, they currently have the most amount of 2pt field goals made and the least amount of 3pt field goals made. This team loves playing inside and Gasol has a lot to do with that.
F: Ryan Anderson / New Orleans Pelicans / 52 games and counting / Neck
—A victim of a season ending injury, Anderson’s absence has definitely been felt. The Pelicans are currently 32-42. Before Anderson went down they were 15-16. On top of that, Anderson, like many of the other injured All-Stars, was having a career season. Through the 22 games he played, his 19.8 ppg, .409 3pt FG%, and .952 FT% were career highs. You can’t replace those numbers, even Anthony Davis can’t spread the floor like Anderson because of his long-range abilities.
F: Nikola Pekovic / Minnesota Timberwolves / 21 games and counting / Ankle
—Another career high season that was crushed by injuries. Pekovic was a nice complement to Kevin Love, the only problem is both of them don’t know how to play defense. This is weird because when THIS is your go-to play, Kevin Love really should really never have to leave his defensive paint.
Pekovic’s career season numbers: 17.4 ppg and 8.7 rpg + 2pt FG per game (7.0).
UTIL: Kawhi Leonard / San Antonio Spurs / 15 games and counting / Wrist
This is the only statistic you need to know about how much Leonard means to the Spurs right now:
He returned from his wrist injury on February 26th. As of today (April 1st) the Spurs haven’t lost since Leonard came back, including the entire month of March. They’re currently on an 18 game winning streak. Wait. No…they’re currently on an 18 game kawhinning streak.
UTIL: Eric Bledsoe / Phoenix Suns / 39 games and counting / Meniscus
—Bledsoe moves out from behind Chris Paul’s shadow when he moved from Los Angeles at the start of the season. We’ve talked about Goran Dragic’s performance this season but the Suns as a team has shocked a lot of people (myself included). I was bold enough to make the prediction during my NBA season preview that the Suns would finish dead last in the standings. To my surprise they are currently in the 9th seed looking for a crack at one of the West’s top teams. Back to Bledsoe; if he was healthy and didn’t miss almost 40 games, his 17.3 ppg, 5.7 apg, and 4.5 rpg would look a lot better. This sort of production is hard to make up for but the play of Gerald Green has been a nice compliment to Dragic’s spectacular season.
Cross-Conference Honorable Mentions:
–Chris Paul: He’s missed games (19) but the play of Blake Griffin in his absence is the main reason why the Clippers are eying a top 4 seed in the West. Somehow he is still leading the league in assists per game and steals per game.
–Kobe Bryant: It isn’t a true NBA season without one of the greatest players in the history of the NBA isn’t competing. After coming back from a devastating Achilles injury, Bryant got hit in his knee, forcing him to miss the entire 2014 season.
–Derrick Rose: One of the most unfortunate injury stories of the past two years. Derrick Rose sat out all of last year in preparation for a big 2013-2014 campaign. He only played 10 games this season before tearing his meniscus. Between Rose and Bryant, both will be at the center of attention when next season rolls along. The NBA is better off with high caliber players.
In the end, injuries are apart of the game. You never want to see a team depleted with injuries, but sometimes a team that loses an impact player can rally around the cause and create a run. Stay tuned in the coming weeks as the NBA playoffs approach and mock drafts come in in all different shapes and sizes.
Stay healthy and stay safe so you don’t suffer the types of injuries that these players did and as always, continue to enjoy!