Injuries are a fact of NBA life but it doesn’t mean you have to like it or accept it as inevitable. Roster #2 has been cut down with some major injuries and not so major injuries since we last checked in. I take a look at how it’s effected certain teams records thus far and which player each team will be doing all they can to prevent a long term injury occurring to.
BROOKLYN NETS – Current Record (6-16) / Since Last Time (2-10)
INJURY: JEREMY LIN:
Lin has been out 17 games since spraining his hamstring on November 2nd. After signing a 3 year/$38m deal in the off season, Lin helped lead the Nets to a surprising 2-3 start, averaging 15.0 points and 6.2 assists. The Nets are 4th in the league for 3-point attempts, and not having Lin’s speed, penetration and kick outs are greatly hurting their spacing as they are 25th in the league for 3-point %. Lin is finally back at practice, but expect the Nets to be cautious with him.
PREVENTION: BROOK LOPEZ
Everyone in the NBA is a 3 point shooter these days. Even Brook Lopez. He went his first six seasons attempting 7, but hitting none. This season the big man has added the 3-ball to his offensive repertoire hitting just over two a game good for 37% from deep. Currently the Nets second best offensive option is Sean Kilpatrick, so the Nets are heavily reliant on Lopez’s offence, without him it would seem the Celtics are a lock for another top 3 pick in the 2017 draft.
CHARLOTTE HORNETS – Full Record (14-10) / Since Last Time (7-6)
INJURY: MARVIN WILLIAMS
Williams has just returned from a 6 game absence due to a hyper extended left knee, however he remains critical to the team balance and playoff fortunes. Williams is Charlotte’s floor spacing cog at the 4 spot, and is an ideal modern day NBA forward alongside another tall wing in Batum. The Hornets held court while he was out, but they’ll be breathing sighs of relief now that he’s back in the starting lineup alongside his usual cohorts.
PREVENTION: KEMBA WALKER
It goes without saying that Walker is the most important player on the Charlotte Hornets roster. While last season they had the luxury of Jeremy Lin if Kemba was to miss time, the backup point options on this team are extremely limited, and may well be something that gets addressed prior to the trade deadline. In the midst of a career best season, Kemba looks to finally be in line for an All-Star berth this year.
CHICAGO BULLS – Full Record (13-10) / Since Last Time (5-6)
INJURY: RAJON RONDO
The Bulls have been relatively lucky with injuries through the quarter mark of the season. So I thought we should touch on Rajon Rondo (yes, again!). Now I am happy to admit it is only a 3 game sample size but the Bulls (2-1) looked better without Rondo, when he missed through injury/suspension. And the stats tell a similar story in the games he plays too, using on/off measurements. Whilst I am happy to concede the team runs a little better (+3.7) on the offensive end when Rondo is on the court, it doesn’t go close to making up on the defensive end where opponents feast (+6.9) at his lack of care at that end. #releaserondo is something already doing the rounds on NBA Twitter.
PREVENTION: JIMMY BUTLER
Although it was already true before Rose left, Jimmy is now the centre of the Bulls universe without question. And he ain’t letting the Windy City down. He is more efficient from all over the court, resulting in pushing his PPG average from 20.9 to 25.4 this season. I don’t know what the Bulls current roster even looks like with Jimmy out long term, so hopefully we don’t have to find out.
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS – Full Record (17-5) / Since Last Time (7-4)
INJURY: J.R SMITH
JR smith hasn’t been himself for parts of this season after his lengthy contract negotiations ate up most of his pre season. But an already thin backcourt rotation can’t really afford to lose more firepower. Smith himself can be mostly replaced by Shump (without the unconscious trigger on the triples), but the rotation after that gets messy if Shump has to take over that role. Deandre Liggins and Mike Dunleavy are not a recipe for long term success. Cleveland need a healthy and performing Smith.
PREVENTION: LEBRON JAMES
Well, obviously. LeBron is basically a superhuman, and if he does get hurt it’s probably a fake injury to go spend a couple of weeks in Miami. But it is worth pointing out the obvious sometimes: Cleveland are a completely different team with James on the floor. Since returning to the Cavs, Cleveland is 12.5 points per 100 possessions better on offence, and 5.1 points better on defence with James on the court. And this means he must be healthy come playoff time for Cleveland to have a chance at repeating.
DENVER NUGGETS – Full Record (9-15) / Since Last Time (5-8)
INJURY: GARY HARRIS
Losing your best perimeter defender is never a good thing, and it’s no surprise that the Nuggets have struggled badly without Harris available to defend the best guards in the NBA. Harris has been limited to just 5 games so far this season, with minutes restrictions in play as well. While the Nuggets are flush with depth at just about every position, and Harris’ injury has opened time for the exciting Jamal Murray, the Nuggets are simply a worse team without him on the floor. On the positive side, Coach Malone expects him back within the next week or two. At 22 years old, Harris has a lot of potential as an Avery Bradley type – but the Nugz need him on the floor to determine if he can reach that ceiling.
PREVENTION: NIKOLA JOKIC
At this stage, the biggest prevention from Nikola Jokic becoming a force appears to be his coach. Malone can’t seem to figure out the right combinations and way to work with his talented big man, but that doesn’t mean an injury to Jokic wouldn’t be catastrophic. Despite an up and down season, Jokic remains either Denver’s most talented youngster to build around – or their biggest trade chip.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS – Full Record (20-4) / Since Last Time (11-1)
INJURY: STEVE KERR
Golden State are another franchise who have so far (fingers crossed) escaped the season with no major injuries. And let’s face it, they can’t really afford one! Nor can they afford another period of missed time from head coach and mastermind, Steve Kerr. Whether you sit at one end or the other in your beliefs of how much influence Kerr has on this team, if he were to miss any time with his back ailment the replacement would be
Luke Walton Mike Brown. The thought of that alone is enough reason to drive Steve to try anything he can!
PREVENTION: DRAYMOND GREEN
It is an interesting exercise to picture Curry, Durant, Klay and Draymond waiting on the baseline as two pickup teams are picked at the YMCA. There is every chance Green would have to wait to last, as the flashier guys go 1, 2 and 3 before him. But whichever team he ends up on won’t be let down, as he plays defence, gives up shots to guys in better position and there’s no cameras to catch his questionable body movements. This is exactly why if you flip the narrative from the YMCA to the GSW 16/17 season, one could argue he would be the first picked and the last you’d want to lose. Not sure how this team would go about replacing Green for any real stretch of the season, whether through injury or suspension!
MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES – Full Record (17-8) / Since Last Time (12-3)
INJURY: MIKE CONLEY (& PARSONS)
Its never ideal to have over $200 million worth of player contracts sitting on the bench. The Memphis Grizzlies are no strangers to working though injuries, but they surely wanted to last more than 25 games before losing their marquee signings for extended periods. True to form, the Gizz are persevering anyway, and are now 7-1 since Conley went down including a convincing win over the Warriors today. Grit’n’grind may be getting older, but it still knows how to get the job done. But if Conley and Parsons aren’t healthy for extended periods – especially in the postseason- then Grizz fans will be singing the blues for all too familiar reasons.
PREVENTION: MARC GASOL
Just in case you wanted a reminder on how good Marc Gasol is, watch all of these. Gasol is reminding everyone why he was All NBA, an All Star, and why Memphis splashed $100 mil on him in the 2015 off season. With Conley and Parsons out, he has had to step up even more, and he is producing. He can carry this team, and IF everyone can stay healthy, Memphis should once again be dangerous in the post season. Without Conley or Parsons, that task becomes very difficult. Without Gasol, it’s virtually impossible.
SACRAMENTO KINGS – Full Record (8-15) / Since Last Time (4-6)
INJURY: DEMARCUS COUSINS
While his recent production wouldn’t show it, some of you may be aware that Boogie Cousins is currently playing through a broken middle finger on this shooting hand. He has shot 38-98 (39%) from the field since acquiring the injury, so it’s certainly something that would effect his jump shot and finishing ability.
PREVENTION: DEMARCUS COUSINS
This falls under injury prevention and “other” prevention. While Cousins getting a serious injury would be catastrophic (despite Vlade’s love for acquiring bigs that don’t play), of more pressing concern is the recent assault allegation and lawsuit leveled against Boogie and serial antagonist, Matt Barnes. While the facts are yet to emerge, the Kings could be in a world of trouble if these allegations are proven and charges are pressed. We’ll have to wait and see how this one plays out.
TORONTO RAPTORS – Full Record (15-7) / Since Last Time (8-5)
INJURY: JARED SULLINGER
I was somewhat hopeful when the Raptors signed Sullinger in the off-season. It was a match made in heaven, with a team crying out for a long term solution at PF with limited options to gain it & a former Big Ten freshman of the year who’d hadn’t reached his potential in the pros. Ultimately foot surgery has delayed this partnership and forced the Raptors to start a rookie at PF this season and there is no return in sight. Likely still out another 2 months at best, time is running out for Sullinger to prove he belongs in the NBA. Not good news for the Raptors in moving their current playoff needle or for Sullinger who will hit free agency once again with little to help prove his health or game are up to standard.
PREVENTION: KYLE LOWRY
Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Kyle… ahhh you get it! Both are very important to this team, however Lowry takes the cake in the prevention stakes. While I am sure they can ill afford to lose either and don’t want to test the theory, Lowry would be harder to replace than DeRozan at this stage. His playmaking for this team is paramount and he is lights out since Thanksgiving from deep! P.S there is a real social media push to replace the Raptors full time with their Huskies branding and I am all for it!