Injuries are a reality of the NBA, but amid a heavily compacted schedule, their effect has never been more prevalent.
Anytime a key player suffers an injury, it's a major obstacle for their organization to overcome, but in a shortened season, setbacks of that magnitude run a greater risk of ruining the entire season.
Every game counts more than usual toward the season's outcome this year, and while this makes for exciting basketball, it puts those teams who have an injury-prone star in greater peril than others.
It's tough enough to recover from a key injury, but even more difficult to do so when their absence becomes a higher percentage of the season's games.
Whether an organization with an oft-injured star has already experienced the ill effects of such an occurrence or not, there are numerous health statuses that are disasters waiting to happen.
Kevin Martin has never played in all 82 games of an NBA season.
Despite his inconsistent start to the season, Martin remains one of the most efficient scorers in the NBA, but he has had problems staying on the floor.
His ankle, wrist and shoulder have all hampered his seasons in the past, and as the Houston Rockets attempt to rebound from their not-so-flattering start, he is a major risk.
Kyle Lowry has been sensational for Houston, and Luis Scola is a workhorse, but the Rockets struggled when Martin was out of sync, and it will be much worse if he isn't even on the court.
He is an automatic scorer who is adept at drawing fouls, and his presence creates a lot of opportunities for the new and improved Lowry.
Every game is crucial for every team this season, but even more so for teams like the Rockets looking to climb their way out of the basement of their conference.
Houston's ability to make a playoff run is directly related to Martin's ability to remain healthy.
After sitting out Friday night against the Dallas Mavericks with concussion-like symptoms, Andrew Bogut has been cleared to play moving forward, barring a major setback.
Bogut has had multiple injuries over the course of his career, most notably to his ankles, wrists and right elbow.
The Australian center has only played in every game once—and that was in his rookie season—and he hasn't broached the 70-game mark in three years.
Bogut is never one to blow you away with his stat lines, but his presence in the low post is integral to any success the Milwaukee Bucks intend to have.
He is a capable scorer, a superb rebounder and a skilled shot-blocker. He is also one of the best passing centers in the game.
The 7'0" center has already missed five games this season, and while only one was injury-related, the Bucks visibly struggled without him.
If Bogut remains healthy, Milwaukee has the ability to scrape some impressive wins, like the one against the San Antonio Spurs. Without him on the floor, though, the phrase "maybe next year" will be uttered far too frequently.
Marcus Camby has already missed one game this season thanks to a left ankle injury, and it is likely he sits out at least one more, which is horrible news for the Portland Trail Blazers.
Camby may be 37, but he is the defensive anchor for the Blazers.
Without him in the low post, Portland becomes susceptible to disappointing losses, like their overtime bout against the Rockets.
In 15 seasons, Camby has never played in all 82 regular season games. He plays the most physical position in the league, but he has been a wealth of uncertainty from his knees down to his toes.
The 6'11" center is one of game's best rebounders and shot-blockers, and the intangibles he brings, such as drawing charges and jumping straight up into the air—not into his opponents—to force shot-adjustments can never be discounted.
Portland has been an impressive team, but as they have shown, they can be exploited without a true low-post defender. Greg Oden can be held accountable to a certain extent, but it his Camby who has become an important cog in the Blazers' machine.
As minor as Camby's current injury may be, history has shown us he is suspect to ones of great severity. Should history repeat itself, there is a strong chance that Portland goes from a contender to a pretender.
Andrew Bynum has played in all 82 NBA regular season games only once, and he has never played in more than 65 outside of that.
Bynum is only 24, but has the knee stability of a senior citizen. Most notably, his infamous docket of injuries includes a torn MCL in his right knee.
While Bynum has been inconsistent over his not-so-illustrious career, this season, something seems to have finally clicked.
His conditioning is better, and he has become a consistent force on both ends of the floor.
Ignore the fact that Bynum's production is anything but guaranteed, though, because the real problem is his ability to take the court is anything but guaranteed. This was certainly a problem before, but given how integral he has become to Los Angeles' game plan, it's an even larger issue now.
Bynum's four-game suspension to open the season was slightly comforting. He wasn't on the court, but at least it wasn't health-related.
That being said, it also showed how vulnerable the Lakers were in his absence. Kobe Bryant is most effective—though as Shaquille O'Neal showed us, not as easy to work with—when he has a strictly low-post threat in the game to help open up the floor. Without Bynum, Los Angeles doesn't have that.
The fact that Bynum's play has improved so drastically does wonders for the Lakers' championship aspirations. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of his health bill, as it runs the risks of obliterating said hopes.
The Memphis Grizzlies overcame an injury to star Rudy Gay last season, but Zach Randolph's torn right MCL could prove to be a different story.
Randolph has always been a health risk.
He plays physical basketball and does so against some of the biggest athletes in the league.
In his 10 seasons in the NBA, the power forward has never played in all 82 regular season games, though he has hit 81 twice.
Marreese Speights has helped fill some of the void in the low post, but he does not provide the type of two-way impact that Randolph did. The Grizzlies are struggling to keep their head above water right now, as Z-bo was an anchor on offense, and played off of Marc Gasol magnificently.
Memphis was able to overcome Gay's injury last season thanks to depth on the perimeter. They do not have the same luxury on the inside. The Grizzlies are hoping to still be in the postseason hunt once Randolph returns, but even then, there is no guarantee he is as effective right away, nor is it a lock that he won't find his way back to the sidelines.
Memphis was struggling to establish their identity to begin with this season, and Randolph's health bill only creates more obstacles for the team to overcome.
By the time he returns, there is a very real possibility that it may be too late to salvage a playoff berth.
Amar'e Stoudemire looks out of sync on the basketball court thus far, yet the New York Knicks are fortunate to have him on the hardwood at all.
Stoudemire has already suffered a sprained left ankle this season and has a history of knee and back problems.
His struggles on the court this season can be attributed to the absence of a true point guard, but it's no secret he's a season-ending injury waiting to happen.
The power forward plays with flair and has the innate ability to keep his team motivated. However, as made evident in the Knicks' loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder without Carmelo Anthony, if one of New York's stars goes down, so could their season.
Stoudemire is the epitome of physical fitness, but not of durability. The same effectively aggressive nature in which he plays is also his greatest enemy, as it opens him up to further harm.
Both the Knicks and Stoudemire are struggling to establish chemistry and composure right now, but the resolution of such faults will come with time. Provided that Stoudemire is able to take the court, that is.
Stephen Curry only entered the realm of injury-proned this season, as less than four weeks in, he has re-aggravated his surgically repaired right ankle multiple times.
Without Curry, the Golden State Warriors are a tough team to get a handle on.
One night they can be found defeating the Miami Heat in overtime, and another, they can be seen getting blown out by the lowly Charlotte Bobcats.
Consequently, it has become abundantly clear that the Warriors are a better team with Curry on the floor.
Even with an ankle injury, the point guard has still put up impressive numbers when on the floor. Directing the offense is like a sixth sense for the 23-year-old, and he enables Monta Ellis, who is best served playing off the ball, to focus on scoring.
Curry creates opportunities for all of his teammates, in addition to himself, and the Warriors offense sorely misses his presence.
In order for the Warriors to reach the next level and discontinue their Jekyll and Hyde act, Curry has to remain healthy. This team has enough talent to scrape out a playoff birth, but only if they remain consistent.
It's tough to develop a knack for consistency, though, when the heart of your offense is boasting an unstable bill of health.
Dwyane Wade has become known for suffering a Kobe Bryant-like quantity of injuries, sans the tendency to play through them.
While no one can question Wade's toughness, as he as played through as much pain as anyone, his durability is more than suspect.
Currently, according to Michael Wallace of ESPN.com, the shooting guard will be sidelined indefinitely thanks to a trio of injuries.
Wade has been diagnosed with a strained calf, a bruised foot and most recently, a sprained ankle.
Once Wade left the game against the Denver Nuggets, Miami was reduced to settling for jump shots. With James as the only threat to penetrate, teams are able to focus solely on him, forcing him to take difficult outside shots or put the ball in the hands of a lesser role player.
Miami relies on star power to make a championship run, as opposed to roster depth. Sure, the Heat will win some games without Wade, but if his health problems carry over until late in the season—or even worse, the postseason—a return to the NBA Finals is simply out of the question.
Kobe Bryant is having one of the best seasons of his career, yet the Los Angeles Lakers' star is like a house of cards in terms of health at this point.
Bryant is already playing through a wrist injury, and his ankles and knees are anything but unimpaired.
The shooting guard is perhaps the toughest player in the entire NBA, but the risk that his health issues will eventually catch up with him is ever-present.
Many had the Lakers written off this season, and while Bryant and company have shown they are not immune from lackluster performances, the team has proven they can still contend.
Without Bryant, though, playoff bound, let alone champion contenders, is something Los Angeles simply isn't.
The Lakers and their fans can take solace in knowing that Bryant is going to do whatever it takes, and play through any pain he can, in order to be on the floor.
In all reality, though, with a bill of health as unstable as Bryant's, there is always the possibility Los Angeles' warrior suffers an injury he is unable to ignore. And in that scenario, the Lakers are absolutely screwed.
Although the Los Angeles Clippers have experienced their share of growing pains, Chris Paul's presence has rendered them relevant, yet his murky bill of health has the ability to render them incapable.
The Clippers are fresh off an impressive victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, but it came with a scare.
While Paul has played in 78 or more games four times over his career, he has never reached the elusive 82 mark.
He has had myriad issues with his knee, and any offense he runs looks flat without him.
Luckily for the Clippers, Chauncey Billups is a more-than-capable floor general should Paul be absent long term. Unfortunately, Paul is not the type of player you can simply replace, and Billups is an injury risk himself.
The Clippers seem headed for the playoffs, but such a notion is merely conditional. If the star-studded point guard is forced to miss extended time at any point during the season, Los Angeles becomes severely damaged.
Paul has transformed the Clippers in a way that few could have ever fathomed, but that doesn't change the fact he has could still turn what is supposed to be a fairy-tale season into a logistical nightmare.