The Greatest Injury Concern for Every NBA Team Heading into 2012-13
Injuries are a plague in the NBA that no team is safe from. It doesn't matter if you're the hotshot contender or a team desperate for wins in a rebuilding phase, injuries can and most likely will affect your season.
Some teams are fortunate enough to avoid any serious damage to their players, but it's guaranteed that, with the wear and tear of an 82-game season, every team will face at least minor injuries to some players on their roster.
With that being said, let's go through each team in the league and see which player they're most concerned about in terms of injuries for this upcoming season.
Atlanta Hawks: Al Horford, C
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Last season, Al Horford played a grand total of 11 games for Atlanta, missing most of the season due to a torn pectoral muscle.
This was a big loss for the Hawks, who had to play the majority of the regular season without their reliable big man. While he did make a return for the postseason, the Hawks were eliminated in the first round, making Horford's return short-lived.
This year, the Hawks are hoping a full offseason of recovery for Horford will rejuvenate him and prevent any other injuries for a center without much of a history of missing games (only 20 missed games before last season).
However, since he is still recovering from a rather serious injury, the Hawks will still have to be concerned for Horford, who is a very valuable asset to their team.
Boston Celtics: Jared Sullinger, PF
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Jared Sullinger was pegged as one of the most talented players in his draft class going into the 2012 NBA draft. But red flags of possible long-term injury problems prevented him from going higher than the late first round, where he was drafted by the Celtics.
Now that he is with Boston, Sullinger will have to work hard to prove that those red flags were nothing to worry about, which will be no easy task.
His lingering back issues could come into play this year, as he has never tested his body against the bigger and faster players in the NBA.
Though he remains untested for now, the Celtics will undoubtedly be watching closely to see how accurate those red flags were and to see if their gamble on a talented player pays off.
Brooklyn Nets: Gerald Wallace, SF
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They do call him "Crash" for a reason.
Gerald Wallace is one of the most tenacious and high-energy players in the league, but his risky style of play is something that could end up coming back to haunt him as he grows older.
Before, maybe his body could take the hits from the hardwood more easily, and maybe he could bounce back from some bumps and bruises rather quickly. But now that he is in his 14th NBA season, the wear and tear he's faced may not allow it.
Though he's not as young as he used to be, don't expect Wallace to be tip-toeing around the court. Rather, expect him to continue his high-octane game play without much regard for his own health.
Charlotte Bobcats: Ben Gordon, SG
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This injury concern for the Bobcats doesn't stem from a sketchy injury past or even a dangerous playing style, but rather a concern for losing the production of their first scoring option.
By acquiring Ben Gordon this offseason, Charlotte hoped to at least get some help on offense after a terrible campaign last season. Gordon will not hesitate to be the first option on offense—something he hasn't had a chance to be since his days in Chicago.
Now that he's free to jack up as many shots as he chooses, he will no doubt see a nice scoring average and a great amount of playing time. But the Bobcats can't afford to lose his services for an extended period of time.
Without Gordon, Charlotte would have to lean on the likes of rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kemba Walker or Gerald Henderson. That's not the most intimidating group of names on offense, and the rest of the league knows it. Therefore, keeping Gordon healthy must be a priority for Charlotte if the the team wants to at least be competitive next season.
Chicago Bulls: Derrick Rose, PG
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This is an obvious choice here for Chicago, who will be playing at least most of the season without their superstar, Derrick Rose.
Rose's ACL injury in the first playoff game last season was devastating, especially after a season in which he repeatedly battled back from other ailments. Now he will have to battle back once more, and all the Bulls can do is wait and hope that their current roster is good enough to land them a spot in the postseason race.
Even though the timetable is murky for the Bulls and Rose, they will definitely keep a close eye on his progression through rehab and will be anxiously awaiting his return.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Kyrie Irving, PG
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Similar to the Bobcats' situation, the Cavaliers would be rendered essentially useless without the services of their No. 1 scoring option: point guard Kyrie Irving.
Irving had an impressive first season in the NBA, taking home the Rookie of the Year award without much competition. And he established himself as the future superstar of the Cavaliers and a player to build around.
The Cavs are in the process of surrounding Irving with quality talent, but it's been a slow process thus far. And without him on the court, they would not have many other options to turn to for help.
If Irving goes down at all this season, expect to see a losing streak for Cleveland in his absence.
Dallas Mavericks: Dirk Nowitzki, PF
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After having a knee surgery in the offseason, Dirk Nowitzki is still recovering, and the Mavs are still wondering when or if he will be fully healthy and ready to go.
In his absence, the Mavericks are an average team at best. With Dirk not playing the preseason and missing some regular season time, the Mavs will have to start experimenting with lineups to see what works best without their superstar.
However, if his injury persists and becomes a long-term issue, Dallas may have to look to the big picture and start its search for a new, younger franchise cornerstone.
Denver Nuggets: Kenneth Faried, PF
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The Nuggets are a very, very deep basketball team at seemingly every position.
However, the power forward seems to be the weakest area by default, in terms of depth, since Denver currently only houses two true players at that position.
The starter, Kenneth Faried, is a very tenacious player and therefore could become an injury risk with his energetic play. If he goes down, his reserve, Anthony Randolph, would be the only true power forward left, with other big men having to pitch in minutes in a position that isn't necessarily natural to them.
Besides just that, the amount of intangibles Faried brings to the Nuggets' games is astounding, and his hustle is very valuable to this team's success. So, if he went down to injury, the Nuggets would be faced with some lingering issues.
Detroit Pistons: Greg Monroe, C
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Detroit has a seemingly bright future with a solid core that it has assembled in recent years in Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey and Greg Monroe.
Monroe has quietly developed into one of the better centers in the NBA today, and losing him to injury could really hurt the Pistons and their development.
Part of this stems from how well Monroe complements rookie big man Andre Drummond, who uses raw power and finishing ability rather than Monroe's do-it-all, finesse approach. With Monroe out, Drummond would be forced into a bigger role as the Pistons' post man and could stunt his growth a little bit.
This is obviously not what the Pistons want for their team. They would rather Drummond be eased into a tandem role with Monroe, which, if harnessed correctly, could become one of the best frontcourts in the league.
Golden State Warriors: Stephen Curry, PG
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The concerns have been high recently for Golden State's Curry, who is recovering from an ankle injury.
Whether it continues to be an issue throughout the season for the Warriors and Curry remains to be seen, but there is still plenty of reason to be concerned that this injury could be reaggravated.
Curry is one of the foundation pieces for Golden State. The team will do all it can to assure he returns from this ankle injury stronger than before and that he maintains his health throughout a season that could possibly involve a postseason berth for the Dubs.
If he does try to rush back before his body is ready, Curry may end up harming himself even more, as well as the Warriors' hopes to return winning basketball to Oakland.
Houston Rockets: James Harden, SG
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Houston's newest acquisition will definitely be a big factor into their offense in the 2012-2013 season, and the Rockets simply do not have the depth behind him to make up for any games he might miss.
James Harden will get an increased role with the Rockets, who will give him the max contract that he was seeking. Therefore, he will most likely become the team's primary offensive option alongside Jeremy Lin.
Without Harden, Lin would be shouldering the load, and there wouldn't be much support at the 2-guard spot other than Toney Douglas or Daequan Cook.
So Houston will look to cautiously protect its investment, especially in the time leading up to the official contract extension being reached with Harden.
Indiana Pacers: Roy Hibbert, C
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The Pacers recently inked their starting center Roy Hibbert to a lucrative extension of $58 million over four years, and they would certainly love to see that investment pay off for them.
However, players strangely seem to find new ways to injure themselves after a big payday, and the same could happen to Hibbert, who may be especially vulnerable being a lanky 7'2" big man.
Therefore, Indiana should be primarily concerned with the health of one of its most important players so it can sleep well at night knowing that those $58 million were well spent on a productive player and not an expensive cheerleader on the bench who went down to injury.
Los Angeles Clippers: Chris Paul, PG
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Say what you want about Blake Griffin, but Chris Paul is definitely the most important player to the Los Angeles Clippers organization.
After coming to L.A., Paul has established himself as a leader on a team filled with youthful talent and has led the team on both sides of the ball. Therefore, the Clippers must focus heavily on keeping him healthy in order to preserve the team's winning ways and to continue building upon the Clippers' new-found reputation as a possible contender.
Paul is coming off of some nagging injuries from last season, but L.A. will take special care of its superstar, who will be key if the Lakers want to compete in a tough Western Conference.
Los Angeles Lakers: Kobe Bryant, SG
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Like it or not, this is still Kobe's team, and he will still do the things that he did before Steve Nash or Dwight Howard came to town.
What I'm referring to is Bryant's renowned toughness for playing through several injuries that other players may take games off to nurse. Not Kobe, though, who may be as competitive as they get in the NBA.
Even as his career is in its later stages, Bryant is an important aspect to a Lakers team that will be trying to mesh together three superstars in hopes of a run at the NBA championship. However, his age may take a toll on him, as Bryant may not be able to play through the pain as well as he used to.
He is already reportedly set to miss the opening game of the season with a foot injury, and how much it affects him throughout the season remains to be seen. The Lakers need their mainstay superstar if they hope to capture another ring, so they will continue to get Kobe healthy by any means necessary.
Memphis Grizzlies: Marc Gasol, C
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In another case of lacking depth, the Grizzlies could do without seeing Gasol go down with an injury in this upcoming season.
Gasol has been great for Memphis, even receiving an All-Star selection last year, but the Grizzlies don't have much of a backup plan for him if he is forced to miss games due to injury. What they do have—Hamed Haddadi and Marreese Speights—isn't sufficient enough for the Grizzlies to keep up pace in the tough Western Conference and could cause them to fall behind quite far in the playoff hunt.
Luckily, Gasol doesn't have much of a history for injuries, but his health could remain something the Grizzlies focus on this season as they continue their quest for progress.
Miami Heat: Dwyane Wade, SG
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Wade is known for his high-flying, acrobatic antics on the court. However, he's been slowed recently by injuries sustained from his energetic game play, and he may have to tone it down for the Heat's sake.
After missing the Olympics this summer to recover from offseason knee surgery, Wade has had this offseason to recuperate. Hopefully he'll be back to 100 percent for Miami next year, who is looking to repeat as champions for the first time in franchise history.
Miami will certainly keep Wade under close watch this year, though, as he has had plenty of history with being injured. The Heat will want to keep him healthy in order for the Big Three to keep functioning efficiently.
Milwaukee Bucks: Brandon Jennings, PG
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While his future in Milwaukee remains uncertain, the Bucks will certainly try to keep their star point guard healthy to get the most out of him in a contract year.
Brandon Jennings had a fracture in his foot two season ago, but he recovered nicely to play all 66 games last year. Now, the Bucks are deciding what to do with him, and if he continues to stay healthy and perform, he could see a lucrative offer from Milwaukee to stay long term.
The Bucks want a healthy Jennings to evaluate and therefore will seek to keep him healthy to best decide whether or not he can be a franchise centerpiece for the foreseeable future.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Brandon Roy, SG
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Though Timberwolves stars Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love are both currently nursing injuries, Minnesota's primary concern for injury is newly-acquired shooting guard Brandon Roy.
Roy is a three-time All-Star, but he was forced to retire due to his serious and lingering issues with his knees. However, after sitting out a season, Roy felt he was ready to return. And since the Blazers had used their amnesty clause on him, the Timberwolves were able to claim him.
Now that he is the starting 2-guard in Minnesota, there is hope that he can return to form and become a great contributor for a Timberwolves team hoping to get back into the playoff hunt. However, his injury history is very checkered. The 'Wolves will have to monitor his health throughout the season, or they may be faced with the same issues that the Trail Blazers had with Roy's knees.
New Orleans Hornets: Eric Gordon, SG
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Eric Gordon was one of the main pieces that the Hornets got in return for Chris Paul in their dealings with the Clippers. But his first season in NOLA was impacted heavily by a knee injury, which forced him to only play in 9 games last season.
The recovery has been slow for Gordon, and the Hornets realized this too. Though he will be back during the regular season, New Orleans should still be worried about the possibility of him reinjuring his knee after such a long time on the shelf.
If Gordon takes the proper time to fully heal and rehab, though, he could finally return to his high-scoring ways alongside exciting rookies Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers.
New York Knicks: Amar'e Stoudemire, PF
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The New York Knicks have been working to find the right way to utilize their two superstars, Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony. However, New York may have to wait to continue its experiments, as Stoudemire recently sustained a knee injury that could keep him out for quite some time.
Stoudemire's knee injury, which was supposed to sideline him for two to three weeks, may actually be worse than it was first thought to be, according to Ian Begely of ESPN NewYork.
If this is the case, the Knicks will have to find a way to fill their hole at power forward, possibly with Melo playing there instead of his usual small forward spot.
Additionally, the severity of the knee issue means that the Knicks have to be concerned about Stoudemire, who has struggled with knee injuries and had several surgeries throughout his career. Unless this particular injury gets healed up quickly, it could be another long comeback road for Stoudemire and the Knicks.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Kendrick Perkins, C
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Kendrick Perkins is possibly the most under-the-radar contributor for the Oklahoma City Thunder, mostly because he doesn't really show up in the box score with points or rebounds. Instead, he brings attitude and toughness to a Thunder team that has grown immensely with his presence in the past couple of seasons.
Perkins' toughness can get the best of him sometimes, however, and he often plays through injuries, only to make them worse by doing so. In the postseason last year, Perkins had a pretty serious groin injury, but he played through it, all the way to the NBA Finals. Once the season ended, he did have surgery on his groin and his left wrist as well.
Now that he is recovering, the Thunder will have to keep an eye on him, especially since he has a tendency of playing through his ailments instead of giving them proper time to heal. Perkins is a valuable asset to OKC, and the Thunder will need to keep him healthy throughout the season to prepare for a possible run at a championship.
Orlando Magic: Arron Afflalo, SG
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There isn't much to see when you look at the Orlando Magic roster, but the lone bright spot from their rough Dwight Howard trade ordeal might be the acquisition of guard Arron Afflalo from Denver.
Afflalo is a talented player who's due for a breakout season in Orlando with the lack of true scoring threats around him. The Magic must do all they can to keep him on the court.
Orlando really doesn't have much to show in return for losing its superstar. But the Magic can at least salvage one solid player if Afflalo is healthy enough to play all 82 games this season—something he has only accomplished once in his five-year career. Without him, Orlando might slowly become one of the worst teams in the league.
Philadelphia 76ers: Andrew Bynum, C
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The Philadelphia 76ers were a pretty big part of the Dwight Howard deal in their own right, as they swooped in and acquired the league's second-best center from the Los Angeles Lakers.
That man is Andrew Bynum, who, when healthy, is a dominant presence in the paint and could become the new franchise cornerstone for Philly. However, Bynum a history with injuries and has had several surgeries on his knees.
Unfortunately for the Sixers, his injuries are persisting into his tenure with his new team. And they could continue to be a problem for Philadelphia, who will be doing all it can to get Bynum on the court and healthy for the long term.
Phoenix Suns: Jermaine O'Neal, C
Even through all of his injury history and aging body, Jermaine O'Neal still found a job in Phoenix to serve as a backup center to Marcin Gortat.
While he isn't exactly vital to the team's success, O'Neal still plays a role as a pure center and reserve, which makes him somewhat important to the team. Regardless, O'Neal has a laundry list of issues with injuries throughout his 17 years in the NBA, and he has never played a full 82-game season.
The Suns knew what they were getting into when they signed O'Neal, and they knew he may not be able to stay healthy, especially now that he is 34-years-old. But he remains the biggest liability for injury on the Phoenix Suns roster.
Portland Trail Blazers: LaMarcus Aldridge, PF
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As a team that has rebuilt its core in recent seasons, the Trail Blazers still rely heavily on their All-Star big man, LaMarcus Aldridge.
Aldridge has been great in Portland, and he will be key in developing the younger talent around him and helping them mesh together. It is for this reason that Aldridge must stay healthy, so that the Blazers can have their go-to scorer on the court and someone for the rookies (Damian Lillard and Meyers Leonard) to lean on in the starting lineup.
Luckily for Portland, Aldridge doesn't have much of a history of serious injuries, and he has proven to be a durable player for the Blazers. Still, they must make sure he stays healthy or risk seeing their team forced to rely on young, unproven talent.
Sacramento Kings: Tyreke Evans, SG
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This is the last year on Tyreke Evans' with the Sacramento Kings, and his future is still unclear.
Evans had a spectacular rookie season, but he's not progressed much due to a lot of changes around him on the roster and in the coaching staff, as well as to some lingering injury issues. The Kings would ideally like to see what Evans could do,before deciding if he is worth investing in for the long haul, but they can't do that if he is on the bench nursing an ailment.
Therefore, the Kings should be concerned about Evans remaining on the court, especially since he is the second-best player on a team that is desperate to return to its winning ways.
Evans has not played a full season in his NBA career thus far, so there's reason to believe his history with injuries may come back to haunt him once more.
San Antonio Spurs: DeJuan Blair, PF/C
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If you want to talk about a sketchy past of injuries, DeJuan Blair would be a poster child. Though his injuries haven't affected him too much in the pros, Blair has already had several knee surgeries at the young age of 23.
He has proven that he can overcome those red flags and has only missed three games in his three seasons, but the point remains. Blair is a very valuable asset for the Spurs, and they need him to play big minutes while aging star Tim Duncan gets his rest throughout the season.
Given Blair's history and the possibility of him racking up a career high in minutes played this year, this should still definitely be an area of concern for San Antonio, who can't afford to lose a valuable player like him.
Toronto Raptors: Andrea Bargnani, PF/C
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A former first overall selection, Andrea Bargnani is another player on this list who has had to deal with several injuries throughout his career.
Last season was no different for Bargnani, who only played in 31 of the 66 games in 2011-2012. And he missed 16 games in the season before that.
Now, the Toronto Raptors are certainly hoping that he can stay healthy and contribute as the starting power forward, but they know it may be a stretch for him to stay on the court for all 82 games.
His recent history of his injuries could be concerning for Toronto, who is projected to be a surprise team this season with its mix of youthful talent and proven players like Kyle Lowry.
Utah Jazz: Mo Williams, PG
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The Utah Jazz have high hopes for Mo Williams as their new starting point guard after seeing a solid season from him as a reserve in Los Angeles last year.
Unfortunately, Williams is also a player who has been shelved with injuries rather frequently in the last few seasons. He's missed a total 133 games in the past four seasons alone.
Now, the Jazz are hoping that he is fully recovered from any lingering problems and ready to contribute for another shot at the playoffs.
This will be something that Utah will monitor closely, however, as they don't want to dig into their aging reserves of Jamaal Tinsley and Earl Watson.
Washington Wizards: John Wall, PG
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A recent injury to John Wall's right knee has already raised plenty of concern for the Washington Wizards, who will be without Wall for at least a few more weeks.
After a pretty serious injury like this, the Wizards have to keep an eye on the health of their former first-overall draft pick. And they need to protect his knee if they want him to continue his development into a star.
Wall hasn't progressed as quickly as the Wizards would have liked, but they have now surrounded him with some quality talent to alleviate the situation. They will have to wait to see how everyone works together, however, until Wall's knee is fully healed.
Washington will still have concerns for Wall and his knee throughout the year, even after his recovery, but the Wizards have their fingers crossed that this won't turn into a career-altering issue for their young star.