Impact Meter of Every Significant Injury Around the NBA
Whenever an NBA team loses its star player to injury, the fans immediately go into freakout mode. This is understandable, seeing as how said player is almost always the reason for the team's success. However, what really separates the truly great teams from the simply good is how the rest of the players react to the sudden absence of their star.
In the NBA, the story of the preseason was how the Chicago Bulls would fare without point guard Derrick Rose (pictured), who tore knee ligaments in his team's first playoff game last season. Sure enough, the Bulls did not make it out of the first round. However, Chicago has played better than anticipated and remains in the hunt for the top of the Central Division.
Other teams have not been so lucky. Younger squads like the Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards have also been dealing with injuries to key players, but do not have the depth nor the experience to overcome them.
Looking at the teams playing without some key players, it's starting to become clear which squads are going to go far while others fall short.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are now 2-8 and on a six-game losing streak, and it's not about to get any easier for them. Second-year point guard Kyrie Irving has a broken finger and is expected to be out a month.
This could mean rookie Dion Waiters moving from shooting guard to the point, or extended minutes for either Donald Sloan or Jeremy Pargo.
No matter who replaces Irving, the loss of the 2011 No. 1 pick is a big one. This season, Irving is averaging 22.9 points and 5.6 assists per game. He has also made 39 percent of his shots from long range.
However, it should be noted that the Cavaliers have yet to play a game without Irving. Their first one will be Wednesday against the Philadelphia 76ers and for all we know, it will be the game in which their losing streak ends.
Simply put, there is no way to determine the impact of Irving's injury until the Cavs play a game or two without him this year.
Nash had the misfortune of suffering a non-displaced fracture in his left leg just 16 minutes into the Lakers' second game of the season, and the team initially struggled in his absence. Steve Blake was able to hold his own running the point, but Mike Brown's Princeton offense was not right for the Lakers.
Brown has since been fired and replaced with Mike D'Antoni, and the Lakers have responded positively. After starting the season 1-4, Los Angeles has gone 4-1 while Nash continues his recovery. Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard have done more than enough in carrying the load and making sure that the Lakers get back to being the usual Western Conference powerhouse that they are.
Los Angeles could finally be back at full force in a week, when Nash is set to return. Given how well they have played after a simple coaching change, it's clear that his loss has been anything but devastating.
Minnesota was dealt a tough break before the start of the season when double-double machine Kevin Love broke his hand. Considering how the team has gone 5-4 thus far without him, it's clear that the Timberwolves are a deep team that do anything but fall down dead the moment their star player is out.
Also, consider how many key Minnesota players (who will be discussed shortly) are currently out with injuries. The team may be on a two-game losing streak, but it's not as though they're absolutely screwed without their stars.
More importantly, as reported by team owner Glen Taylor, via Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN.com, Love is expected back in early December. He has already taken a big step forward, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, in that he is participating in offensive walkthroughs.
Once he's back on the court, the Timberwolves will be one step closer to full-force and making a big statement in the Western Conference.
Wade has been fighting a sore foot for the past week and has not played in Miami's last two games. He was initially injured in the Heat's November 12 game against the Houston Rockets, but opted to play against the fast-paced Los Angeles Clippers two days later. In a 107-100 loss, he scored just six points on 2 of 10 shooting and has already said he regrets not sitting that game out.
He would instead sit out Miami's next two games, which were won on the back of LeBron James.
Wade can now look forward to Wednesday's game against the Milwaukee Bucks at home, and he is hopeful that he will play. Granted, Miami played fine without him, but he already proved that he doesn't do them any favors when not at 100 percent.
Hopefully, he can come back full force against Milwaukee and help his team in its quest for another championship.
Ricky Rubio & Jose Juan Barea
Rubio tore his ACL last season and has yet to suit up for Minnesota yet this year. He has started doing light practice work again but is at least a month away from returning. Though Minnesota has played well without him, his injury has a greater impact than that of his teammate Kevin Love.
Besides Rubio, another 'Wolves point man is hurting, with that man being Jose Juan Barea. A foot injury has kept him out of action for nearly two weeks and there is no timetable for his return.
This leaves Minnesota with a glaring hole at the point, with Luke Ridnour being the only true point guard on the roster who is healthy. Alexey Shved can help out at the position, but both he and Ridnour are more of scoring guards than they are distributors or playmakers.
Seeing as how Rubio's passing is one of the strongest components of his game and both he and Barea also play some merciless defense, it's safe to say that the team will gratefully welcome them both back once they're ready.
The New York Knicks are 7-1 and have been playing some great basketball without Stoudemire, but his loss is a key one for a couple of reasons. First, at 6'11", 245 pounds, he leaves them without size in the starting lineup, although Rasheed Wallace and Marcus Camby have provided plenty off the bench.
Second, the Knicks' offense over its first eight games has been just a little bit one-sided. While the team has looked great, it's become clear that Carmelo Anthony is going to be the main go-to guy night after night. In seven of New York's eight games, Anthony has led the team in scoring.
Sooner or later, teams are going to pick up on this and double or even triple-team the star forward.
Stoudemire is currently recovering from knee surgery and should be back next month, immediately injecting some life into the lineup. Be it coming off the bench or as a starter, his career mark of 21.6 points per game is going to add even more diversity to the Knicks' attack.
Throw in the defensive training he did during the offseason, and he will show us that the Knicks' success thus far has only been the beginning.
Rose has yet to play this season while he recovers from knee surgery, but the Bulls have done a decent job of faring without him. They currently stand at 5-5, which is good for second in the Central Division and one and a half games behind the Milwaukee Bucks.
In the star point guard's absence, Luol Deng has done a fine job of handling the scoring duties. He is averaging 18.1 points and 7.2 rebounds per game while also offering some pesky defense.
The biggest surprise, however, has been center Joakim Noah. The former Florida Gator has averaged 14.8 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks per game and has had a double-double in half of Chicago's games. More importantly, he has done a good job of staying healthy.
However, the Bulls' point guards have not exactly done a noteworthy job of picking up the slack while Rose is out. Kirk Hinrich has averaged 5.9 assists per game, but his usually solid three-point shooting has deserted him. Rookie Marquis Teague hasn't gotten nearly enough playing time to be called boom or bust yet.
That leaves guard Nate Robinson, who is more of a 2-guard despite being just 5'9". Given how Rose has averaged 21 points and 6.8 assists for his career and was named league MVP two seasons ago, it's clear how much of a loss he is despite his team playing better than expected. He has just started cutting drills again, so hopefully he can return soon.
Gordon is the young Hornets' best player, and it was expected that his knee would be ready for the start of the season. With rookie Anthony Davis alongside him, the stage was set for New Orleans to take a step in the right direction after finishing as the worst team in the Western Conference last season.
However, Gordon's knee is acting up again and he has yet to appear in a game. He was given a timetable of four to six weeks, and there has been no new information about his progress.
The Hornets are only 3-5, which isn't that bad considering their best player is hurt and their second best is a rookie. But the shooting guard situation in New Orleans is just horrible. Rookie Austin Rivers has struggled to find his jump shot and is averaging just 6.7 points on 28 percent shooting, while veteran Roger Mason, Jr. has only chipped in five points per game.
Once Gordon comes back, he can hopefully carry this team on the road back to prominence.
When he isn't attracting attention through his creative hairstyles, Bynum has continued to fight his latest battle with his knees. He has bone bruises in both of them, one of which came while bowling, and has not yet played this season. All reports indicate that he is at least a few weeks away from even practicing.
This leaves the Philadelphia 76ers with the following options at center: Kwame Brown or Lavoy Allen. Spencer Hawes is 7'1" but has proven that he is better as a power forward since he prefers to avoid hard contact.
Brown is one of the most infamous draft busts in NBA history and Allen is too small for center at 6'9", so the Sixers are hurting in the middle despite being 6-4. Two of their losses this season have come against their division rival New York Knicks, who have the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in center Tyson Chandler.
Were Bynum available for either of those games, let alone the entire season, the team would have a far better record and look like a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference.
In what's become a pattern for him his entire career, Brandon Roy's knees are acting up again. After retiring prior to last season only to return this year, Roy is set to miss a month after undergoing his seventh knee operation.
On the season, the veteran playmaker has averaged just 5.8 points while shooting only 31 percent from the field.
Granted, most of Minnesota head coach Rick Adelman's offense flows through the frontcourt, with the center and power forward doing most of the work. This year, with Kevin Love out, small forward Andrei Kirilenko has picked up some of the slack alongside center Nikola Pekovic.
Even though Roy is not Minnesota's best player, his injury is still something to worry about because the Timberwolves have him signed to a two-year contract. He was brought aboard because he averages 18.8 points per game for his career, while also being able to create plays rather than just putting points on the board.
The only other options at shooting guard in his absence are rookie Alexey Shved, who is still adjusting to the NBA, and second-year man Malcolm Lee, who has been a non-factor all season long.
Roy being hurt won't necessarily be devastating to Minnesota, but his absence from practice and experience isn't going to do the team any favors.
The Raptors traded for Lowry so that they could have a balanced leader on offense, and he was exactly that before hurting his ankle in Toronto's 108-88 loss to the Thunder on November 6. On the season, the former Villanova Wildcat is averaging 18.3 points, 6.3 assists, 5.8 rebounds and three steals per game.
Since Lowry's injury, the young Raptors have gone 2-4, with all four losses coming against contending teams. Lowry himself is at least a week or two away from returning, and while Jose Calderon has done a fine job filling in, he just doesn't have the same skillset or presence that Lowry does.
Look at it this way. The Raptors are a young team that won't contend for a playoff spot for at least a couple more years, but Lowry is the man who will lead them back towards that path. Without him, the team is simply lost.
The Mavericks won a championship in 2011, but the loss of a top center last season hurt them and led to a first-round playoff exit. The team had a busy summer, bringing in Chris Kaman and Elton Brand via free agency and trading for point guard Darren Collison, but they stand just 6-6 on the season. Star forward Dirk Nowitzki is recovering from knee surgery and hasn't played yet this season.
Granted, Dallas got off to a good start this season, at 4-1, but has gone 2-5 since then. When push comes to shove, they have no reliable veteran go-to guy on the court and Nowitzki's 22.9 points and 8.3 rebounds per game are a big loss.
Assuming he comes back in the near future, the team should show a marked improvement.
The Wizards are one of the NBA's youngest teams, so they traded for the experienced Nene last season to put a solid defender in the lineup and provide some much-needed leadership. However, he has yet to play this season as a foot injury continues to dog him. There is no timetable for his return.
The Wizards have gone with Trevor Booker (who just suffered a knee injury) to play power forward, bue he does not have the athleticism nor the power of Nene. Second-year man Jan Vesely could see some extended time, but his defense is not his strongest suit.
With the Wizards winless and needing some defense, a solution needs to be found, and fast.
Though the Wizards may be a bad team as a whole, the lack of point guard John Wall all season long has shown them just how bad they are. The former No. 1 pick has missed all of the season thus far with a knee injury. Despite a "positive report" from a doctor, there is no timetable for Wall's return and the Wizards will continue to use the inexperienced A.J. Price as the starting point guard.
Just as Nene's foot injury affects Washington's defense, so does Wall's knee injury affect their offense. He may only have two years of experience under his belt, but he has shown that he is capable of running an offense and has a balanced approach. The former Kentucky Wildcat has averaged 16.3 points and 8.2 assists for his career since being drafted in 2010.
As the Wizards remain winless, their struggles only further prove how far a young team can sink without its leader.
The Indiana Pacers were the surprise team of last season, rocketing up the Eastern Conference standings to enter the playoffs as a No. 3 seed on the back of star forward Danny Granger. They were eliminated by the Miami Heat in the Conference Semifinals, but showed everyone that they were a fiery young team more than capable of playing with the big boys.
However, the team has been without Granger all season long with a knee injury. He is expected to miss three months.
The Pacers have gone 5-7 in Granger's absence and his 18.2 career points per game have been sorely missed. Without him, there is no real scorer to take over in the clutch save for forward David West. Paul George is more of a defensive player, and center Roy Hibbert has struggled after last year's career season.
Simply put, if the Pacers want any hope of getting back to the postseason, Granger needs to be at full form once he comes back. Without him, there is little chance of the team succeeding.
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