Ranking the Most Devastating NBA Injuries

Andy Liu@@AndyKHLiuCorrespondent IMarch 6, 2013

Ranking the Most Devastating NBA Injuries

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    Injuries are nothing new in the NBA. However, in the past couple seasons, there have been a slight increase in devastating ACL injuries. There were five ACL injuries last season and an average of 3.5 in the decade before, according to the Wall Street Journal. Sample size caveat aside, this is never a good thing. 

    ACL injuries aren't the only ones threatening the delicate thread between games played and effectiveness for a team's star player. Even though there are three people on this list with ACL tears (and three with knee issues), it is other freakish injuries that can easily raise havoc onto a franchise. 

    It's rather easy, and perhaps a bit lazy, to judge a player's injury and its effect on their team solely on wins and losses. Instead, it is more prudent to gauge the expectations of the team in the offseason, analyze how their play has been affected by said injury, and put it all together to understand how harmful the injury has been to the team. 

    Because of that, there were several omissions to the list despite the player's name status and overall greatness. For example, Eric Gordon (knee), Tony Parker (ankle), and Pau Gasol (foot) have missed or will miss their fair share of games, but their injuries haven't affected their teams on a broad level. The New Orleans Hornets have won 21 games this season and they haven't set the world on fire when he has been on the court.

    Tony Parker is set to miss the next month or so but if you truly believe the San Antonio Spurs will struggle in the regular season without him...well then you need to watch more Spurs ball.

    As for Pau Gasol, it's arguable that Earl Clark has played better or similar to the way Gasol has—not style-wise but production-wise—this season. It doesn't help that Mike D'Antoni has mishandled the whole situation with the benchings as well. 

    The injuries to star players may not necessarily mean their teams are doomed, or hurt in any way at all. This isn't Bill Simmons' Ewing Theory but there are 10 players, ranked in importance, that have been hurt and severely affected their teams' expectations. 

10. Brandon Roy

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    This is more of an honorable mention that someone that deserves a number on the list. Once termed as one of the best shooting guards in the NBA, Roy has seen his career drop off a cliff due to numerous injuries. 

    Roy retired last season but gave himself another chance with a comeback, but that has fallen short yet again as he's only played five games this year. Once again, he is attempting to come back for the last few weeks of the season with the Minnesota Timberwolves. 

    Devastating? Perhaps not, with the way the Minnesota has played this year and their other injuries, but this is testimony to the fact that young players shouldn't squander their talent, because injuries can easily end one's career. 

9. Steve Nash

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    Steve Nash has played 37 of 61 total games for the Los Angeles Lakers with a left leg injury. Despite his age, he had only missed 10 games in the previous three seasons before this. 

    The legend of the Phoenix Suns medical staff grows. 

    Even though Nash isn't the same player he has been in his MVP-years and even last year, the loss of his point-guard leadership cost the Lakers valuable time together as a team. When he finally returned, it was Gasol's turn to miss games. 

    Without the steady presence at point guard—Chris Duhon and Darius Morris do not count—the Lakers have struggled both offensively and defensively.

    The reason he isn't higher on this list is because of his decline and the fact he won't help much, or at all, on the defensive end, where the Lakers struggle immensely. 

    We'll find out why later. 

8. Dirk Nowitzki

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    Dirk has played about half of the games for the Dallas Mavericks this season but has spent 10-15 games shaking off the rust of his offseason knee surgery. 

    Through all the struggles and in a very good Western Conference, the Mavs find themselves not exactly in the lowest rung of teams but exempt from the playoff hunt. It is not an enviable position to be in, especially in a league that rewards really bad basketball. 

    However, even if Dirk were to play the full season healthy, the Mavericks would be in the fringes fighting for the eighth seed. They picked up Darren Collison, Elton Brand, and Chris Kaman in what was supposed to be a transition year, and it has showed as the Mavs are the 11th-worst defensive team in the league, according to Hoopdata.com

    It's been a bit of a lost season, and Dirk and Mark Cuban appear to be pushing all their chips in to sign a big free-agent like Dwight Howard

7. Rajon Rondo

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    There is no doubt the Boston Celtics have played better ever since Rondo tore his knee against the Atlanta Hawks. But that doesn't mean the injury is no any devastating to a team without a true point guard or that they ARE better. 

    Without Rondo, the Celts have had to rely on a team-wide effort in the passing game. Paul Pierce has handled the ball more, accumulating 110 assists in just 15 games, whereas he had 164 assists in the 45 games before that, according to NBA.com

    While the Celtics may play better, together, whatever cliche you want to throw out there, they don't own a significantly better chance to beat the Miami Heat without Rondo. 

    We've seen Rondo take over games whenever he's wanted to, and playing against the Heat would bring out the best in him. 

    Take last year's playoffs, for example, when Rondo averaged 20.9 points, 11.3 assists, and 6.9 rebounds per game against the Heat. There's regular season Rondo, then there's take-it-to-another-level Rondo. 

    The Celtics won't get far in the playoffs without him. 

6. Ricky Rubio

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    There's arguably a more devastating injury on this team, but we'll save that for later. 

    It was about a year ago when Rubio bumped knees with Kobe Bryant. Rubio ended up tearing his ACL and had to miss the rest of the season and the beginning of this one. While he didn't come back with the same burst and carefree play, he's been at or near 100 percent for the past several weeks. 

    Rubio still can't shoot, and that doesn't mesh on a team with the worst three-point shooting percentage in the league, but his vision and defense has helped the team immensely. 

    Without Rubio, the Wolves were stuck with shoot-first guards in J.J. Barea, Luke Ridnour and Alexey Shved. 

    The Wolves as a team have battled injuries all season, and losing one of the league's best passers stunted their development as a playoff contender. 

5. Andrew Bogut

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    The Golden State Warriors are seven games over .500 and have been one of this season's biggest surprises. And the center for whom they traded fan favorite Monta Ellis has played in only 13 games this season and 25 in the past two seasons combined. 

    Bogut has battled through a slow-healing ankle and back spasms but did play a season-high 30 minutes in his latest game. 

    However, his case has been a curious one. The Warriors have struggled on defense with Bogut in the past month but played stingy, even Top 10 defense in the beginning of the season. Is it all Bogut's fault?

    That's probably not the case, as other teams have started to shoot the three better and David Lee will forever remain David Lee. It is the inconsistency when Bogut plays that can affect this team. 

    He started his comeback by refraining from playing on a minutes limit and never at the back end of back-to-backs. The Warriors have exceeded expectations this season but Bogut's injury runs deeper.

    His contract is up after next season, and with the way he has struggled mightily in the few games he's played, it presents a no-win situation for the Dubs. 

    If Bogut plays next season and stays healthy, they may extend his contract, thus overpaying him. If he can't stay healthy and they choose to let him go, the Warriors are back at square one without an interior defender. 

4. Kevin Love

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    If losing Ricky Rubio was bad for the Timberwolves, then how about losing your franchise center who averaged 26 points and 13.3 rebounds just a season ago because of some knuckle push-ups? 

    Love may still come back for the final month of the season, teasing Wolves fans of what could have been, but it's been the play of Derrick Williams and Dante Cunningham that's been lacking. 

    After being drafted second overall in 2011, Williams has yet to consistently produce at a high level, and Cunningham is nothing more than a seventh or eighth man. Because of that, the Wolves have had to compensate for Love's interior scoring and even three-point scoring with...nothing. 

    It's been a trying season for the injury-prone Wolves squad, but the final stretch of the season should provide a glimpse for a bright future. 

3. Andrew Bynum

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    Has a player that has never stepped on a court with his new team made this much news? Since being tossed aside for Dwight Howard, the seven-footer has been unable to remain healthy for any amount of time. 

    The most scrutinized part of his body hasn't even been the knee that he supposedly set back by bowling. 

    And now it appears he may choose season-ending surgery for his knees. The grisly details of the Doug Collins meltdown are also provided here

    The Sixers own two players that are worth keeping past this season as potential studs: Jrue Holiday and Thaddeus Young. Everyone else is either too young or too old to matter in what was supposed to be a playoff team turned into a rebuilding season. 

    The offense is stagnant without any type of direction under Collins. While Collins has lamented the loss of Nikola Vucevic and draft pick Moe Harkless, Bynum hasn't come close to playing a single game.  

    He will become an unrestricted free agent after this season and the Sixers may bid good riddance instead of taking another gamble, one that they've already lost. 

2. Dwight Howard

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    With great expectations comes intense pressure, especially on a team with Kobe Bryant. After Dwight's tumultuous end to his Orlando Magic era, he was supposed to head a super-team along with Nash and Pau Gasol. 

    Instead, he tried to come back perhaps too quickly from offseason back surgery and then had a torn labrum in the first month of the season. It's hard to feel sorry for the big man because of the way he treated Orlando, but his toughness should not be questioned as he is clearly not 100 percent. 

    Whereas in previous seasons, Dwight was the No. 1 interior defender, he has fallen quickly behind players like Marc Gasol, Joakim Noah, Serge Ibaka, and Larry Sanders.

    A thorough breakdown can be found here, but the problem doesn't lie with his numbers so much as his ability to contest shots or move up the court at the pace he once did. 

    Once the second or third-best player in the league, Dwight isn't even the second-best center in the league right now.

    With expectations of a top seed and an NBA Finals appearance like the 2004 team, the Lakers are left with the fight for an eighth seed. If I had told you that fact after the trade for Steve Nash, you'd give yourself a better chance of hooking up with Kate Upton

1. Derrick Rose

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    Derrick Rose may yet come back at the end of the season and lead the Chicago Bulls past the Miami Heat to its first championship since the greatest basketball player of all time graced the hardwood, however unlikely it may be. 

    The good news is that Rose isn't rushing back to join his team despite cries from various people that might tell him that if he can play, he should. 

    With a player this explosive and aggressive to the basket, it's better to make sure he is as close to 100 percent as possible. Ricky Rubio, he is not. 

    His No. 1 spot on this list is as much devastation to his team as it is to the league and himself as a whole. It was only two seasons ago he was the MVP and leading his upstart Chicago Bulls to a win in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat. 

    With Noah blossoming into a true franchise center and the usual stalwart defense, the addition of Derrick Rose may be enough to push them past the likes of the Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks. 

    It isn't the loss of Rose but the seriousness of the injury that can threaten the health of the rest of his career. Once the most athletic point guard in the league, this is as devastating as they come.