What Could've Been: The NBA's All-Injured Player Team
It only makes it worse to live without it
But lets talk about it
Oh, wouldn't it be nice
Almost all teams, save the few teams that are so bad that they know it, go into the season with high hopes. "If Players X and Y can stay healthy, this is the year we will go far" is a common phrase heard in early October from excited executives proud of the team they have put together.
Unfortunately, in the NBA, things do not often go as planned. Knees bump, shoulders pop, and feet break. And in one moment, all hopes for a team's season can be dashed. This is the cruel reality of a game in which the players continue to get bigger, faster, and stronger as the court stays the same size.
Some teams, such as the Pistons and Golden State, let injuries cripple them, while others, such as Portland and Houston, have fought tough injuries and continue to play respectably.
This can likely be traced to the coaches, as Golden State and Detroit have fairly weak coaches and Houston and Portland are blessed with two of the best in the business.
One note: To be eligible for this list, you must have missed, or are projected to miss, 15 games or more this season.
Point Guard: Chris Paul
If Chris Paul played in a bigger market such as LA or New York, perhaps people would appreciate how incredible his first five seasons in this league have been. When comparing him to other point guards and where they were at this point in their careers, Magic Johnson is the only comparable out there.
While people love to debate about whether Paul, Deron Williams, or Steve Nash is the best point guard in the league, the answer is pretty obvious.
Throughout his career, Chris Paul has been remarkably durable for someone who makes so many forays into the paint, only missing an average of six games a year for his first four seasons. However, this year, with ankle and knee injuries, Paul has missed 34 games, and the Hornets have suffered.
Darren Collison has done a great job filling in for the league's best point guard, but his high turnover rate has hurt them along with his inexperience. With Paul's making decisions and directing traffic, the New Orleans Hornets are much better despite Collison's impressive rookie season.
Honorable Mention: Tony Parker
Shooting Guard: Brandon Roy
The Trail Blazers season has truly exposed the mental toughness and depth of talent that Portland has. After losing their two centers for the season, the Trail Blazers have held onto a playoff spot despite playing with Juwan Howard as their starting center for a good chunk of the year.
In addition, fresh off his new contract extension, they also lost the star shooting guard for 15 games with a hamstring injury.
Roy, truly one of the league's best young stars, has such an impressive presence on the court not only because of his basketball skills but also because of his natural leadership, a quality not ordinarily found in players of his age.
With Roy back and Marcus Camby back in the fold, the Blazers are slowly becoming the team no one wants to play in the playoffs.
Honorable Mention: Kelenna Azubuike
Small Forward: Danny Granger
One of the league's best three point shooters and all-around scorers, Danny Granger was a huge loss to the Pacers, who already were lacking in talent. With his deadly turnaround jumper coupled with his fantastic size, Granger presents a matchup nightmare for almost every team he meets.
With a torn plantar fascia, Granger missed about a month of games, crippling the Pacers and crushing any hopes of respectability.
But with a strong run after the return of Granger, the Pacers have kept the first place Cavaliers close, only falling 32 games behind in the race for the Eastern Conference title.
There is no reason why Granger can't make the next step to be mentioned in the same breath with scorers like Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant. If he can improve his court vision and his left hand, he can be compared to almost anyone in the league.
Honorable Mention: Josh Howard
Power Forward: Kenyon Martin
When he is not spending his time worrying about popcorn in his car, Kenyon Martin is a pretty darn good basketball player. While he constantly frustrates Denver fans with his midrange attempts, his defense and rebounds make him a very impressive player, especially given the fact that he has had microfracture surgery on both knees.
Unfortunately, right at the point where the Nuggets began to gear up for the playoffs, Martin injured his knee once again, partially tearing his patella tendon, forcing him to miss every Nuggets game since the surgery on March 8.
The Nuggets have missed him dearly, falling to the fifth seed after being in the race for the second seed before his departure. Former first round bust Johan Petro has started in his place, and the Nuggets have suffered as a result.
Honorable Mention: Blake Griffin
Center: Yao Ming
While others will argue about this statement, when healthy Yao Ming is above and beyond the best center in the league. With his sweet shooting touch and his consistency on the offensive end with his improved defensive game, there is no way Dwight Howard's contributions can even begin to compare with those of Yao.
Unfortunately, if a list like this were made every year, Yao would make it almost every year with an injury history that resembles a book at this point.
In July 2009, both Yao Ming and the Rockets' season ended three months before games even started when word came out that he would undergo radical surgery to repair his foot.
What Yao brings to the table is exactly what the Rockets lack right now; someone they can give the ball to at the ends of games and depend on to score. He can dominate any defender once he gets the ball on the block and has learned to diversify his game with midrange jumpers to stretch defenses.
While his future is certainly in the air, in a perfect world without injuries, there would be no one better than Yao.
Honorable Mention: Joakim Noah, Greg Oden