NBA Stars We Can't Wait to See Return from Injury in 2013-14

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistJune 10, 2013

NBA Stars We Can't Wait to See Return from Injury in 2013-14

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    The 2012-2013 season was a complete disaster—as far as injuries taking a toll on top-tier talent in the NBA is concerned.

    We're all ready to get our superstars back.

    This year's NBA finals almost seems like it's little more than the survival of the fittest. The Miami Heat went through the bottom-feeders of the Eastern Conference and then knocked out the Chicago Bulls, who watched nearly every one of their players suffer an injury at some point throughout the season, and the Indiana Pacers, who were without Danny Granger for all but five games this year.

    Meanwhile, the San Antonio Spurs ran through a Los Angeles Lakers team that was missing Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, among others. Plus they didn't have to go through the team that ousted them a season ago, the Oklahoma City Thunder, who were without Russell Westbrook—injured during this year's playoffs.

    Stars fell left and right, and people who bought tickets to games in advance had to convince themselves that watching Nate Robinson would be just as fun as watching Derrick Rose. It totally is, but for completely different reasons.

    With the playoffs nearing a conclusion, it seems I'm already starting to look forward to next season, if only to see the league in a situation where it's much more intact.

    So let's take a look at those fallen players and quantify who will be most exciting to see back in uniform.

Horoable Mention

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    Greg Oden

    The return of Greg Oden has been moderately hyped ever since it was rumored that he would sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but nothing came of that. He should find himself with a contract this summer, and hopefully he'll spend most of next season in a uniform, not a suit.

    Lou Williams

    Something about Lou Williams makes him an extremely fun player to watch. He's not necessarily selfish with the ball, but he's not a pass-first type of player either.

    Whatever it may be, his return from a torn ACL can't come soon enough.

    Jared Sullinger

    The Boston Celtics thought they had struck gold when once red-flagged Jared Sullinger learned how to not commit a foul on every play and turned into one of their best bench players.

    Back surgery derailed his season, but he should be ready come October.

    Brandon Rush

    It's hard to fathom, but the Golden State Warriors were actually without their three-point specialist off the bench last season.

    Rush played just two games before tearing his ACL and MCL, robbing us of what could have been the most amazing three-point shooting trio of all time in him, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

    Big Baby

    I can't get enough Glen Davis in my life, whether it's him being goofy, or getting angry on the court and turning into a little monster.

    A broken foot ended his season, but he'll be back and just as weird as ever before we know it.

10. Dwight Howard

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    2012-13 Stats: 76 games played, 17.1 PPG, 12.4 RPG, 1.4 APG

    Injury Concern: Torn Labrum, Back Pains

    While it's true that Dwight Howard played most of the season, led the league in rebounding and only had a slight dip in offensive production, you're crazy if you think the Howard we saw throughout last season was the real Howard.

    The Dwight Howard most of us know is a dominant force in the post, not because he knows what he's doing, but because he's capable of hurling bodies around as he flies through the air and assaults the rim.

    He might not ever be "that guy" again, but he's got to be getting stronger the further away he moves from his surgery.

    So wherever he ends up playing, I'm ready for the real Howard to come back and play some basketball.

9. Anderson Varejao

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    2012-13 Stats: 25 games played, 14.1 PPG, 14.4 RPG, 3.4 APG

    Injury Concern: Knee, Blood Clot

    An injury to Anderson Varejao is nothing surprising. His all-out style of play combined with the fact that he was the one big man on whom the Cavs relied for any kind of scoring means he's constantly putting himself in harm's way.

    There's been stretches in each of the last three seasons in which Cavs fans were awaiting his return from injury.

    However, this time it's a bit different. Varejao's knee injury came while he was making a case for his first ever All-Star Game appearance; he was leading the league in rebounds by a huge margin at the time of his injury.

    It'll be nice to see him on the court again, for sure, though we should be thankful that we're able to see him at all. After the surgery, a blood clot developed in his lung that could have been life-threatening.

8. Danilo Gallinari

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    2012-13 Stats: 71 games played, 16.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 2.5 APG

    Injury Concern: Torn ACL

    The "Torn ACL" has been the culprit of most season-ending injuries around the NBA in recent years, and that's just what jumped up and bit Danilo Gallinari with the season winding down.

    It was early April, the Denver Nuggets were gearing up for what many thought would be a deep playoff run, and with a snap they lost their second-leading scorer.

    Gallinari isn't one of the most exciting players on the court, but he's part of what made Denver's offense so exciting.

    Another player to space the floor, and add a bit of height to their lineup and things could have gone differently against the Golden State Warriors.

    Hopefully he'll be able to return in time to get into a groove and help out his team in next year's playoffs.

7. Andrew Bynum

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    2012-13 Stats: 0 games played, 0.0 PPG, 0.0 RPG, 0.0 APG

    Injury Concern: Knees, Knees, Knees

    More than anything I think it's safe to say that we're all just tired of following the saga surrounding Andrew Bynum.

    Seeing him on the court will be a sigh of relief.

    I'm tired of talking about him bowling or dancing in Madrid. I just want to see the dude hunker down in the post and score.

    Remember when there was a legitimate argument over who was the better center, Bynum or Dwight Howard? Let's get that going again, rather than arguing over who has the bigger medical and mental problems.

6. Russell Westbrook

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    2012-13 Stats: 82 games played, 23.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 7.4 APG

    Injury Concern: Torn Meniscus

    As usual, Russell Westbrook played every single game of the regular season and, with his running mate Kevin Durant, went into the playoffs intent on getting back to the NBA finals.

    A lunge from Houston's Patrick Beverly and those dreams were all but dead.

    Sure, there was still the possibility that Durant could have carried the Oklahoma City Thunder on his back and lead them to the finals, but that was a pipe dream after playing a few games without Westbrook.

    A Russ-less Thunder ran hard into the Memphis Grizzlies and that was that.

    Now it's time for the Thunder to get things back on track and move on with their legacy, whatever that may end up being.

5. Danny Granger

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    2012-13 Stats: 5 games played, 5.4 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 0.6 APG

    Injury Concern: Wonky Left Knee

    It was the knee that kept Danny Granger out for much of the season up until late February, and it was the knee that eventually tossed him back onto the DL.

    Without Granger, the Indiana Pacers were able to turn themselves into the second-best team in the Eastern Conference and nearly take down the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals.

    They played with little more than scraps on their bench, relying heavily on Lance Stephenson who had a surprising breakout season.

    With Granger, they could have had just enough firepower to take down the Heat—or, at the very, least a moderately appealing trade chip.

4. Rajon Rondo

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    2012-13 Stats: 38 games played, 13.7 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 11.1 APG

    Injury Concern: Torn ACL

    Rajon Rondo was the first big name that was ticked off the top of the Boston Celtics roster, tearing his ACL in mid-February. His setback was followed quickly by injuries to Leandro Barbosa and Jared Sullinger.

    What's most exciting about Rondo's return isn't necessarily him playing basketball. It's what the Celtics end up doing to their team, based on Rondo's health.

    Is it finally time to dismantle the team that won the 2008 NBA championship? Or are the Celtics going to go all-in for what seems like their ninth consecutive final attempt with what they've got?

3. Kobe Bryant

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    2012-13 Stats: 78 games played, 27.3 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 6.0 APG

    Injury Concern: Achilles Tendon

    Part of me sees Kobe Bryant's return to action next season as the most exciting, anticipated event of the NBA calender.

    There will be fanfare galore surrounding his every move, and once he does return, we get to see what kind of team the Los Angeles Lakers have on their hands.

    However, another part of me is concerned that he's going to come back and be a shell of what he once was, unable to move anywhere near as quickly or as determined as he did last season.

    Hopefully there's more of the former and less of the latter, but nonetheless we should be tentative regarding our expectations.

2. Kevin Love

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    2012-13 Stats: 18 games played, 18.3 PPG, 14 RPG, 2.3 APG

    Injury Concern: Broken Hand

    Breaking a hand once seems like a freak occurrence, but to have it break twice is just plain old bad luck.

    Love started the season on the disabled list because of a broken hand, he came back and played 18 games and then broke that same hand again.

    In those 18 games, the Minnesota Timberwolves weren't necessarily impressive, winning nine and losing nine, but they were better with him than they were without him.

    We didn't get to see the complete product that the Timberwolves put together last summer even once, with injuries knocking around almost every single player on their team.

    The return of Love will be a step in the right direction for Minnesota if want to create a perennial playoff team in the Western Conference.

1. Derrick Rose

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    2012-13 Stats: 0 games played, 0.0 PPG, 0.0 RPG, 0.0 APG

    Injury Concern: Torn ACL

    Derrick Rose's return will be jubilation twofold for your average NBA fan.

    First, Rose will be back to playing basketball. Anybody who says they don't get some kind of joy out of watching him play is harboring some deep-seated resentment toward the former MVP.

    Second, Rose's return means the end of all the speculation surrounding his comeback, which has been the worst storyline to follow all season long.

    No more guessing a date for his return; no more people calling him out for not playing, and no more opinions from either side on what is his mentality.

    None of that. Just basketball.

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