Entering the 2016-17 NBA season, here are 20 high-profile players hoping to bounce back and shed the dreaded “injury-prone” label.
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Feb 21, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe (2) is defended by Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose (1) during the second quarter at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
As is the case in any professional sport, one of the worst things about the NBA is the injury bug. From superstars to rookies to role players to third-stringers and D-Leaguers, no one is immune from its wrath, which can derail the course of a team’s season, a player’s season, or even a player’s career.
Every year, we’re left with an increasingly long series of injury-related what-ifs. We saw it as recently as the past two seasons, when injuries to Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut left us wondering how the NBA Finals would’ve played out between two perfectly healthy teams.
There are no excuses in this game, but there’s no denying that injuries play a massive role in playoff series, NBA Draft lottery odds and even free agency and trade discussions ever year. Entering the 2016-17 season, there are plenty of injury-prone players who will be looking to restore their image and put together healthy seasons.
Some guys are frail and some are just unlucky, but whatever the case, the following 20 players will be looking to bounce back in 2016-17 and shed the injury-prone label that’s been attached to their names.
To determine how drastically each one needs a bounce-back year, we’ve ranked these players based on how young they are, how extensive their injury history is, what’s at stake for them in the upcoming season and how much they’re being paid next year. Let’s get started.
Feb 27, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson (33) reacts after scoring against the Minnesota Timberwolves during the first half of a game at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
20. Ryan Anderson
After the Houston Rockets shelled out a four-year, $80 million contract for their new stretch-4 this summer, you could say they’re hoping Ryan Anderson enjoys a tad more injury luck than he’s had over the last three seasons.
In 2013-14, RyNo missed 60 games with a neck injury. In 2014-15, he missed another 21 games with an MCL sprain. Last season, he “only” missed 16 games, sitting out the final 14 games of the year with a sports hernia.
I like NOP's offseason better than HOU's. Just not a believer in Ryno & Gordon's health or defense, especially for that $$.
With the Rockets going all in on offense and completely ignoring the defensive end, Anderson figures to be a perfect fit for the three-point heavy system. Mike D’Antoni is expected to unleash James Harden, and flanking him with an elite stretch-4 like RyNo certainly won’t hurt.
But Houston is going to have to put up 120 points a night since they’ll probably be giving up 118, which means that any lost time for Anderson could seriously put a damper on the Rockets’ playoff hopes.
Jan 2, 2015; New York, NY, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Brandon Jennings (7) gestures after a basket during the third quarter against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Detroit Pistons won 97-81. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
19. Brandon Jennings
Ever since Brandon Jennings tore his Achilles halfway through the 2014-15 season, he hasn’t been the same. He’s played a grand total of 88 games over the last two years, and now the New York Knicks will be relying on him as a backup point guard/potential replacement for Derrick Rose if (and when) he’s banged up.
Though Jennings was never the most efficient player, topping 40 percent shooting just twice in his seven-year NBA career, there’s no question that career-altering injury changed expectations for his place in the league.
Brandon Jennings said Phil Jackson sold him on the idea of becoming Sixth Man of the Year.
In his 41 games with the Pistons leading up to his Achilles tear, Jennings averaged 15.4 points and 6.6 assists per game on .401/.360/.839 shooting splits. In 48 games split between the Pistons and Orlando Magic last year, those numbers plummeted to 6.9 points and 3.5 assists per game on .368/.329/.731 shooting.
The Knicks won’t need Jennings to put up numbers like he once did with the Milwaukee Bucks, but they’d probably prefer him to be a touch more efficient. Jennings is only 26 years old, but after missing 75 games over the last two seasons, his career is reaching a defining moment. Can he reinvent himself as a useful backup? Or are his days of being a productive NBA player over?
Jan 23, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic (14) tries to hold onto a pass as Memphis Grizzlies center Ryan Hollins (20) defends him in the second quarter at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
18. Nikola Pekovic
You’d expect a guy who’s played a grand total of 97 games over the last three seasons to be much higher up the list, but let’s be honest: Does anyone really expect Nikola Pekovic to suddenly put together the first healthy season of his career in 2016-17?
It was only three years ago that Pek was putting up 17.4 points and 8.7 rebounds per game for the Minnesota Timberwolves in the best season of his career. But he’s never played more than 65 games in a single season of his six-year NBA career, and that season came as a rookie back in 2010-11.
Report: Timberwolves C Nikola Pekovic not ready physically but working out: Nikola Pekovic played just 12 las… https://t.co/SQYK3GqHi3
With the Timberwolves looking more like Timberpups as they embrace a youth movement, Pekovic isn’t really needed anymore. Minnesota has Karl-Anthony Towns and Gorgui Dieng to look forward to, which is why it wasn’t a huge loss when Pekovic missed 70 games with an Achilles issue last year.
But with two years and $23.7 million left on his contract, Pekovic is essentially deadweight, even if he finally does get healthy. At this point, it may be all but impossible for Pekovic to restore his trade value, because even if he stays on the floor, the Wolves’ main focus will be feeding minutes to KAT and Dieng.
Jan 2, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Brandon Knight (3) walks to the sideline during the fourth quarter of the NBA game against the Sacramento Kings at Sleep Train Arena. The Kings won 142-119. Mandatory Credit: Godofredo Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
17. Brandon Knight
Life just hasn’t been the same for Brandon Knight ever since he was traded from the Milwaukee Bucks in the middle of his career year in 2014-15 and shipped down to the Phoenix Suns.
He saw his numbers plummet in limited action alongside Eric Bledsoe that season, his thunder has been completely stolen by 19-year-old phenom Devin Booker the following season and worst of all, he’s missed 46 of a possible 109 games since switching to the purple and orange.
Knight should be the Suns’ starting 2-guard to start the 2016-17 season, and he probably will be. But with Booker looking like the future of the franchise and Knight’s past comments adamantly rejecting a potential sixth man role, his fit in Phoenix is already looking sketchy for the long-term.
Throw in another injury for a guy who’s had his last two seasons ended by surgery for an ankle and a sports hernia and Booker’s opportunity to shine will render Knight’s time with the Suns all but limited. The only problem for Phoenix? In that scenario, Knight’s trade value would be even lower than it already is.
Jan 8, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans guard Tyreke Evans (1) moves the ball down the court during the first quarter of the game against the Indiana Pacers at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
16. Tyreke Evans
People don’t typically think of Tyreke Evans as being injury-prone, especially after playing 72 games and 79 games for the New Orleans Pelicans leading up to the 2015-16 season. But coming off a season in which he missed 57 games due to a lingering knee issue, the day of reckoning may be at hand.
Don’t forget, Evans missed 25, 19 and 17 games in his three seasons with the Sacramento Kings after a stellar rookie campaign that he’s still trying to live up to. With this surgically repaired knee likely to sideline him for the start of the upcoming season, Evans is starting to develop that damaged goods reputation.
Gentry on Lowe Post says Pels will “move forward with our season,” and if Tyreke Evans returns it “just adds icing to the cake.”
Though Reke averaged 15.2 points, 6.6 assists and 5.2 rebounds per game in his limited action last year, it’s no secret that he’s no longer intrinsic to whatever the Pelicans are trying to build down in NOLA.
Before they can deal him away and get some help for Anthony Davis, however, they’ll need Evans to return healthy and boost his trade value back up. At this point, that feels like quite a tall task for both Evans and the Pelicans.
Dec 23, 2015; Orlando, FL, USA; Houston Rockets forward Terrence Jones (6) against the Orlando Magic during the first quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
15. Terrence Jones
For awhile there, it felt like Terrence Jones was going to be the third member of Houston’s Big Three alongside James Harden and Dwight Howard. Instead, injuries caved in his ceiling there, ultimately resulting in a minimum contract with the New Orleans Pelicans during the largest spending spree in NBA history.
Jones’ restricted free agency didn’t go according to plan, much like his last two seasons in Clutch City. T-Jones missed 81 games in that span, and his numbers quickly shrank from the 12.1 points and 6.9 rebounds per game on 54.2 percent shooting he put up in 2013-14 — his second year in the league.
If Terrence Jones comes out looking like 2013-15 Jones, you don't have to play Asik as much and it helps open up the floor for AD.
At 24 years old, Jones (hopefully) has plenty of basketball ahead of him. But over the last two seasons, he’s missed basically half a season due to a nerve inflammation in his leg, a concussion, a lacerated eyelid, a car crash and an upper respiratory infection.
Even worse, after Kevin McHale was fired, Jones was demoted from the starting lineup in favor of Clint Capela. Playing on a minimum contract, Jones will have to revitalize his career playing alongside his former Kentucky teammate Anthony Davis.
Feb 10, 2016; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari (8) dribbles the ball against the Detroit Pistons during the first quarter at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
14. Danilo Gallinari
In terms of fan favorites, Danilo Gallinari has been at the forefront of the conversation for the Denver Nuggets over the last few years. It’s not a stretch to say he’s been the best and most popular Nugget of the post-Carmelo Anthony era.
But Gallo’s inability to stay on the court has prevented both he and the Nuggets from reaching their ceiling. Perhaps the 2013 NBA Playoffs turn out differently if not for Gallinari’s season-ending ACL tear. Perhaps Gallo has an All-Star appearance or two to his name. Perhaps the Nuggets would’ve been able to trade him for another young piece to aid their rebuild.
With at least one more year remaining on his contract and the Nuggets undergoing a rebuild, this fan favorite could be a desirable trade piece for his versatility. The problem is Denver might love him more than the rest of the league, especially with how injury-prone he’s been lately.
Gallo effusively talks about how much he loves Denver in every Italian interview. It's been consistent for 5 years. He loves the city.
There’s no denying that Gallo’s ACL tear in 2013 derailed an otherwise enjoyable career. After missing the entire 2013-14 season, the Italian Stallion played 59 games in 2014-15 and put together a stellar stretch after the All-Star break, averaging 18.6 points per game on .443/.404/.891 shooting.
Unfortunately, he was unable to carry that momentum forward into the 2015-16 season. Although he averaged a team-leading 19.5 points and 5.3 rebounds per game while shooting 36.4 percent from downtown, he missed 29 games due to an ankle injury. Whether he’s staying in Denver or traded elsewhere to bolster the core, it’d be nice to see Gallo stay healthy for once.
December 25, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors center Festus Ezeli (31) during the fourth quarter in a NBA basketball game on Christmas against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Cavaliers 89-83. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
13. Festus Ezeli
At the start of a historic 2015-16 season for the Golden State Warriors, Festus Ezeli looked like an starting-caliber center. He averaged 7.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game in his 13 starts in Andrew Bogut’s place and was having a career year until he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in February.
He only missed six weeks, but he was never the same after that injury. When Bogut when down in Game 5 of the Finals, the Warriors were unable to recover, and one of the lasting images of Game 7 that no one ever talks about is when Ezeli got two threes splashed in his face to swing momentum in Cleveland’s favor. His summer hasn’t gotten much better since:
His poor Finals performance and ongoing knee issues severely impacted his earnings in free agency, as Ezeli could only land a two-year, $17.4 million deal from the Portland Trail Blazers. Rip City doesn’t need him to be a starting center, but at only 26 years old, he was once in line to be Bogut’s successor on a championship-caliber team.
Now he’ll be coming off the bench behind Mason Plumlee in Portland, trying to overcome the perception that his knees are fragile after missing 36 games, 36 games and all 82 games over the last three seasons.
Feb 21, 2016; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) celebrates after making a three point shot during the fourth quarter of the game against the Detroit Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills. The Pelicans defeated the Pistons 111-106. Mandatory Credit: Leon Halip-USA TODAY Sports
12. Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis is going to win an MVP Award before his time in the league is done, there’s no question about that. Stephen Curry, LeBron James and Kevin Durant won’t be around forever, and the Brow has already finished in the top five for MVP voting once before his recent 23rd birthday.
The only thing holding Davis back — well, aside from the New Orleans Pelicans‘ inability to put adequate talent around him — is how injury-prone he’s appeared to be in his first four NBA seasons.
So far in his young career, the Brow has missed 18, 15, 14 and 21 games for a grand total of 68 games, which is nearly one-fourth of his time in the league.
Are we at the point where we start holding Anthony Davis' durability against him when discussing his place in the league?
Dating back to his rookie season, he’s dealt with a stress reaction in his ankle, sprained left shoulder, left knee injury, left hand fracture, dislocated finger, sprained left shoulder again, left ankle injury, back spasms, chest contusion, right shoulder injury, left knee injury and torn labrum in his shoulder.
It’s only a matter of time before the Brow owns this league. But he’ll have to stay healthy to get there, and through the first four years of his career, he’s been constantly banged up with a variety of maladies. Another injury-stricken campaign in 2016-17 could prompt serious concerns about his durability.
Dec 25, 2015; Miami, FL, USA; New Orleans Pelicans guard Eric Gordon (10) shoots against the Miami Heat in the first half of a NBA basketball game on Christmas at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
11. Eric Gordon
Eric Gordon‘s status as an injury-prone player has long been confirmed, but like Ryan Anderson, he just received a sizable pay day from the Houston Rockets in free agency. On a new four-year, $53 million contract, Gordon is quite a huge gamble for the Rox.
In his eight-year NBA career, Gordon has only played more than 64 games in one season — his rookie year back in 2008-09, when he played 78. Since then he’s missed 20, 26, 73, 40, 18, 21 and 37 games, respectively.
Last season, the 27-year-old Gordon somewhat bumped up his free agency value, averaging 15.2 points per game while shooting 38.4 percent from three-point range. Unfortunately, he once again shot less than 42 percent from the field and missed 37 games due to an injured finger.
Given his history of knee injuries, any three-point shooting he provides will likely be counterbalanced by however many games he inevitably misses. Gordon has long been labeled an injury-prone player, but after inking such a lucrative new contract, the pressure is back on Gordon to stay on the court.
Mar 28, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday (11) drives with the ball against the New York Knicks during the second half of a game at the Smoothie King Center. The Pelicans defeated the Knicks 99-91. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
10. Jrue Holiday
In Jrue Holiday‘s case, he technically won’t be entering the season injured. Unfortunately for Holiday and his family, he’s expected to miss time at the start of the 2016-17 as he tends to his pregnant wife, Lauren Holiday, who is dealing with a brain tumor and requires surgery.
Holiday’s wife, a former member of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, is expected to make a full recovery and the tumor should not affect the birth of their child, but this unfortunate turn of events will postpone Holiday’s opportunity to remove himself from that “injury-prone” label.
First, please let Lauren be OK.
second, please let Jrue Holiday be healthy. He is SO good and no one knows.
A stress fracture in Holiday’s right tibia ended his 2013-14 season, limiting him to 34 games in his first year with the New Orleans Pelicans. He played just 40 games the following season due to another lower leg injury, and in his “comeback” season last year, he was still limited to 28.2 minutes per game in 65 appearances.
Holiday was one of the best sixth men in the league in that span, averaging 16.8 points and 6.0 assists per game. The trade for the former Sixers All-Star hasn’t gone according to plan, but here’s hoping his wife is able to make a full recovery, that Holiday can stay healthy and that he can build off his sixth man role in 2016-17.
Dec 18, 2015; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz guard Alec Burks (10) shoots the ball during the first half against the Denver Nuggets at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
9. Alec Burks
The Utah Jazz are loaded with talented guards at both positions in the backcourt, but it wasn’t that long ago when Alec Burks was looking like the next big thing. In just his third season, Burks put up a career-high 14.0 points per game while shooting 45.7 percent from the floor and 35 percent from three-point range.
Less than two months after signing a four-year, $42 million contract extension, however, Burks went down with a season-ending shoulder injury, limiting his 2014-15 campaign to just 27 games. Then he missed another 51 games in 2015-16 after an ankle injury and surgery on his fractured left fibula.
Utah took a 40-win team besieged by injury and added George Hill, Joe Johnson, Boris Diaw and hopefully healthy Dante Exum and Alec Burks.
Burks was able to return to action in April, playing in three of the team’s final four games. He shot 40.5 percent from long range on the season, and there’s no question about his potential as Utah’s designated sixth man.
After missing 106 games over the last two seasons, however, this 25-year-old shooting guard could really use a bounce-back season to shed the injury-prone stigma that’s befallen him right when the Jazz are trying to make their leap.
Apr 21, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets forward Donatas Motiejunas (20) shoots the ball as Golden State Warriors forward Andre Iguodala (9) defends during the fourth quarter in game three of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. The Rockets won 97-96. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
8. Donatas Motiejunas
When you’re the piece of a trade that gets rescinded because the team’s training staff isn’t comfortable with your back problems, it’s impossible NOT to be seen as injury-prone.
The fact that Donatas Motiejunas only played 37 games for the Houston Rockets last year and remains an unsigned restricted free agent certainly doesn’t help his case either.
Filed to ESPN. BJ Armstrong, agent for Donatas Motiejunas expressed some concern with the team about a lack of progress on a new contract.
When the Detroit Pistons traded for D-Mo last season, they were adding a stretch-4 whose game was ideally suited for Stan Van Gundy’s spread offense. Unfortunately for him and the Pistons, Motiejunas failed his physical and four days after the deal, it was rescinded.
Just a season ago, D-Mo averaged 12.0 points and 5.9 rebounds per game while shooting 50.4 percent from the field and 36.8 percent from three-point range. He can still be a useful player if he can overcome those back problems, but before he can prove his value, his contract situation needs to be sorted out.
Feb 3, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Charlotte Hornets forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14) warms up before the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Time Warner Cable Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports
7. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
At this point, most NBA savants know how intimidating Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is on the defensive end and that he’s made serious strides on improving is jump shot — the biggest flaw in his game.
But over the last few seasons, we haven’t gotten the clearest picture of who the Charlotte Hornets really are, since Kemba Walker and MKG have hardly shared the floor together. Also, in Nicolas Batum‘s first season with the team, Kidd-Gilchrist only managed seven games thanks to two shoulder injuries.
Nicolas Batum and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist played together in a total of just six games and 161 minutes last season. The Hornets were +12.4.
With both being natural small forwards, it remains to be seen how Steve Clifford will manage his starting rotation, especially since MKG is not a reliable three-point shooter. But defensively, the Hornets could be quite a terrifying team with all that length on the perimeter.
Over the last three seasons, MKG has missed 20, 27 and 75 games — with those numbers trending in the wrong direction. He’s still only 22 years old, but being able to stay on the court in 2016-17 would go a long ways in Charlotte assembling another top-10 defense…and figuring out their truest identity moving forward.
Jan 30, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid practices before a game against the Golden State Warriors at Wells Fargo Center. The Golden State Warriors won 108-105. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
6. Joel Embiid
Fair or not, Joel Embiid is technically known as an injury-prone player already. He hasn’t played a single NBA game in what should’ve been the first two seasons of his career, and all those pre-draft comparisons to Hakeem Olajuwon seem like such a long time ago now.
But with Embiid finally ready to suit up for the 2016-17 season, we’ll finally get a look at what he can bring to the table for the Philadelphia 76ers — provided he can overcome all those foot surgeries, of course.
Unfortunately, expectations should be tempered for Embiid, even if his development is crucial for the front office to figure out what the hell to do with their frontcourt trio. He may say he’s 100 percent, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be in 100 percent game shape after not playing organized basketball since his lone collegiate season at Kansas.
The adjustment to a full 82-game season is tough for all rookies, but it’ll be even tougher for an injury-prone seven-footer who hasn’t been in game shape for two years. Embiid will only be a rookie and is still only 22 years old, but the path to shedding that injury-prone tag starts now.
Mar 9, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Chandler Parsons (25) makes a jump shot against the Detroit Pistons during the second quarter at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
5. Chandler Parsons
Landing Chandler Parsons was a stroke of genius for a Memphis Grizzlies squad that was trying to re-sign Mike Conley, but it came at a price — a massive four-year, $98.5 million contract for the former Dallas Mavericks swingman.
That’s quite a hefty sum to fork over for a guy who averaged 13.7 points and 4.9 rebounds per game last season, but it’s especially risky since he’s been dealing with a myriad of injury problems over the last few years.
Parsons is a solid 3-and-D wing in this league and addresses a clear position of need in Memphis. He shot 49.4 percent from the field and a career-high 41.4 percent from long range last season, and this addition ensures the Grizzlies get one more crack at the Western belt — ill-fated though it might be with the Warriors, Spurs and Clippers still so dominant.
However, Parsons missed 21 games last year and 16 the year before that while dealing with ankle and knee injuries. That doesn’t sound like much, but Parsons having two knee injuries in the last two years is concerning — especially for a team with core players like Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph who are in their 30s and have their own injury histories to worry about.
Jan 15, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) reacts after dislocating his shoulder against the Dallas Mavericks during the first half at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
4. Joakim Noah
In 2011, the New York Knicks would’ve had a tremendous offseason. Five years later, however, adding an injury-prone Joakim Noah on a four-year, $72 million deal is a huge gamble that may leave them worse off than if they had just kept Robin Lopez in the first place.
In 2013-14, Joakim Noah was a legitimate MVP candidate and earned Defensive Player of the Year honors. He averaged 12.6 points, 11.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.2 steals per game, dragging a depleted Chicago Bulls team to the playoffs in the process.
& if that's not a discounted deal, why the heck did the Knicks pay full market price for Noah with his recent injuries? Neither makes sense.
But last season under Fred Hoiberg, Noah had the worst season of his career, averaging 4.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, being demoted to bench duty and missing 53 games due to a shoulder injury. The year before that, he missed 15 games and dealt with the after effects of knee surgery.
Noah has an extensive injury history, and at 31 years old, he’s not going to get any more spry. He’s only reached the 70-game threshold three times in his nine-year career, and as the Knicks’ new starting center, New York will be relying on him to somehow recapture some of that magic from 2013-14.
Dec 26, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe reacts after suffering an injury in the second quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
3. Eric Bledsoe
As recently as 2014-15, Eric Bledsoe played in 81 games and put together a career year, averaging 17.0 points, 6.1 assists and 5.2 rebounds per game. Unfortunately, that was sandwiched between a meniscus tear, a meniscus tear and — you guessed it! — another meniscus tear.
In all, Bledsoe has dealt with two meniscus injuries in his right knee, and in 2015-16, added the left meniscus to the list when he tore it 27 games into the season. Ignoring 2014-15, Bledsoe has missed 51 and 39 games during his time with the Phoenix Suns.
I was asked, so I looked it up. Suns before Bledsoe injury: -2.4 per 100 Suns after Bledsoe injury: -16.5 per 100
With Brandon Knight being similarly banged up and the Suns’ backcourt getting crowded by the emergence of Devin Booker, one of these guards will have to embrace a sixth man role or a trade for the long-term. Bledsoe is the better player, but at age 26, he’s also the oldest and most injury-prone.
Bledsoe was putting up All-Star numbers before his season-ending injury last year, averaging 20.4 points, 6.1 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game. If he can build on that and avoid more setbacks, he’ll assure his place in Phoenix for the long-term and shift the focus back onto Brandon Knight.
Apr 7, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose (1) looks on during the second half against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
2. Derrick Rose
At this point, it’s no secret that the entire NBA community views Derrick Rose as injury-prone. In fact, he’s probably the poster child of professional basketball in that category. Ever since that fateful ACL tear back in 2012, Rose has missed 82, 72, 31 and 16 games over the next four years.
In that time, he’s rehabbed the ACL tear, torn his meniscus, suffered a medial torn meniscus, and even donned a face mask because of a left orbital bone fracture. Last season’s 66 games were the highest total of Rose’s career since 2010-11, when he played 81 games.
Unfortunately, the former MVP looks all but washed up. Last year was as good as he’s looked in some time, and he still only averaged 16.4 points and 4.7 assists per game on dismal .427/.293/.793 shooting splits. That’s not even the worst of it though:
I talked with Derrick Rose's rape accuser for 90 minutes last night. This is her story in her own words. https://t.co/sNTtDBLqVf
With Rose also facing some disturbing rape charges in a civil case and simultaneously being expected to recapture MVP form as the New York Knicks‘ starting point guard, the 2016-17 is a huge one for Rose and his worldwide perception.
This is bigger than basketball, and the results of this trial could play as large a role in his future in this league as his actual on-court play.
If he’s proven innocent and manages to stay on the court, this could be the year that restores Derrick Rose’s image…or it could be the one that completely decimates his free agency value and public reputation beyond repair if he’s unable to do both.
Apr 6, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) looks up at the scoreboard against the Brooklyn Nets in the third quarter at Verizon Center. The Wizards won 121-103. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
1. Bradley Beal
Derrick Rose wants to set himself up for a free agency pay day in 2017, but as far as injuries are concerned, the pressure is truly on for Bradley Beal, one of the league’s most injury-prone players who still managed to land a humongous five-year, $128 million contract extension this summer.
The Washington Wizards were caught between a rock and a hard place with Beal’s free agency negotiations. They weren’t going to find an adequate replacement with that same kind of upside on the market, but Beal’s extensive problems with staying on the court made that massive pay day hard to stomach.
When healthy, the 23-year-old Beal has shown signs of developing into a complementary star. The only problem is, the poor guy just can’t seem to stay healthy. Over the first four years of his NBA career, he’s missed 26, nine, 19 and 27 games, respectively.
How are the Wizards supposed to build on their star backcourt if one of the foundational pieces isn’t structurally sound? And what if that weak support structure is constantly bickering with the other building block of the franchise?
On the one hand, Beal is a career 38.6 percent shooter from three-point range and has come to life in his only two playoff runs. “Playoff Bradley Beal” quickly became a thing in his first postseason run, averaging 19.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game on .425/.415/.796 shooting splits in 2013-14.
He upped those numbers to 23.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game the following year. in the playoffs. At this point, it seems like Beal is one healthy season away from establishing himself as one of the league’s top shooting guards and helping Washington take the next step.
On the other hand, it’s hard to take that step when your legs are constantly on the mend. To this point in his career, Beal’s on-court production hasn’t been substantial enough to warrant this kind of max deal, especially with his extensive injury history thrown in.
Remember, this is the same guy who admitted he may need to play the rest of his career on a minutes restriction…at age 22.
Last season, Beal averaged a career-high 17.4 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game, shooting a career-high 44.9 percent from the field and 38.7 percent from three-point range. Unfortunately, his time missed due to injury was a big reason Washington missed the playoffs.
Beal is still young and has All-Star potential, but his relationship with the Wizards’ franchise player is troublesome. The fact that he’s missed roughly 25 percent of his NBA career due to injuries is even worse.
When Washington was excluded from the Kevin Durant sweepstakes, Beal’s extension became necessary to ensure the Wizards stay on the path back to relevance. But with Bradley Beal on course to become the next Eric Gordon, a substantial amount of risk came with it.