After the mad blitz that was the NBA regular season, teams in the playoffs are certainly showing some fatigue. Many have argued that a season that demanded players to attempt to play 66 games in approximately 120 days has led to the rash of injuries. Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Josh Smith, Ray Allen, Baron Davis, Kendrick Perkins, and Iman Shumpert are among the players who have missed time this postseason because of injuries. Throw in the suspensions to Rajon Rondo and Metta World Peace and it is clear that perfect attendance was almost impossible to achieve this season.
Obviously, teams who are able to keep their best players on the floor have a sizable advantage over their opponents. A quick glance at the number of games missed by rotation players on playoff teams during the regular seasons offers a little insight. By looking at a team’s roster and gauging how many players from each team missed time due to injuries or suspensions can quite possibly predict that team’s chances of keeping its best unit intact throughout the playoffs.
Here are the teams that did the best job of keeping its best players on the court throughout this hectic season:
1. Indiana Pacers
30 games missed, 10 rotation players, 3.0 games missed on average
Players considered: Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert, David West, Paul George, Leandro Barbosa, Darren Collison, George Hill, Tyler Hansbrough, Dahntay Jones, Louis Amundson
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
41 games missed, 9 rotation players, 4.56 average
Players considered: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Serge Ibaka, Derek Fisher, Daequan Cook, Kendrick Perkins, Thabo Sefolosha, Nick Collison
Note: Eric Maynor was not considered in this evaluation as his injury was suffered very early in the season and the team was adequately able to replace him with Derek Fisher
3. LA Lakers
35 games missed, 7 rotation players, 5.0 average
Players considered: Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, Ramon Sessions, Matt Barnes, Metta World Peace, Steve Blake
Note: The amount of games missed by Devin Ebanks and Jordan Hill was incredibly difficult to quantify as each players’ up and down play led to inconsistent playing time
4. San Antonio Spurs
83 games missed, 12 rotation players, 6.92 average
Players considered: Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Patty Mills, Gary Neal, Stephen Jackson, Dajuan Blair, Tiago Splitter, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Matt Bonner, Boris Diaw
Note: The Spurs’ position on this list is remarkable especially considering several of their best players were held out of games at the end of the season.
5. Memphis Grizzlies
63 games missed, 9 rotation players, 7.0 average
Players considered: Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, OJ Mayo, Zach Randolph, Tony Allen, Mareese Speights, Dante Cunningham, Quincy Pondexter
6. Miami Heat
73 games missed, 10 rotation players, 7.3 average
Players considered: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole, Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem, Shane Battier, Joel Anthony, Ronny Turiaf
7. Philadelphia 76ers
86 games missed, 10 rotation players, 8.6 average
Players considered: Jrue Holliday, Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams, Thad Young, Elton Brand, Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner, Jodie Meeks, Nikola Vucevic, Lavoy Allen
8. LA Clippers
86 games missed, 10 rotation players, 8.6 average
Players considered: Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, Nick Young, Mo Williams, Caron Butler, Randy Foye, DeAndre Jordan, Kenyon Martin, Reggie Evans
9. Orlando Magic
78 games missed, 9 rotation players, 8.67 average
Players considered: Dwight Howard, Ryan Anderson, Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, JJ Redick, Hedo Turkoglu, Glen Davis, Quentin Richardson, Chris Duhon
10. Utah Jazz
99 games missed, 11 rotation players, 9.0 average
Players considered: Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Gordon Hayward, Devin Harris, CJ Miles, Derrick Favors, Josh Howard, Alex Burks, Raja Bell, Enes Kanter, Earl Watson
11. Chicago Bulls
100 games missed, 10 rotation players, 10.0 average
Players considered: Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Richard Hamilton, Joakim Noah, CJ Watson, Kyle Korver, Taj Gibson, Ronnie Brewer, Omer Asik
12. Dallas Mavericks
102 games missed, 10 rotation players, 10.2 average
Players considered: Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, Vince Carter, Delonte West, Roddy Beuabois, Brendan Wright, Jason Kidd, Ian Mahimni, Brendan Haywood
13. New York Knicks
95 games missed, 9 rotation players, 10.55 average
Players considered: Amare Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, Iman Shumpert, Landry Fields, JR Smith, Jeremy Lin, Steve Novak, Baron Davis
14. Denver Nuggets
136 games missed, 12 rotation players, 11.33 average
Players considered: Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo, Danilo Gallinari, Al Harrington, Javale McGee, Kenneth Faried, Andre Miller, Wilson Chandler, Corey Brewer, Rudy Fernandez, Kosta Koufos, Timofey Mozgov
Note: Faried was not counted as having missed any games, even though he only played 46 games this season. Once he started receiving consistent playing time beginning February 9th he did not miss another game.
15. Atlanta Hawks
133 games missed, 10 rotation players, 13.3 average
Players considered: Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Jeff Teague, Al Horford, Marvin Williams, Zaza Pachulia, Willie Green, Kirk Hinrich, Ivan Johnson, Tracy McGrady
16. Boston Celtics
167 games missed, 10 rotation players, 16.7 average
Players considered: Greg Stiemsma, Jermaine O’Neal, Chris Wilcox, Michael Pietrus, Avery Bradley, Rajon Rondo, Brandon Bass, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce
Note: Wilcox and O’Neal were both included because it appears the team still has not recovered from their injuries, shown by inconsistent minutes still given to Stiemsma, Ryan Hollins, and Marquis Daniels. It just seems like Doc Rivers is still trying to make up for the size they are missing with Wilcox and O’Neal out.
It should come as no surprise that the four teams that are widely considered to be the favorites to contend for the NBA Finals (Thunder, Spurs, Heat, and Lakers) are all in the top 6 teams on this list. Not only did these teams do a superior job avoiding the injury bug, but it is also incredible how few games their star players missed this season. James, Bosh, Duncan, Parker, Bryant, Bynum, Pau Gasol, Durant, Westbrook, and Harden missed a combined 38 games between the ten of them.
A team like Indiana, who no one thinks has a chance at winning a championship this year, certainly must be overjoyed at their ability to stay healthy. If a major injury does occur to one of their opponents, the Pacers’ tendency to field a healthy roster could prove to be the catalyst in a series against an undermanned team.
On the other hand, maybe we shouldn’t be all that surprised the Bulls are in the position they are in. Surely it was not their fault, but the numbers don’t lie: Chicago has a team that struggled with injuries all year long, and surely the playoffs are no different. The Bulls thought they might be able to get everyone healthy and on the same page down the stretch, but it should be no surprise to any of us that their unhealthy trend continued into the playoffs.