15 Most Important Injuries of 2012-2013 NBA Season

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15 Most Important Injuries of 2012-2013 NBA Season

Derrick Rose Injury
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A phrase that’s uttered by countless NBA analysts in the preseason or when a team is playing well is, “If they can stay healthy…”

Keeping players healthy is mostly about catching the right breaks and being lucky. But it’s also one of the most vital parts of being successful.

Not to wish injury on anyone, but imagine if the Los Angeles Clippers lost Chris Paul to injury. That’s no longer the team with the best record in the league. Eric Bledsoe is a capable replacement in that situation, but he doesn’t have the experience, same level of talent or the proven ability to execute in the clutch.

That’s the normal scenario concerning injuries to high-profile players. If one of a team’s best players goes down, the team normally suffers.

There has been some of that this season. However, there have also been several cases where the absence of a big-name player has allowed either a team to succeed or another player on that team to raise their games to new and impressive levels.

Whatever the case is, there’s no denying that injuries will affect a team’s season. That’s why there is all of the hustle and bustle whenever a star-player goes down with an injury to see how long he is going to be out.

There have been a plethora of superstars and key guys that have been injured this season. One that has aroused some buzz lately is the injury to Pau Gasol. He’s not going to be on this list, though.

Gasol has been the scapegoat for much of the criticism regarding the Los Angeles Lakers and their problems this season. He’s looked passive on the floor and like he is a shell of himself on this new Lakers squad.

It's not a situation where he has lost his talent, either. In August, Gasol wreaked havoc in the Olympics for Spain and caused the frontcourt of the U.S.A. tons of problems in the gold medal game.

But since he hasn’t been producing at the level that he’s expected to for the Lakers this season, it feels like he shouldn’t be a part of this list. The Lakers miss his towering presence, but he hasn’t been a part of the Lakers’ success this season when he’s been on the floor. Subsequently, his injury seems a little less important.

Having said that, what injuries have shaken things up around the league?

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15. Mo Williams

Mo Williams
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By no means does Mo Williams have the “superstar” tag that you would expect players with important injuries to be labeled with. However, Williams’ injury has had a severe effect on the Utah Jazz.

In last year’s lockout-shortened season, the Jazz surprised many people by making the playoffs at 36-30. After losing in the first round last season to the San Antonio Spurs, the expectations for this young team for this year were semi-high and definitely included the word playoffs.

Williams was brought in during the offseason to replace Devin Harris after Harris left for the Atlanta Hawks. Harris averaged 11.3 points and five assist per game for the Jazz last year.

Until Williams had surgery to repair a “complete tear” in his thumb, he was bettering Harris’ 2011-2012 production, averaging 12.9 points and 6.7 assists per game. That’s near-perfect point guard production for a team that relies heavily on their post-players like Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson and Derrick Favors.

Since Williams last played on Dec. 22, the Jazz have been exploited at the point guard position. His replacement in the starting lineup, Jamaal Tinsley, is averaging only four points and 5.2 assists per game. That’s quite a fall-off from Williams’ production.

More than that, the Jazz are just barely above .500 at 19-18, but are currently one and a half games out of the eighth-seed in the Western Conference. They’ve gone 5-4 in Williams’ absence, however all but one of their wins have been against teams well below .500 while all of their losses have come when facing teams over .500.

Williams had surgery to repair his thumb on Jan. 4 and is projected to miss six-to-eight weeks rehabbing the injury. In that period of time, the Jazz play a similar schedule to the nine games they’ve already played without Williams, with a mix of upper-tier teams and bottom-feeders.

And that’s why Williams’ injury is so important to Utah. He has the experience and play-making ability that can guide the Jazz to tough wins, where Tinsley lacks those qualities. This team can’t afford to hover around .500 for much longer. If they want to meet their preseason expectations, they have to go on some kind of winning-streak. And without Williams, that doesn’t seem likely to happen.

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14. Anthony Davis

Anthony Davis
Derick Hingle - USA Today Sports Images

In selecting Anthony Davis number-one overall in the 2012 NBA Draft, the New Orleans Hornets were getting a guy who could eventually become a franchise-player. He has the physical gifts and the skills to become just that.

But Davis has missed 13 of the New Orleans’ 35 games this season, two from catching an inadvertent elbow to the face and 11 with a stress reaction in his left ankle. In those games, the Hornets are 3-10. That’s pretty indicative of how important Davis, even as a rookie, is to this team. He’s their best defensive player, best rebounder and also isn’t a guy that defenders can take lightly.

Davis currently has a 19.87 Player Efficiency Rating, which is the 36th best in the NBA. Watching him play, his value is almost beyond numbers because of the respect he commands on both ends of the floor. He undoubtedly makes the Hornets better.

However, these injuries are even more important because Davis is so young. Not only does it raise concerns about his durability in the pros, but it also is delaying him from becoming that franchise-changing player that the Hornets expect him to be.

He’s obviously talented and has shown he can play effectively in this league. That’s not the type of player that New Orleans was drafting, though. The Hornets expect Davis to be a superstar and they expect it to happen sooner rather than later. Missing games due to injuries only delays his development as a player, thus delaying him developing into a superstar.

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13. Danny Granger

Danny Granger
Brett Davis - USA Today Sports Images

Many talking-heads around the league and Indiana Pacers fans were worried about their season when Danny Granger aggravated a knee injury that he suffered last year. They became even more worried when he had platelet-rich injections put in his knee on Nov. 6 that would sideline him indefinitely.

Granger has yet to play a game for the Pacers this season after leading Indiana in scoring for the past five seasons. He’s also, arguably, the closest thing that the Pacers have to a superstar.

So, on the surface, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for Indiana to be 22-14 and sitting at the third seed in the Eastern Conference. But when you look at where Granger’s injury has left this team, it begins to make a little more sense.

Without their most consistent scoring-threat, the Pacers have had to develop a new identity. They’ve become a superior defensive and rebounding team that takes advantage of their solid mix of size and athleticism. They rank first in the NBA in rebounds and second in points allowed per game.

If Granger were playing, it’s hard to imagine them having to play this well defensively. They’d still need to play solid defense, but with Granger’s scoring, it wouldn’t be as necessary.

The other wrinkle of the Pacers that has emerged with Granger’s injury is that third-year man Paul George is having a chance to emerge and grow as a young leader on this team. George has freakish-athleticism and savvy basketball skills that were apparent last season, but weren’t always put on display. But with Granger out of the line-up, George has stepped up to the challenge and emerged as a reliable player on both ends of the floor.

Would the Pacers be better with Granger? It’s hard to tell. But what’s for certain is that without him, this Indiana team is dramatically different.

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12. Anderson Varejao

Anderson Varejao
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Everyone knew that Cleveland Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao was a talented high-energy guy coming into this season. That being said, it’s hard to imagine anyone predicting the tremendous season that Varejao was having before injuring his knee on Dec. 18.

In the 25 games that he played in this season, Varejao averaged an NBA- and career-high 14.4 rebounds per game, as well as a career-high 14.1 points and 3.4 assists per game. He wasn’t just putting up the best numbers of his career; he was crushing his previous highs, with 2.9 more rebounds, 3.3 more points and 1.7 more assists per game better than his career-high marks prior to this season.

However, Varejao has missed the last 11 games and is undergoing surgery on his knee that will keep him in street clothes for what looks like six-to-eight weeks.

Varejao’s energy, toughness, charisma and, of course, rebounding are all going to be hard to replace with the Cavs’ roster. But the Cavs aren’t going anywhere but the draft lottery with or without Varejao.

The reason his injury is important to this season is an individual thing. Varejao is a guy that has been underappreciated for much of his career because he doesn’t do the flashy things, but does all of the grinding dirty work.

This season, it seemed to be paying off. He was making a legitimate case for him to be considered an All-Star. Now, this injury pretty much solidifies that he won’t be able to swing in anymore votes to get him in and that he wouldn’t be able to play if he was voted in. That has to be disappointing for a guy that leaves blood, sweat and tears on the court every night and to all of the guys around the league that respect what he does.

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11. Kevin Love

Kevin Love
Brace Hemmelgarn - USA Today Sports Images

If we were ranking the weirdest injuries of the 2012-2013 NBA season, there’s no doubt that Kevin Love would be at the top of the list. Love fractured his left metacarpal in his right hand before the season began while he was training doing knuckle-pushups. He missed the first nine games of the season for the Minnesota Timberwolves with that injury.

After coming back, Love missed two random games for some minor aches and pains. But on Feb. 3, he re-fractured the same hand, this time with the injury requiring surgery that will sideline him for eight-to-10 weeks.

The T’Wolves had tons of excitement surrounding them leading up to the season, but injuries to Chase Budinger, Brandon Roy, a recovering Ricky Rubio and Love have stifled much of that excitement. None of them are more crucial than Love’s, though.

Minnesota has still managed a 16-16 record amidst their injury problems and playing 14 games without their leading scorer and rebounder in Love. However, this was a team that many people thought would make a leap into playoff contention this year.

Not only have the games where Love has been sidelined hurt those chances, but the games where he has been active have also been affected.

With Love playing in spurts of games and battling injuries, his game has suffered. He’s still been able to rebound effectively. But in the 18 games that he’s played, Love shot a career-low 35.2 percent from the field, and his three-point percentage, a part of his game that he’s worked on tremendously, fell from 37.2 percent last year to 21.7 percent so far this season.

For a team that shoots a league-worst 30 percent from long-range, the Timberwolves needed Love to knock down outside shots consistently and he hasn’t been doing that. He seems out of sync with his game and the offense when he’s been on the floor.

That’s why Love’s injury is a big deal for the Timberwolves. He hasn’t been on the floor much to produce for his team as their leader and when he has played, he hasn’t seemed like All-Star-caliber player that fans have grown accustomed to. All of that has hurt the Wolves chances at making a leap as a team.

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10. Eric Gordon

Eric Gordon
Jerome Miron - USA Today Sports Images

Hornets guard Eric Gordon missed the first 29 games of the season and one other game for rest after having arthroscopic knee surgery last spring. In those 30 games that Gordon hasn’t been on the floor for New Orleans, the Hornets are 6-24. In the five games that he has played, the Hornets are 4-1. That’s no coincidence.

While Anthony Davis is still developing as a rookie, Gordon is the unquestioned leader on this team. He completely changes the complexion of this team when he’s playing.

Even with him struggling in the five games that he has played, averaging 4.4 assists and only 15.6 points per game on meager 32.5 percent shooting, the Hornets are still a better basketball team when Gordon is playing.

Gordon’s shooting woes aren’t going to last. He’s a career 44.8 percent shooter and has averaged 18.1 points per game over his career. And opponents know that. So, even when he’s struggling, his talent demands respect from opposing defenses.

With his shooting and driving ability, defenses have to collapse on him, which opens up outside shots for guys like Ryan Anderson and opens interior lanes for Anderson, Davis and Robin Lopez.

He’s the catalyst for this offense, which is why the Hornets are currently 28th in the NBA in points per game. Gordon hasn’t been on the floor and New Orleans’ offense has paid for it. Had Gordon been healthy the whole season, this team would probably be hovering around .500 instead of sitting at 10-25.

His injury is also an issue because it adds to his injuries in previous seasons. Since his rookie season when he played in 78 games, Gordon hasn’t played in more than 62 games in a season. This knee injury that he’s coming off of in the context of his injury-history sends up a tiny red flag that he might be injury-prone.

Gordon’s talent is remarkable and incredibly valuable to the Hornets. But this injury that has already got their 2012-2013 season off to a bad start could spell more trouble down the road if it’s an indicator of Gordon’s fragility.

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9. Steve Nash

Steve Nash
Gary A. Vasquez - USA Today Sports Images

The signing of Steve Nash to the Lakers was just part of the hullabaloo surrounding the purple and gold leading up to the season. The hype surrounding his move to Los Angeles was massive as the year began, but was quickly diminished when Nash went down with a minor fracture in his left leg in only his second game with the Lakers.

Nash went on to miss the next 24 games and the Lakers struggled mightily in his absence, going 12-12 in the games he was inactive. Many people, analysts and fans alike, said that Nash was the missing piece to fixing the Lakers’ problems.

Since his return, their record doesn’t reflect it, but they have improved since getting his leadership abilities and his 11.1 points and 8.9 assists per game back in the line-up. That’s what Nash does; he makes offenses better.

But the reason he’s not higher on this list is because the fact that he wasn’t running the offense when he was out with his injury isn’t the Lakers’ biggest issue. In fact, Nash may even make their biggest problem worse. That issue, of course, is Los Angeles’ defense.

Nash is far from what you would call a good defender. Add that to a team that is 26th in the NBA in points allowed per game, 101.7 per contest, and all of the talk about Nash being injured is what was killing the Lakers seems a little fictitious.

There’s no denying that the Lakers could have used Nash’s skills as a facilitator and a shooter in that 24-game stretch, but the impact of his absence was severely overstated. Nash’s injury was part of the Lakers’ struggles, but not near the whole problem.

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8. Dirk Nowitzki

Dirk Nowitzki
Mark D. Smith - USA Today Sports Images

If there’s been one thing that the Dallas Mavericks have been able to count on over the past 10 years, it’s that Dirk Nowitzki, their franchise player, will be healthy and will put up at least 20 points on almost every night.

That’s always been how Dallas has rolled. It seems like every year their roster is almost entirely different, but Dirk is the constant.

So, when the Mavericks were forced to play the first 27 games of the season without Nowitzki while he recovered from knee surgery he had in October, it was expected that they would look lost. Guys like

O.J. Mayo

tried to step up and carry the slack without Dirk, but couldn’t fully make up for what they were missing as they went 12-15 in that stretch.

Since coming back, Nowitzki has played in 10 games, playing limited minutes off the bench in the first six of those contests. In 27.3 minutes per game, Dirk is averaging 13.2 points and 5.2 rebounds while shooting a sub-par, by his standards, 40.8 percent from the field and struggling from three-point range, shooting 38.7 percent from deep.

Dirk seems to be working his way back into shape and into the flow of the game still, but is starting to look like he has some of his rhythm back.

The problem is that his injury may have put the Mavs in too large of a hole to dig out of and make the playoffs. At 14-23, Dallas is seven games back of the eighth-playoff seed. In the loaded Western Conference, that seems like it could be an insurmountable gap, no matter how well Dirk eventually starts playing.

He’s the heart and soul of this Mavericks team and it seems like that’s only been proven further with the difficult time they had succeeding without him playing.

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7. Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving
David Richard - USA Today Sports Images

Kyrie Irving broke his finger in mid-November and was forced to miss the next 11 games. In that stretch, the Cavaliers went an abysmal 1-10. That’s because Irving is indubitably the best player on that team.

Irving has established himself firmly as an up-and-coming superstar in the Association. He’s made clutch shots, delivered monster performances and appears to already be the leader of his team, despite the fact that he is only 20 years old.

So, when Cleveland is forced to play without him, they greatly miss everything he does for them, whether it be coming up with buckets or facilitating the offense.

It’s hard not to. Irving is averaging 23.5 points, 5.6 assists and 3.8 rebounds while shooting 46.8 percent from the field and 43.1 percent from downtown. Those numbers are a big reason why the second-year guard is 16th in the NBA in PER at 22.03. It seems like even he knows how imperative he is to this team as he’s been playing for a few weeks now with a broken jaw.

When the Cavs don’t have him on the floor, it’s easy to see where they miss those numbers. In those 11 games where Irving was out with his finger injury, Cleveland scored under 80 points four times. Not many NBA games are won by a team who scores that sparsely.

His obvious value to the Cavaliers, and the loss of that value with his injury, have also affected himself and how the league perceives him. Anyone who watches him play can tell that he has elite-level skills in multiple areas of the game. But he plays in Cleveland.

Because he plays on a lower-tier team, the public doesn’t notice Irving as much as they should because his team has such an atrocious record. It’s a domino-effect; if he had been able to play those 11 games, the Cavs might not be at the bottom of the league standings and Irving might be garnering more recognition.

Instead, he’s an All-Star-level talent on the verge of become a legitimate superstar in the NBA, but that’s not getting noticed because his team suffered so much without him. Had he stayed healthy, people might be singing a much different song.

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6. Brook Lopez

Brook Lopez
Kyle Terada - USA Today Sports Images

It might seem odd to have Brook Lopez this high on the list because he only missed seven games with a sprained right foot. However, when you consider how valuable Lopez has been to the Brooklyn Nets this season and when he got injured, it’s not as hard to understand.

Lopez has been a force for the Nets, averaging 18.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game this season. He’s also playing remarkably efficient offense, shooting 52.5 percent from the field. Given his quality and consistent production across the board, it’s not hard to see why Lopez ranks fifth in the NBA in PER right now at 25.55.

The Nets have relied on him heavily this season, especially with the struggles of their star point guard Deron Williams. He’s had to step up and be the guy offensively on multiple occasions this season and has risen to the occasion more often than not.

Now, when you consider what an integral part of this Brooklyn team Lopez has been this year in context of when he was injured, it shows how important his injury was to this team.

Brooklyn had won four straight games against upper-tier teams when Lopez went down at the end of November. In the seven games that Lopez was sidelined, the Nets faced four teams that are in the top-five of their conference standings. They lost all four of those games and finished 2-5 in the stretch where Lopez was out.

In those five losses, their largest defeat was by 13 points, while the other four losses were all by single digits. It’s not certain, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that had Lopez been playing on that stretch, they might have pulled out some of those close games.

Right now, the Nets sit in the sixth-seed in the Eastern Conference at 20-15. However, say Lopez had played and he swung some of those losses Brooklyn’s way and they finished that stretch at 4-3 instead of 2-5. That would put their record at 22-13, which would put them in the third-seed in the East.

Though that’s hypothetical and there’s still over half of a season left to play, it’s not crazy to say that by Lopez not playing in those games and potentially swinging some close losses, the Nets lost home-court advantage in the first-round of the playoffs.

It may not have been a long injury, but Lopez’s injury and its timing could potentially have enormous implications when the playoffs roll around.

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5. Andrew Bynum

Andrew Bynum
Howard Smith - USA Today Sports Images

The Philadelphia 76ers were banking on Andrew Bynum being a superstar for them when they acquired him in a four-team trade this off-season. After all, they traded long-time Sixers guard Andre Iguodala to bring Bynum to Philadelphia.

But seeing how Bynum has yet to play a game in a 76ers uniform due to a knee injury, it seems like they may have made a bad call.

Philadelphia sits at 15-22 right now with no real sign of improving beyond that while Bynum is out of the line-up. Bynum’s two backups, Spencer Hawes and Lavoy Allen, are averaging a combined 16 points, 11.3 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game.

Last season with the Lakers, Bynum alone averaged 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game. Bynum also finished the season with a PER of 23.00, tied for the 10th best mark in the Association.

Also, the centers for the Lakers, where Bynum played 35 minutes per game at, averaged 8.3 more points, 2.2 more rebounds and 0.5 more blocks than their opponents’ centers. Bynum was obviously a huge part of that.

Comparing that to the Bynum-less Sixers, Philadelphia centers this season are being outscored by 3.4 points, outrebounded by 1.6 boards and are even in blocked shots per game by opposing centers.

With that being said, Bynum would obviously make a drastic different on this team. However, after incidences like when he aggravated his injured knee while bowling, his return is still in question.

Jrue Holiday has stepped up his play tremendously with Bynum out, averaging 18.3 points and 8.8 assists per game. But Holiday alone won’t make this team successful. The 76ers need Bynum to return before they enjoy any kind of sustained success for a season in this league.

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4. Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard
Gary A. Vasquez - USA Today Sports Images

Along with Steve Nash, Dwight Howard arrived in Los Angeles this offseason via trade and was expected to help transform this Lakers team into a powerhouse in the NBA. Howard has done his share of the work for the most part, aside from atrocious free throw shooting and his well-known tendency to coast through games at times. He’s averaging 17.3 points, 12.4 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game this season.

That was before the Lakers’ Jan. 6 game against the Denver Nuggets when Howard hurt his shoulder. It was first reported as a torn labrum, but it has since been reported that there is no tear and the bone has just separated from the labrum. The prognosis for his injury is, optimistically, for him to be able to return to the floor next week when the pain in his shoulder is re-evaluated.

Though the injury itself isn’t that serious, what makes Howard’s injury so significant to Los Angeles is the timing and the context of his injury. Howard, Gasol and Lakers reserve post-player Jordan Hill were all ruled out indefinitely on the same day, severely depleting Los Angeles’ frontcourt.

This couldn’t have come at a worse time for Los Angeles either. The Lakers have been struggling and were 15-18 after they lost that game to the Nuggets. They have been struggling as a healthy team, much less as a team having their superstar center sidelined by a shoulder injury.

After the Howard injury, the Lakers entered a six-game stretch where they played the Houston Rockets, the Spurs, the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat as a part of that stretch. Los Angeles dropped their first two games without Howard to the Rockets and Spurs, severely missing his offensive and defensive presence in the post.

At this point in the season, the Lakers have to make a move up the Western Conference standings soon before they are too far out of the race for a playoff seed. However, with this injury to Howard, it doesn’t seem like this team will be able to make that move. His time spent sitting-out injured may be short, but it could still be catastrophic to the Lakers’ season.

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3. Derrick Rose

Derrick Rose
Brian Spurlock - USA Today Sports Images

Last year, the championship hopes of the Chicago Bulls went up in flames when Derrick Rose went down in a heap with a torn ACL. Then, having their superstar guard for at least until after the All-Star break felt like it would really set this team back.

After all, the Bulls are losing a player who was ninth in the NBA in PER last season at 23.10 and averaged 21.8 points, 7.9 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game last year. It would make perfect sense if Chicago struggled without their franchise-player.

But they haven’t struggled as much as people thought they might. The Bulls sit at 19-14, good enough for the fifth-best record in the Eastern Conference right now.

Their success without Rose is largely due to their defensive prowess, averaging the third fewest points allowed per game at 91.9, a staple of their coach Tom Thibodeau. They’ve also enjoyed Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer elevating their games this season.

However, the fact that they’ve been this successful without Rose is exactly why is injury is so important. This team is poised to make the playoffs at a mid-level-seed without one of the ten best players in the NBA. That’s impressive. But imagine if Rose was a part of this team that has everyone playing at such a high-level. They’d be a force in this league.

Right now, the Bulls are 26th in the league in points per game, averaging 93.4 per game. That number wouldn’t skyrocket with Rose in the lineup, but it would increase. Last season the Bulls, with Rose playing, averaged 96.3 points per game. If they duplicated that this season, they would be 17th in the NBA, as opposed to 26th.

Subsequently, this team would most likely be flirting with the first or second seed in the East instead of looking at not having home-court advantage in first-round of the playoffs. That’s why they miss Rose. They’re still a quality team without him. But they could be a great team with him.

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2. John Wall

John Wall
Sam Sharpe - USA Today Sports Images

Don’t be mistaken, the Washington Wizards wouldn’t be a good basketball team with John Wall in the lineup. But they probably wouldn’t be the worst team in the NBA if he was out on the floor instead of in a suit dealing with a knee injury.

The Wizards look absolutely befuddled when it comes to running an offense without their third-year star point guard. Most of their plays consist of someone dribbling around for 20-or-so seconds and then forcing up an awful shot.

Wall was expected to make a leap last year to being a superstar-type player, but that didn’t happen. His stats stayed eerily similar to his rookie-season stats.

Despite that, there’s obvious potential with Wall as a professional basketball player. He has elite speed and quickness and tremendous ability to finish at the rim. He’s also quite capable as a facilitator for his teammates.

For a Wizards team full of developing young players, Wall is vital to their plight. Guys like Jordan Crawford and Bradley Beal are talented individuals, but they struggle in situations where they are forced to create their own shot. That’s where they miss Wall.

One of the primary reasons Washington drafted Beal this year was to provide a perimeter shooter to compliment the slashing game of Wall. But without Wall, they are not only losing Wall’s production, but the potential production of Beal as well who is being forced to play outside of himself this season.

The Wizards still have a lot of work to do, but they have several pieces in place that they can build on. However, they can’t start building on those pieces until Wall returns from his injury. He’s their star player and they can’t function properly without him.

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1. Amar'e Stoudemire

Amar'e Stoudemire
Debby Wong - USA Today Sports Images

It’s weird to say that a guy whose team is 2-3 with him back in the lineup and is averaging only 9.8 points and 3.4 rebounds per game was the most important injury of the 2012-2013 NBA season, but it’s true.

Amar’e Stoudemire missing 30 games after having knee surgery was vital to the New York Knicks. However, it just wasn’t in the way people might expect from a guy who has averaged 21.5 points and 8.7 rebounds per game for his career.

The reason that Stoudemire’s injury has been such an intrinsic part of the Knicks this season is because of what they have been able to develop in his absence. They have become a basketball team with an established identity.

Last season with Carmelo Anthony and Stoudemire playing together, it always felt like there weren’t enough possessions to make everyone on the team happy. Everything that they did on the offensive end seemed forced and like it wasn’t sustainable or truly effective.

But with Amar’e out to start this season, the Knicks came out of the gate blazing. Anthony was playing the best basketball of his career and all of his teammates were falling into place behind him. They established themselves as a sharpshooting and athletic team with a reliance on Anthony as one of the most skilled scorers in the game.

That’s why they were able to go 21-9 without Stoudemire in the lineup. And that’s why Stoudemire is now coming off the bench for New York. They don’t want to tarnish the identity and flow that they found while Amar’e was injured that allowed them to have the second-best record in the Eastern Conference.

Amar’e’s injury actually had the reverse effect of what you would expect from a start player. But Carmelo and the Knicks aren’t mad at him. They found themselves without Stoudemire and now they look poised to succeed.

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