By no means are they unwatchable, unless a weekend filled with buzzer-beaters isn’t enough for you, but the fact so many of the league’s best are on the sidelines in nice suits as opposed to out on the court is indeed an issue.
There’s no sense crying over things you can’t change, but the following is a ranking of the importance of injuries from the eight remaining teams in the NBA title chase. That means you won’t see Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge, who played with a thumb issue for the final few months of the season, or teammate Wesley Matthews, whose absence played a massive role in the Trail Blazers’ early departure.
You won’t see L.A.’s Chris Paul or Memphis’ Mike Conley, who have shaken off injuries to get back into the fight. You won’t see Tony Parker and his tricky hamstring or Jabari Parker and Chandler Parsons, both lost for the season.
You won’t see any of those guys, and yet we’ve still come up with 10 major injuries affecting the current playoff chase. Here’s a ranking of their importance and the rationale behind it:
LeBron James, Cavs: Lost in the aftermath of his Game 4 heroics is that he rather significantly rolled his ankle in the second quarter. To say he’ll be at less than 100 percent going forward is fair. Whether that affects his level of play after placing the team on his back remains to be seen. That is what he’ll have to do, however, because…
Kyrie Irving, Cavs: The kid expected to step up as LeBron’s Dwyane Wade, his Robin, is sporting a right foot that is injured so badly that a 50-year-old man wouldn’t trade for it. Irving sprained his foot in Game 2 of the Boston series and then turned his right ankle in the second game against the Bulls. He’s aggravated and disappointed. James called him a “warrior,” but the fact he’s asked teammates whether they want him out there in a limited state tells you everything you need to know about what your level of expectation regarding his effectiveness should be.
John Wall, Wizards: His wrist is swollen so badly that an MRI which displayed five fractures became the subject of controversy. An accurate report from the Washington Post about an argument between Wall and medical doctors has led to Wall playing cheerleader, as he should, for the long-term. Don’t expect to see him this postseason, which means that despite the uncertainty regarding this situation, you should fade the Wiz if you don’t believe the combination of Ramon Sessions and Shelvin Mack. He’s not going to save Randy Wittman’s job.
Pau Gasol, Bulls: He’s dealing with a hamstring injury, something that’s always tricky. The Bulls miss him. There’s no question that his effectiveness running the pick-and-pop was missed by a Chicago offense that subjected the team to getting beat at the buzzer due to multiple scoring droughts. His ability to spread the floor and scoring range is noticeably absent.
Al Horford, Hawks: He headed to the locker room early in the fourth quarter of Game 3 due to a knee injury and never came back. Though he returned to the bench despite not re-entering the game due to the reserves bringing the Hawks back, his status going forward remains a mystery. What about his body can you trust, especially since he was already struggling due to a dislocated finger.
Kevin Love, Cavs: Done for the remainder of the playoffs due to an arm bar from Boston’s Kelly Olynyk, the third member of Cleveland Big 3 has a decision to make this summer as far as free agency is concerned. He never looked comfortable in a subservient role to James and Irving, but once he was gone his outlet passes and rebounding was clearly missed. Cleveland will likely open the coffers to keep him, but others, especially the Lakers, will be willing to spend on his services.
Taj Gibson, Bulls: Gasol’s replacement and one of his team’s top post defenders and rebounders, he left Game 4 with a knee injury. The extent isn’t known at the time of this writing, but the Bulls can’t afford to be without him even if Gasol returns. He’s a crucial defensive component in Tom Thibodeau’s scheme and always inspires with how hard he plays. Missing any games would be a huge detriment.
Patrick Beverley, Rockets: If Houston had its pesky point guard, this postseason may certainly have gone differently. The Mavs might have been swept. Jason Terry and Pablo Prigioni shouldn’t be playing as much as they’ve been taxed with, and neither of those guys are strong defenders. Not having Beverley at the point of attack is the top reason why the Rockets will soon be eliminated.
Iman Shumpert, Cavs: The key guard that defends Derrick Rose has been dealing with a groin injury the past few games and is clearly not right. We’ll see how long he lasts since his primary contributions will come on the defensive end, but he shot 4-for-17 in Games 3 and 4 in Cleveland, clearly displaying that he wasn’t comfortable.
Thabo Sefolosha, Hawks: DeMarre Carroll has been phenomenal, but he’s playing far more minutes as a result of Atlanta’s Swiss swingman fracturing his tibia in a confrontation with police in April. Kent Bazemore has been solid off the bench, but Sefolosha is an elite defender and could’ve prevented Paul Pierce’s great plays and kept Otto Porter from getting going.
Tony Mejia is a national sports writer and senior contributor at VegasInsider.com. He’s also the owner and operator of Antony Dinero, the most successful documented volume handicapper in the industry. View his analysis daily at VegasInsider.com. Contact Tony at [email protected].