The 2015-16 NBA season is nearing a close and the push for the postseason has begun. Injuries have played their part in determining the standings, despite the overall number of games missed continuing to be lower than in previous seasons. Through 62 games played by each NBA team, the total number of games missed due to injury is 3,182 games. The total continues this season’s trend of coming in lower than the previous two seasons’ marks, though an onslaught of injuries made this the most costly quarter of the season and narrowed the aforementioned gap.
If the injury rate were able to remain relatively constant for the remainder of the regular season, the 2015-16 campaign has a chance at finishing as the lowest total recorded in the InStreetClothes.com database. However injuries rarely act in a purposeful pattern and a recent string of season-ending ailments will challenge that trend. As of March 12, at least 18 players, including Marc Gasol, Michael Carter-Williams, Joakim Noah, Jahlil Okafor, and Eric Bledsoe have already been ruled out for the year with several others poised to join the list. These cases alone will contribute 360 missed games to the total, the highest guaranteed total of any quarter thus far.
Several shrewd moves by NBA teams will help minimize the impact of a few other devastating injuries. Multiple players, including Mario Chalmers, Beno Udrih, and Gary Neal, have been waived or reached an agreement on a contract buyout following a severe injury, saving the team from additional games lost. For example, Chalmers’ ruptured Achilles would have added 18 more games lost to injury to an already lofty total in Memphis.
The Grizzlies, along with the division foe New Orleans Pelicans, have been hit particularly hard by injury over the past few weeks. The two teams have a combined five players sidelined for the remainder of the season, not including the Chalmers injury. Factor in the five additional players currently sidelined indefinitely and it’s not surprising that both squads sit in the top five for most games lost to injury this season. The Washington Wizards lead the league in games lost to injury after 62 games. However the return of Alan Anderson and the problems in Memphis and New Orleans may help the Wiz avoid finishing the year as this season’s most injury-riddled squad.
Financially the Chicago Bulls have lost the most salary dollars to injury, narrowly finishing ahead of the Pelicans. Mike Dunleavy’s back surgery and Joakim Noah’s shoulder injury are the primary reason for the expensive bill. Together Noah and Dunleavy have cost the Bulls $8.1 million in lost salary, a total higher than 15 entire teams. The bill will continue to grow with Noah still sidelined and Jimmy Butler, Derrick Rose, and Pau Gasol all nursing injuries of their own.
The Portland Trail Blazers have been on a tear since the All-Star break and have pushed themselves to sixth in the West. A red hot Damian Lillard and string of good health has fueled the run as the team lost just four games to injury during their last 21 games played. The Oklahoma City Thunder remain the healthiest in the NBA with just 20 games lost for the season and have an outside chance to match their impressive total of 26 games lost to injury during the 2012-13 season. Furthermore, both the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers continue their impressive turnarounds in health. While the improvement hasn’t guaranteed wins, both franchises currently sit in the top 10 for fewest dollars lost and games lost to injury after finishing in the bottom three in both categories last season.
For the third straight quarter the overall injury totals show an encouraging trend as games missed to injury continue to remain lower than in previous seasons. Still a majority of injuries tend to occur later in the season when the body is fatigued, meaning the final 20 games could provide a better insight as to the effectiveness of the various precautionary steps the league has taken in an attempt to keep its players on the court.