The 2016-17 NBA regular season is over and what should be an exciting postseason has already begun. Sustained health is bound to be a driving force in crowning the eventual champion and this year the league is in a better position than ever. The 4,198 games lost to injury or illness calculated by InStreetClothes.com is the lowest total since the NBA moved away from the injured reserve prior to the 2005-06 season. Nearly 50 percent of the league reduced their injury totals from the prior season and five fewer teams lost over 200 games.
The drop in games lost to injury or illness is bound to draw skepticism from those frustrated with teams utilizing games off for rest more than ever. As ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh noted in February the number of DNP-Rests were on a record pace entering the All-Star Break. The trend continued with teams reporting over 200 games of rest during the course of the regular season. However even with these games included in the games lost sum, the final results would still be the second lowest total of games lost of any 82-game season since 2005. It’s a remarkable turnaround from the 2013-14 season when nearly 5,000 man games were forfeited to injury or illness.
The Houston Rockets led the league in fewest games lost with 57. Despite upping their pace with Mike D’Antoni at the helm, Houston avoided injury and secured the third seed in the Western Conference. Oddly enough their opponent in the first round of the playoffs finished just behind them in total games lost as the Oklahoma City Thunder ended the regular season with 73 games lost to injury. This marks the fifth time in the last seven seasons that the Thunder medical staff has kept the number of games lost below 100, including last year’s league-low 23 games.
The Washington Wizards gave up the fewest minutes per game of any team in the league by cutting their games lost total by over 50 percent from the previous season. The Phoenix Suns and their historically impressive medical staff surrendered the least amount of salary dollars to injury, finishing the year with $4.5 million lost. 19 individual players cost their teams more than the Suns collective total.
Despite a remarkable turnaround after an 11-30 start, Miami Heat fell just short of the postseason with injuries playing a decisive role. Miami led the league in games lost to injury with 334. Prolonged absences from Justise Winslow, Dion Waiters, and Josh McRoberts compounded the 82 games lost from former All-Star Chris Bosh.
Another injured rookie once again impacted the final numbers for the Philadelphia 76ers as Ben Simmons missed the entire season. His 82 games lost to a fractured fifth metatarsal, along with Jerry Bayless’ 79 games missed due to wrist surgery, pushed the Sixers’ final total over 300 games. The medical staff had success managing the foot of Joel Embiid but will now turn their attention to his recovery from surgery to address a small meniscus tear in his knee.
Collectively five players did not appear in a game this season due to injury, including Bosh, Simmons, Quincy Pondexter, Nikola Pekovic, and Festus Ezeli. The 82 games attributed to each of these individuals drastically impacted their teams’ final totals as all five organizations that roster these players finished in the bottom five for games lost.
The NBA continues to look for ways to maintain and sustain the health of its players. Accommodations in the schedule have already been implemented with a shorter preseason on tap for next season. The early returns are promising though the league will look into addressing the “rest” issue during the offseason. Finding a way to field the best product while protecting the safety of those involved should remain the focus for both owners and players.