The 2013-14 NBA Season Injury Review

The 2013-2014 NBA season was a banner year for the league. Adam Silver began his tenure as league commissioner to much applause. The Miami Heat made their fourth straight NBA Finals in what would be the swan song for the Big 3. The Spurs were crowned champions led by a future Hall of Fame coach and an ensemble of players that appeared perfectly constructed. Still, injuries cast a shadow on the league as multiple players including former MVPs, All-Stars, as well as up-and-coming talent were sidelined throughout the season.

As a whole the NBA struggled to stay healthy. The 30 teams combined to lose 4,989 games to injury or illness, the highest total in the last six seasons, including a prorated number for the 2011-12 lockout shortened season. (The is complete dating back to the 2008-09 season.) The number of games missed came with a substantial bill as well as with the cost of the games lost coming in at an astounding total of $357.9 million.

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Individually teams also suffered. The Bucks and Lakers both lost over 300 games to injury, a feat that occurred just five times over the previous five seasons combined. Even the team’s that managed to keep their players on the court appeared to struggle with injury at times. The Raptors were the healthiest team during the season, losing 68 games to injury. That total is vastly better than a majority of the league but still represented the highest number for the NBA’s healthiest team in the examined years. By comparison, the Thunder lost the fewest number of games in the 2012-13 season with 26.

As previously mentioned the cost of injuries was astronomically high this season and it was the Lakers contributing the largest share with $44.3 million worth of salary lost to injury. Los Angeles’ disastrous season cost more than what six teams have lost in the past six seasons combined. The majority of the total comes from Kobe Bryant’s doomed season that came with an unprecedented price tag of $28.2 million. Even with insurance contributions, the cost of the games Bryant missed recovering from Achilles surgery and a fractured tibial plateau was the most expensive single season total in NBA history.

Contributing to the high cost and totals was the elevated number of “substantial injuries”. While examining the data, an isolated injury that led to a player missing 10 consecutive games or more was considered “substantial.” In the previous five seasons, the NBA average for substantial injuries per season was 104, including a low mark of 88 in 2012-13. However this year that number jumped to 128, the highest total in the examined period. 20 players were sidelined for at least half the season including seven players that missed all 82 games.

Using the data collected from the season, the team attempted to look for any other potential relationships between known metrics. No correlation was found between games missed and the average age of a roster during the 2013-14 season. Pace was also examined with the thought that the more possessions a team has per game, the more likely an injury is to occur. However the correlation between team pace for the season and games lost was minimal.

If the 2014-15 season can match the drama of the offseason then the NBA is in for another intriguing year. However injuries will always be lingering in the shadows waiting to derail the plans of a would-be contender. Hopefully the new season will bring a wave of good health and the NBA can follow-up an amazing year with an even better campaign.


Additional Injuries Notes

Carlos Delfino, Festus Ezeli, Danilo Gallinari, Brendan Haywood, Nerlens Noel, Emeka Okafor, and Jason Richardson missed the entire season with injuries.

Seven players missed time with ACL related injuries. Rajon Rondo, Brandon Rush, and Louis Williams were all sidelined by an ACL injury suffered during the previous season while Denver teammates JJ Hickson and Nate Robinson each tore their ACL during the year. Another Nugget, Danilo Gallinari, underwent ACL surgery in January after conservative treatment for a tear that occurred in April of 2013. Nerlens Noel missed his rookie campaign recovering from an ACL injury that occurred while he was still at Kentucky.

1,547 games were lost to knee-related injuries, making it the most costly area of the body. 469 of those games were to ligament injuries while meniscus injuries totaled 360 games lost.

The Timberwolves medical staff gets credit for the largest improvement, missing 181 fewer games than the previous season. On the other side, Milwaukee’s numbers took the biggest hit as the Bucks lost 230 more games to injury than in 2012-13.

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