Dancing With Noah

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Tag Archives: draft picks

The Pain of Being Number One

Injuries are the bane of an athletic existence. When our favorite athletes (in any sport) get hurt, everyone loses: The players and teams lose out on money, investments and glory. The fans lose out on entertainment and glory and are forced to wonder what could’ve been which leads to wild speculation and imagination. And injuries come in all shapes and sizes: Shoulder strains and contusions, patella injuries, concussions, colds, flus, torn ACLs, torn Achilles tendons, hamstring injuries, slipped disks, back injuries, stress fractures, broken bones, HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, diarrhea, migraines, scratched corneas, stabbings, shootings, sprains, depression, anxiety, substance abuse and on and on. All players are vulnerable to injuries and the recent revelation that Andrew Bogut underwent the dreaded microfracture surgery in April opened my eyes to something I already knew: The top draft picks in the NBA haven’t had a great run of health over the past decade.

The injuries plaguing these young players run the gamut from freak (Bogut’s fall that led to a horrific broken wrist) to chronic (Yao Ming and Greg Oden) and have hit players of varying race, age and position. Injuries don’t give a fuck what God you pray to or what block you grew up on or how much pain you’ve already experienced in your life. Injuries are lurking … just ask the top picks from the past decade:

  • The table above looks at the percentage of games a player could have appeared in (% Possible = 100% for each player) and the percentage of games he missed (% Missed).
  • Graph doesn’t include playoff games.
  • A rookie like Anthony Davis is unfairly represented due to the small sample size.
  • Yao Ming appears twice. The first Yao Ming (without asterisk) represents his career pre-retirment. The starred Yao Ming* includes games he missed since he’s been retired with the assumption being that without injuries, Yao would still be with us today and the NBA would be a radically different place.
  • The total numbers for all players are: 6,147 possible games played, 4,455 games missed for a total of 27.5% missed.
  • If you remove the top (Dwight Howard, 2.9% missed) and bottom (Greg Oden, 80% missed), the percentage of missed games drops to 26.5%.
  • I’m uncertain about league averages for games played/missed, but my gut reaction is that missing 27.5% of possible games is on the high end. Additionally, teams drafting a player number one overall likely have the expectation that these players will be suiting up more frequently than the numbers here show.

Lastly, if anyone out there has access to injury data or DNP reasons, that additional information could add quite a bit of insight into the causes for the numbers above. As it stands, let’s all have a moment of silence for the careers of Greg Oden and Yao Ming.

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