Writer on Hubpages and Harvard School of Public Health Alumni
Injuries and luck have always played a role in NBA basketball. However, they have played an inordinate impact in the 2020-21 season.
Injuries has always been a concern in postseason basketball success. Injuries, on the other hand, have been more problematic than ever during the regular season and playoffs in 2020-21. As a result, I'm beginning to doubt the meaning of the NBA Finals in 2021.
Injuries forced the elimination of the Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Denver Nuggets, and Miami Heat. Even the Utah Jazz underachieve as a result of Mike Conley not being healthy for the entirety of the western conference.
The Suns potentially are on the break of winning a championship after beating four teams that were missing their best scorer. Moreover, the four teams that made the 2020 eastern and western conference finals all had an All-Star missing from their roster during the 2021 playoffs. The Nets were without 2 All-Stars in the eastern conference.
Granted injuries and luck have always played a role in NBA basketball. Injuries remain unavoidable in sports. However, they have played an inordinate impact for the 2020-21 season. Some have suggested that the NBA’s greed in preserving their Christmas Day games and All-Star weekend has likely resulted in injuries that jeopardize the careers of many NBA stars.
Not all NBA championships and postseason runs are created equal. Michael Jordan did not eliminated the 'Bad Boy" Detroit Pistons because of injuries. Postseason runs are what create legends in the NBA. Fans, too, do not see all championship teams in the same light. Granted, the victorious fans are always the happiest.
The NBA finals will now feature a Milwaukee Bucks team potentially without Giannis Antetokounmpo and a Suns team with Chris Paul experiencing postseason injuries.
To make matters worse, injuries suffered by other teams have clouded both teams' victories. At best, the Phoenix Suns are a first-round playoff team. They have unquestionably had the easiest path to the NBA finals of any team.
For the first two rounds, the Suns appeared to be the only team that did not suffer major injuries to its starters. And Paul was able to return in game 3 of the Western Conference Finals and score 41 points to help them win game 6.
To be honest, the New Orleans Pelicans have as much talent on their roster as the Suns. Moreover, in a 7 game series, it could be hard to even imagine them beating a healthy Golden State Warriors even without Klay Thompson.
Granted the Warriors lost both play-in tournament games. However, they were without James Wiseman and Kelly Oubre Jr. If those two players played, the Warriors could have easily beaten the Memphis Grizzlies. The Warriors also ended up not playing Gary Payton Jr, Jordan Bell, Damion Lee, and Eric Paschall during part of the play-in tournament. I would have taken them over the Suns in a 7 game series.
In the first round they dealt with Lebron James coming off an injury and an absent Anthony Davis. In the second round they faced a Denver Nuggets team without Jamal Murray and ultimately a Clippers team without Kawhi Leonard.
LeBron missed 26 of the season's final 30 games. In the first round, LeBron averaged a meager 23.3 points per game. And still the Suns lost both games in which both LeBron and Davis scored at least 20 points. Without Leonard, it took the Suns six games to defeat the Clippers. With Chris Paul playing and a nearly fully healthy roster, the Suns went 2-2 in the last 4 games of the Western Conference Finals.
The Suns could not have beaten the Nuggets, Clippers, or Los Angeles Lakers if they were completely healthy. And the Bucks are in the same boat. The Miami Heat and Nets were both plagued by injuries, so their victories mean little.
It's pretty amazing that the Hawks had the series tied 2-2 with Giannis healthy. The Bucks would have likely lost the series if Giannis Antetokounmpo and Trae Young were both healthy. When Giannis was out, the Bucks played better. And it unleashed Khris Middleton.
Middleton's performance in the 2021 postseason has been outstanding. When Giannis was injuried, Middleton took his game to the next level. Furthermore, the additions of Jrue Holiday, Bobby Portis, and PJ Tucker were significant for the Bucks. Middleton and Holiday have definitely increased their brand within the NBA.
When evaluating a team's legacy, the opponents it defeats are important. This postseason, neither the Bucks or Suns have really added to their legacy.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Michael Mannen
Michael Mannen (author) on July 05, 2021:
Injuries have always been apart of basketball. However, they have had an inordinate impact for the 2020-21 season.
Jesse Unk from Ohio on July 05, 2021:
Injuries are part of the game. They go back forever. MJ against the Lakers was missing 2 quality players. 2015 Cavs lost Love and Kyrie. There's always been injury. It's part of the game.