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How unlucky did the Wizards get with injuries?

Much of the optimism surrounding the Wizards hinges on the idea that they were unfairly hit with injuries last season. How much credence should we give that theory?


One source of optimism for the Washington Wizards is that they should be healthier this year. Last year was lost because John Wall, Bradley Beal, Nene and Trevor Ariza missed significant time due to injury. That supposedly shouldn't happen again, hence, the optimism.

How much credence should we put to that theory? That's a discussion we should have in the comments. Some factors to consider:

Injuries may not be random: It's really hard to measure this systematically, but there's clearly some sort of link between training regiments and injury frequency. Several teams -- including, potentially, the Wizards -- are using the SportVU technology to measure how much their players are exerting themselves in games and practices. Flip Saunders, the new president of the Timberwolvestalked at length about the importance of evaluating training methods this summer.

It's also worth noting that, according to a 2011 Brew Hoop study, the Wizards averaged the most games lost to injury per season in a 10-year span from 2000-01 to 2010-11. This may be a trend, not a case of simple bad luck.

How injured were the Wizards compared to the rest of the league: I looked at how many games the top eight minutes-per-game players on each team lost to injury last season, taking into account midseason acquisitions (all of which are starred). Here's the top 10:

  1. Minnesota: (Love, Kirilenko, Pekovic, Ridnour, Rubio, Cunningham, Williams, Roy): 210 if you include Roy, 138 if you don't.
  2. Philadelphia: (Bynum, Holiday, Young, Turner, Hawes, Young, Richardson, Wright): 167 (82 were Bynum)
  3. Atlanta: (Teague, Korver, Lou, Harris, Smith, Horford, Pachulia, Stevenson): 163
  4. Chicago: (Rose, Deng, Noah, Boozer, Hinrich, Butler, Belinelli, Gibson): 156 (82 were Rose)
  5. New York: (Anthony, Felton, Smith, Chandler, Kidd, Martin*, Amar'e, Shumpert): 154
  6. LA Lakers: (Kobe, Dwight, Pau, World Peace, Nash, Blake, Clark, Jamison): 148
  7. Washington: (Wall, Beal, Webster, Nene, Ariza, Okafor, Temple*, Price): 146
  8. Phoenix: (Dragic, Gortat, Dudley, Scola, Frye, Tucker, Brown, Markieff Morris): 137 (82 were Frye)
  9. Indiana: (George, Hill, West, Stephenson, Hibbert, Green, Hansbrough, Granger): 134 (77 were Granger)
  10. Toronto: (DeRozan, Gay, Lowry, Bargnani, Johnson, Valanciunas, Anderson, Fields): 133
The Wizards rank sixth or seventh on the list, depending on whether you think it's appropriate to sub Brandon Roy (five games played, eighth in minutes per game) for Alexey Shved (77 games played, ninth in minutes per game).  That's high, but it's not the highest. Teams like Philadelphia and Chicago lost their star for the entire season; others, like Atlanta, New York and Los Angeles, had a revolving door of starters go out.

But the Wizards' big guns were hurt. This is true. Eighty-six of the 146 missed Wizards games came from their top four guys (Wall, Nene, Webster, Beal). By contrast, many of Atlanta's missed games come from Zaza Pachulia, Lou Williams and DeShawn Stevenson, three bench players.

That said, teams like Minnesota, Philadelphia and Chicago also saw many of its missed games come from the best players, like Derrick Rose, Andrew Bynum, Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and the like. The Wizards aren't alone in this regard.

But what about starting continuity? A possible counterpoint: the Wizards' starting lineup didn't have many chances to play together. Is that a fair one? Once again, here are the 10 teams that had their optimal starting 5 play the fewest games last season. (Note: excluding Rose, Bynum, Frye and Granger from this. Also excluding the Rockets' wonky lineups post-trade deadline.).
  1. Chicago (Hinrich, Butler, Deng, Boozer, Noah): 0
  2. Minnesota (Rubio, Ridnour, Kirilenko, Love, Pekovic): 0
  3. Philadelphia (Holiday, Turner, Richardson, Young, Hawes): 0
  4. New York (Felton, Prigioni, Shumpert, Anthony, Chandler): 4
  5. Orlando (Nelson, Afflalo, Harkless, Harris, Vucevic): 6
  6. LA Lakers (Nash, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol, Howard): 7
  7. Washington (Wall, Beal, Webster, Nene, Okafor): 8
  8. Utah (Mo Williams, Foye, Marvin Williams, Millsap, Jefferson): 9
  9. Dallas (James, Mayo, Marion, Nowitzki, Kaman): 9
  10. Cleveland (Irving, Waiters, Gee, Thompson, Varejao): 10
  11. Boston: (Rondo, Bradley, Pierce, Bass, Garnett): 10
Granted, some of these lineup numbers have mitigating circumstances. The Knicks and Lakers went through many different lineups even when their players were healthy, for example, and the Magic's number is dramatically affected by the big trade involving J.J. Redick and Tobias Harris. But there are a few teams that can say they had less starting lineup stability than the Wizards last season.

Conclusions? To me, this shows that while the Wizards certainly were victims of bad luck last season on the injury front, they weren't alone. Teams like Minnesota and Chicago in particular have more reason to hope that they won't be as snakebit as they were last season. Health alone will make a huge difference, but it probably won't propel the Wizards to the postseason all by itself.

All research done with the help of Basketball Reference.

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