The top half of the 2014 lottery can not stay healthy
Utah's Dante Exum tore his ACL playing an exhibition for his Australian national team. He is now the latest victim of the injury curse that has plagued the top half of last year's lottery picks. It is pretty weird that 6 of the 7 top picks all missed extended time last season, or will this season, and one will probably miss both.
ESPN's Baxter Holmes wrote an interesting article earlier this summer that detailed some of the injury risks current NBA players face. Too much blue light exposure, not enough milk, to much early mileage, and weight training focused on mobility rather than strength were all cited as contributors to the recent spike in injuries across the league. I think this article was obviously Big Milk using Holmes as a puppet, but I drink milk almost every day and have never broken a bone, so the logic must be sound.
Take a look at the injuries the top 7 picks from 2014 have faced below. There are big and small, and normal and abnormal.
1st Pick - Andrew Wiggins Wiggins started all 82 games for the Minnesota Timberwolves, averaging 16.9 points per game on his way to winning Rookie of the Year. Not a great start to my post.
2nd Pick - Jabari Parker
In 25 games for the Milwaukee Bucks, Parker showed why he was expected to challenge Wiggins for ROY. He averaged 12.3 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, and also won Eastern Conference rookie of the month for November. In what was the most disappointing of the injuries to the 2014 lottery picks, Parker tore his ACL vs. the Phoenix Suns in mid-December and missed the rest of the season.
The injury was responsible for a Gatorade commercial that was overplayed, and it was the only reason I didn't forget what he looked like, so it wasn't a total loss.
3rd pick - Joel Embiid
When The Philadephia 76ers drafted Joel Embiid, they knew they had damaged goods. The hope was that the damage was temporary, and the goods would be #1 draft pick talent at the #3 slot. That hope diminished in June, when Philadelphia GM Sam Hinkie announced Embiid was making less progress than anticipated with his broken foot.
After that, it was confirmed Embiid had again broken the novicular bone in his foot, which will assumingly require surgery. Just don't ask the 76ers about it, because for some reason they aren't telling anybody anything.
4th Pick - Aaron Gordon
Gordon missed 31 games for the Orlando Magic with a fractured left foot. Nothing too weird here, just a bad luck injury. These things happen, right? Could have happened to anyone. Gordon regrouped and had a strong showing in summer league for Orlando.
He then promptly fractured his jaw while "horsing around" with his brother. If Gronk hasn't done this yet with his brothers, then I doubt that Gordon's story is true. He had surgery in July and is expected to be ready for the beginning of the regular season.
5th Pick - Dante Exum
This one hurts. Exum had played himself into Utah's starting lineup last season, and despite an inconsistent year had showed big potential. He played well in summer league, including scoring 20 points against the Celtics in their first game. Having just turned 20, Exum was a player to watch this season, and Utah was a popular pick as a playoff sleeper. Then he tore his ACL playing in an exhibition game for his Australian national team.
The Jazz say guard Dante Exum sustained a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. No timetable for return was listed.
Exum is now expected to miss the entire 2015-16 season.
6th pick - Marcus Smart
Compared to some of these other guys, Smart and the Celtics were lucky to avoid a major injury. He missed a month after spraining his ankle, and was never quite healed for the rest of the season, but he was able to play and contribute for nearly the entire year. After a summer league where Smart was unquestionably the Celtics leader, he separated two fingers diving on the floor for a loose ball. Celtic fans were undoubtedly nervous as Smart screamed in pain, but the good news was there was no break.
Source says Marcus Smart, who dislocated 2 fingers last month, expected to be back on the court in about 2 weeks.
7th Pick - Julius Randle
This injury was right behind Parker's as most disappointing, but was definitely the most heartbreaking. Despite being a Laker, you have to feel for Randle. He went down with a broken leg just 14 minutes into his first NBA game. After working his entire life to realize his dream, his first season was down the tubes before Kobe even got the chance to berate him.
Overall, the top 7 draft picks in the 2014 NBA draft played a total of 304 out of a potential 574 games last season. They averaged 43.4 games per pick, and that is with Exum and Wiggins playing all 82 of their teams games. This upcoming year Exum and Embiid are likely to miss all 82 games too. Hopefully these guys are chugging milk, avoiding blue light, and getting some sleep. It'd be fun to see them all on the court.