The 2012-2013 season is all but over and the injury bug once again feasted on numerous players in the NBA. Many of these injuries will have carryover into next season and it's never too early to start thinking about next year's drafts.
The Black Mamba dominated headlines over the weekend but not for the reasons we've grown accustomed to. With the Lakers clinging to the eight seed in the West, Bryant suffered multiple injuries as he attempted to carry his team to the postseason. Unfortunately the final injury was devastating as the 15-time All-Star suffered a Grade III tear of his left Achilles tendon. He has already undergone surgery to repair the injury and will miss the remainder of the season.
Achilles tendon ruptures are generally uncommon and an extremely unpredictable injury. Many critics will point fingers at Mike D'Antoni playing Bryant heavy minutes down the stretch as the reason for the injury but there's no way to guarantee that's the true cause. If you look at five recent players to endure a torn Achilles, each injury happened at various points of the season. Elton Brand tore his during offseason workout, Darrell Arthur's injury occurred during training camp and Jonas Jerebko's Achilles ruptured during a preseason game. Chauncey Billups and DeSegana Diop both suffered Achilles tendon tears in season but under drastically different circumstances. Billups was playing heavy minutes in the games leading up to his injury while Diop hadn't appeared in five of Charlotte's 10 games prior to the injury. The age and mileage for each of these players also varies widely, illustrating how random this injury actually is.
Bryant's recovery is expected to take between six and nine months but even for a relentless competitor like Kobe that may be optimistic. The five previously mentioned players missed an average of 69 games and spent an average of 10 months recovering. Additionally the rehab process is tedious and can often result in a loss of explosiveness even when the individual has been cleared to return to basketball related activities. It remains possible Kobe will be back in time for the start of next season but it seems more likely he starts the 2013 season on the sideline. Still Bryant has already vowed to overcome this setback and he's proven to be an athlete you don't bet against.
There remains a slim chance Rose could play in the postseason but fantasy owners who drafted the former MVP have to feel a bit cheated. Rose has played it exceptionally safe with his recovery from an ACL tear but that should allow him to be 100 percent coming into next season. The injury will have occurred 18 months prior to the start of the 2013-2014 season, insuring the graft has been completely accepted by Rose's body. There's no reason to believe Rose can't be just as good as he was before the injury occurred, given he overcomes any remaining mental hurdles. Look for Rose to go at a slightly discounted price next season and opportunistic fantasy owners should be prepared to pounce.
It's been a physically grueling rookie season for the number one overall pick. When the season officially ends, Davis will have missed 18 total games with a myriad of injuries including a concussion, a stress reaction in his left ankle, a shoulder contusion, and a left medial collateral ligament (MCL) sprain and bone contusion in his left knee. If he is hoping to avoid a sophomore slump and build on his productivity he needs to focus on lower leg strength, particularly his left leg. The extremities are a kinetic chain, made up of the various joints of the leg or arm. Each link in the kinetic chain plays a key role in maintaining the integrity and stability of the extremity as whole. If one link (joint) is weakened, the entire extremity is left vulnerable to muscle imbalances and potentially further injury. Davis' left leg has endured a lot this year and it's important both the knee and ankle are healthy and ready to handle the rigors of another full slate of basketball games. All too often the careers of big men get derailed by injuries that become chronic problems, as was the case for Yao Ming, Greg Oden, and even Andrew Bogut. If Davis' rehab goes accordingly and he avoids any further setbacks he could be primed to take his game to the next level in his second full season in the league, but don't overreach just yet.
Speaking of often-injured big men, Bynum has a critical summer ahead of him. He will be a free agent after missing the entire season with knee problems and could find himself with a new team. It's hard to imagine a reasonable franchise offering a center with two deteriorated knees a max deal. Bynum's problems are with the cartilage in his knees, a substance vital to dispersing weight placed on and through the joints. Unfortunately cartilage doesn't heal on its own. Often when the cartilage within a joint begins to breakdown or is torn the only way to treat the injury is remove the damaged tissue and treat the resulting symptoms. Surgery, specifically microfracture surgery, can stimulate new cartilage growth but is often accompanied by an extended period of inactivity. Seeing that bowling caused Bynum's knee to flare up, it's hard to imagine his knees holding up while playing basketball without some serious surgical intervention. Regardless of where the former All-Star ends up next season, I'm avoiding him in all formats next year.
After an elite 2011-2012 season and gold medal run with team USA, Love has to be considered one of the top disappointments of the year. His problems started in preseason when he fractured two metacarpal bones in his right hand. He missed Minnesota's first nine games of the season but his return was marred by poor shooting and two additional games missed due to illness and being poked in the eye. His comeback would last just 15 games after he rebroke his right hand and ultimately needed surgery to mend the effected bones. A late season return was ruled out when he underwent surgery on his left knee to remove a small buildup of scar tissue. The hand injury shouldn't be factored into next season as it should be healed but the knee is a bit more problematic. A quick look through Love's injury history does not indicate any previous knee injuries so determining what caused the buildup will be a key part in recovery. If he is able to strengthen the knee to avoid any future problems, Love should be poised for a bounce back year.
Jeff Stotts is a Certified Athletic Trainer, MAT, PES and the Injury Analyst for Rotowire.com. You can follow him on twitter @RotoWireATC.