In each of the past few seasons, the Eastern Conference has been noticeably weaker than the Western conference. A simple look at the conference standings shows that an 11th ranked team in the West could make the playoffs if in the Eastern conference. This observation has become much more legitimate with the West stockpiling players through trades and free agency. Many of these trades involved players from an Eastern Conference team to a Western Conference team (Jeff Green, Rajon Rondo, etc). On the other hand, it seems as if the East is struggling to deal with injuries that have plagued many teams. In some way, whether big or small, these injuries have helped pave the way for the Cavs to reach the Conference Finals. Many of the teams that were once viewed as strong opponents to the Cavs have been hit with injuries to the point where they could pose no serious threat to the Cavs. Here are the top 5 injuries and how they’ve impacted the Eastern Conference
5. Chris Bosh
-Diagnosed with Blood clots, February 19th
-Out for season, will return for training camp
Lebron’s former teammate, Chris Bosh, was widely viewed as the new #1 option on the team once LBJ left, taking over James’ spot. This was evident with the Heat signing Bosh to a 5 year, $118 million contract over the summer. Going into the season though, the Heat had trouble winning games. Bosh was a decent leader, but he was unable to make an impact on games the way that LBJ does. On Feb. 19th, Bosh was admitted into the hospital after he felt pains in his chest. He was diagnosed with blood clots in his lungs, which is an illness that causes over 100,000 American deaths each year. Obviously, all basketball related things were put on a halt. At one point, his professional career was at risk.
Luckily, Bosh has been given the green light to return next season, which is great news. But in terms of basketball, the Heat were hit very hard with the loss of their top player, as they are currently sitting just outside of the playoffs at 28-35. Without Bosh, the Heat really don’t stand a chance against the Cavs or the Hawks, let-alone the other teams in the east. These injuries really paved the way for the Cavs to get to the conference finals, if not the NBA Finals.
Here are some of Bosh’s top plays of the season:
Click “Next” to see the fourth injury and the impact it’s had on the Eastern Conference!
4. Anderson Varejao
-Torn right achilles, December 23rd (2014)
-Will not return this season
Varejao came into this season a very happy man, having signed a 3 year, $30 million contract in the off-season. Also, his close friend and former teammate LeBron James decided to return to the Cavs. Evidently, expectations were high for the Brazilian. Varejao played decently well in the starting lineup, averaging 9.8 points, 6.5 reb, and 1.3 assists per game. Up until Varejao’s injury, the Cavs were 17-11. This was good, but not great considering that they have the best player in the planet on the team. Unfortunately, Varejao tore his achilles and the Cavs were left without a starting center. You can see the injury at the 1:15 mark of the video below:
Tristan Thompson started a few games, but GM David Griffin ultimately decided that they needed to make a trade. The Cavs sent two first round picks to Denver on January 8th in exchange for Russian Center Timofey Mozgov, a known shot blocker. Since the trade, in addition to the JR Smith/Iman Shumpert trade, the Cavs have been on a roll. The Cavs were the only team in the east to make a trade(s) following the season-ending injury of a player. Because of this, the Cavs are currently sitting at 2nd in the east, only trailing the Atlanta Hawks. Although Varejao’s injury was a huge problem for the Cavs, they recovered very well. In many ways, Mozgov is a huge upgrade over Varejao.
Click “Next” to see the third injury and the impact it’s had on the Eastern Conference!
3. Paul George
-Compound Fracture of right leg, August 1st (2014)
-Immediate Surgery, currently practicing, hoping to return for playoffs
Paul George played like an MVP, posting career highs while leading the Pacers to the 1st seed in the East during the 2013-2014 season. George hoped for his dominant play to translate to Team USA, where Coach K was looking for George to be one of the leaders of the young team. On August 1st, during a Team USA exhibition scrimmage, George tried to contest James Harden’s layup, and landed awkwardly against the stanchion between the floor and base support.
His injury was so severe that the rest of the scrimmage was called off. Prior to his injury, Paul George was viewed as LeBron James’ biggest opponent, and the Pacers were viewed as the only real team keeping the Miami Heat from reaching the Finals. Many saw the Pacers as a powerhouse for the next few years with their core of Paul George, Roy Hibbert, David West, and Lance Stephenson. With George’s injury, along with the departure of Stephenson to the Hornets, the Pacers have been simply average this year. Despite beating the LeBron-led Cavaliers in the regular season, the Pacers pose no real threat to the Cavs in the playoffs. They are currently 29-34, good for 7th in the east. George hopes to return for the playoffs, but it is possible that he may not be ready-and even if he is, chemistry will be a concern due to his long absence from the Pacers lineup.
Click “Next” to see the second injury and the impact it’s had on the Eastern Conference!
2. Brandon Jennings
-Torn achilles tendon on January 24th
-Rehabbing post-surgery, hopes to be ready by training camp in the fall
Brandon Jennings came from the Bucks in a sign-and-trade last year, where he was a decent starting PG but did not really prove to the Bucks front office that he was worth keeping. Under the guidance of president of basketball operations/head coach Stan Van Gundy, Jennings really came out of his shell and was mentioned in all-star roster rumors. Jennings was having a career-saving season, averaging 15.4 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 6.6 assists per game, which were all near or above his averages through his 5 years in the NBA. Through late December, the Pistons were 5-23 and were next to the 76ers and Knicks at the bottom of the Eastern conference standings. Then, SVG made the decision to waive Josh Smith, in favor of Greg Monroe and other younger players who he wanted to give playing time to. They began playing team ball, as a result of SVG’s play-calling and Jennings’ leadership. The Pistons went 12-4 in their next 16 games, led by Jennings, who also made a game winner against the Spurs during that span. All great things come to an end though, as Jennings suffered a torn Achilles tendon on the 24th of January, ultimately opting for surgery.
His season-ending injury really hurt the Pistons, who have gone 6-14 since. Currently as the 12th seed in the East, their chances of making the playoffs are nil.
Click “Next” to see the worst injury and the impact it’s had on the Eastern Conference!
1. Derrick Rose
-Torn right meniscus on February 27th,
-Opted for surgery, hopes to be back for final weeks of regular season
Derrick Rose suffered his second torn right meniscus in as many seasons, causing many Bulls fans to blame the basketball gods for Rose’s injury prone career. Rose, after sitting out the last season and a half, first returned in the summer, playing for Team USA. During the FIBA World Cup in Spain, Rose helped lead Team USA to the Gold, and many believed that the MVP version of Rose had returned. For the 2014-2015 season, Rose was in and out of the lineup, sitting out some games due to injury. Overall, he had an over-average return, averaging 18.4 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per game prior to his regular season-ending injury. Rose’s injury doesn’t mean much to the Bulls’ chances of making the playoffs, as they are currently the 3rd seed in the East and are a consistent team.
Here’s the first time Rose injured his knee, which was in a playoff series against The Philadelphia 76ers:
Here’s the second time Rose injured his knee in a road matchup against the Portland Trailblazers. This time, it was his right knee:
The hope is that Rose will return for the playoffs and even get some regular season run in him, but even with Rose, can the Bulls really beat the Cavs or the Hawks in a seven-game series?