Injuries are part of basketball. Nobody is going to feel sad or sorry for a team dealing with injuries because every team has them. This year, several playoff contending teams have key players injured to begin the 2012-2013 season. The Minnesota Timberwolves, New York Knicks, L.A Lakers and Chicago Bulls lineups and rotations are going be different from the beginning vs. later into the season.
Minnesota added veteran players Brandon Roy and Andrei Kirilenko. Both of their strengths are not breaking down defenses by driving or penetrating the lane. Rather, these players can hit open jump shots, finish around the rim and play within the offense well. The strength of injured guard Ricky Rubio was driving and kicking the ball to open shooters. Once Rubio is healthy the Timberwolves offense should be more balanced, but early in the season Kevin Love has to be the main scorer and playmaker. If the Timberwolves’ additions bring good chemistry and playmaking along with Rubio’s recovery, the Timberwolves can make the playoffs.
The Knicks have added depth and versatility to their lineup during the offseason. Adding Jason Kidd, Raymond Felton, Ronnie Brewer and Marcus Camby lets them play more varied offensive and defensive sets this season. However, they will not be at full strength with injured guard Iman Shumpert out. Shumpert has shown the ability to be an elite defender and finisher at the basket. When he returns, Shumpert will make the Knicks a tough physical team and, along with their additions in the offseason could be in position to get home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
The Lakers have made the biggest moves by getting Steve Nash, Antawn Jameson and Dwight Howard. L.A. will be changing their offense to fit the strengths of these additions. With Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol in the starting lineup the Lakers should be much higher than 15th in the league in scoring. Until Howard returns from his back injury, Gasol and Jameson could be the starters in the front court. Their front court depth will be an issue during the time that Howard is out because they only have three players with experience at the power forward and center positions. Howard’s main focus is to be the difference in beating the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat by defending, rebounding, and scoring when needed. Howard, Nash and Jameson make the Lakers serious title contenders.
The Bulls had the best record in the NBA last year. After a disappointing playoff run by losing in the first round, they have made changes to their bench by trading or not signing four bench players. Kirk Hinrich, Marco Belinelli, Nazr Mohammed and Jimmy Butler are going to replace the four players not returning. However, with Derrick Rose out, the Bulls are going to have to win low scoring games by defending, rebounding and not turning the ball over. Depending on how many games they win without Rose and how healthy Rose is after his comeback will decide whether the Bulls can compete for a title.
Each of these teams have made major changes to their rosters. They have a full training camp to get the chemistry right. During the season they are going to have lineup and rotation changes as they get their injured players back. Whatever team makes their adjustments best on the go, will be more likely to have playoff success.
Steven Siewert is a Correspondent for NetScouts Basketball.