The 2020-21 NBA season has been one of the most arduous league campaigns in the association's history. Teams have had to face stern challenges, especially concerning COVID-19, a stacked schedule, and injuries to marquee players because of the shortened season.
NBA season 2020-21: 5 teams that were impacted the most by injuries
Several stars who have barely missed games in their careers have succumbed to long-term injuries this season. This has subsequently hampered their respective teams' performances. A prime example would be LeBron James and the LA Lakers.
James recorded the longest injury absence of his career after missing 17 games this season. He was sidelined on March 20th in a matchup against the Atlanta Hawks and returned against the Sacramento Kings on April 30th. His prolonged absence had its repercussions. The Lakers suffered before and after his return, recording losses in both games that he featured in after his comeback.
Apart from the LA Lakers, four other teams have also suffered enormous difficulties because of injuries that have derailed their campaigns. So without any further ado, let's find out who those teams are and how their NBA seasons were impacted by injuries.
#5 Orlando Magic
The Orlando Magic went from being playoff contenders last year to moving towards a rebuild this NBA season. They started the campaign with great enthusiasm, winning six of their first eight games. But an ACL injury to Markelle Fultz saw their season go into a downward spiral, which they eventually failed to recover from.
The Magic were already dealing with the absence of Jonathan Isaac before the season began and were even given two disabled player exceptions, with the duo ruled out for the entire 2020-21 NBA campaign. Post Fultz's injury, the Magic endured a six-game skid and had to deal with several players being ruled out for a long time.
The list included players like Cole Anthony, Al-Farouq Aminou, James Ennis, Evan Fournier, and Michael Carter-Williams, to name a few. They were shorthanded for the majority of their games. Other teams took full advantage of Orlando's injury woes as the team slid out of playoff contention before the All-Star break commenced. Eventually, they traded all their best assets and moved towards a squad overhaul.
#4 Minnesota Timberwolves
The Minnesota Timberwolves looked well equipped at the start of the 2020-21 NBA season to make it to the playoffs. They had the 2020 draft's number one pick, Anthony Edwards, coupled with a plethora of backcourt options in Ricky Rubio, Michael Beasley and All-Star D'Angelo Russell. The team also boasts one of the best frontcourt players in the league, Karl-Anthony Towns, a two-time All-Star.
If not for the top-six, this side, if healthy, could have at least been vying for a play-in tournament spot at this stage of the season. However, the Timberwolves were without Karl-Anthony Towns at the start of the 2020-21 NBA season. KAT missed 19 games within the first couple of months as the T'Wolves endured six straight losses in his lengthy absence.
At first, he was ruled out because of a wrist injury and then he tested positive for COVID-19. By the time KAT returned to the lineup in mid-February, Minnesota had received yet another blow as D'Angelo Russell suffered a knee injury that kept him out of action until the first week of April.
The Timberwolves were 6-18 by then and had slim chances of making a turnaround. They won just once in 12 games post-KAT's return, which diminished their playoff hopes.
#3 Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Raptors did not have the best start to the 2020-21 NBA season. They won just two of their first ten games but made a remarkable turnaround as the season progressed. The team even broke into the top-four of the Eastern Conference standings with a 17-17 record. However, multiple players and the coaching staff tested positive for COVID-19, which led to their downfall this NBA season.
March was a terrible month for the Toronto Raptors. Their first two games were called off as five players, including Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby, were in the NBA's health and safety protocols. Head coach Nick Nurse and a few of his assistants were also absent for the same reason.
Recovering from COVID-19 isn't easy and has long-term implications on the body. This severely impacted the Raptors as they went on to win just once in 14 outings post their COVID-related woes. By then, their NBA season record was 18-29, which they failed to improve on as Kyle Lowry endured a toe injury that kept him out for two weeks.
#2 Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors were looking forward to having the splash brothers - Steph Curry and Klay Thompson - back this NBA season after the duo missed out on almost the entire 2019-2020 campaign.
However, Thompson suffered an Achilles injury before the start of the 2020-21 NBA season, which meant he was set to miss the second year in a row. It was a massive blow to the Warriors, who had big ambitions at the start of the current NBA campaign.
The Warriors are now eighth in the West, fighting to stay in the NBA's play-in tournament reckoning.
Several other players also suffered injuries over the course of the season. James Wiseman joined Thompson on the injury list after the rookie suffered a season-ending knee injury. It now leaves the Warriors with just one traditional center on their team.
#1 LA Lakers
The LA Lakers were expected to dominate the Western Conference at the start of the 2020-21 NBA season. They got off to a brilliant start, winning 21 of their first 27 games. From there on, though, the Lakers campaign went into a downward spiral as Anthony Davis and LeBron James suffered long-term injuries.
AD missed over two months (February to April), while LeBron (March to April) was sidelined for over a month. The LA Lakers saw their record fall to 36-26 by the time the two stars played a game together on April 30th against the Sacramento Kings. Frank Vogel's slipped hard during the stretch and saw themselves out of the top 4 seeds in the Western Conference.
They also had to deal with several short-term injuries that left the team shorthanded for a few games. The Lakers are now battling to avoid falling into a play-in tournament spot.
The team is 37-28 for the season, seeded fifth momentarily, but face an uphill task of reintegrating Davis and James back into the lineup. The duo has struggled in the two games they have played since returning from injury. To add to their woes, the Lakers will now be without Dennis Schroder, who has entered the NBA's health and safety protocols and is set to miss 10-14 days of action.