Inevitably, over the course of any NBA season, the players who do not play are often as impactful as the ones who play nightly, recording double-doubles, triple-doubles, and completing athletic feats that play on loop everywhere. Specifically, this season has been defined by COVID-19 postponements, and related “health and protocol / contract tracing” player absences, fewer games, and an odd schedule. Still, how many impact players have been injured early this season, missing numerous games for teams that have playoff aspirations? How many fun, exciting, and popular players are teams wishing they had available for marque national television matchups with conference and interconference rivals? As such, this list details a few of the most missed players across the NBA. These are the players whose respective team, and their fanbase, should be most excited about returning sometime in the near future during the second half of the shortened 2020 – 2021 NBA season.
- Portland Trail Blazers SG, CJ McCollum:
- It is easy to write about McCollum in the context of his backcourt mate and Hulu pitch man, Damian Lillard aka Dame Time, especially when he continues to hold the fort the way he has been able to in McCollum’s 22 game absence from a left mid-foot fracture that has kept him sidelined since January 16th. However, the reason Portland’s backcourt gets so much acclaim is because CJ is as great as anyone at his position in his own right. The 29 year old, 7-year NBA veteran averages nearly 19 points per game for his career shooting 45% from two, just under 40% from 3, and over 80% from the free throw for his career. He is routinely snubbed for an all-star nod, though, more importantly, Portland especially misses his services this season because he had been averaging career highs in points per game (26.7), effective field goal percentage (59%), and 3 point field goal percentage (44%) in the 13 games he played before being injured. Reportedly, McCollum has continued to progress well though still isn’t ready to return. When he is ready to return, it will be a welcome sign for a team in the throes of a hotly contested playoff race in the Western Conference.
- Memphis Grizzlies Power Forward:
While the Memphis Grizzlies continue to surprise everyone throughout the NBA, namely with hard-nosed defense, smooth shooting, and some guy named Ja, a healthy Jackson could (eventually) catapult them into another stratosphere completely. Jackson had been a revelation last year in the NBA Bubble though had missed time since then with a torn meniscus. The 15 – 15 Grizzlies currently have a top ten defense in the NBA, block xxx shots per game, and are shooting xxx from 3 point land. In the second half the season, they very well may be adding to their rotation, a healthy Jaren Jackson Jr, a near 20 point scorer last season who shot 39% from three, and blocked 1.5 shots a game last year
- Brooklyn Nets forward:
Waxing poetic about the “NBA’s Iceberg Slim” is fairly easy, however, for a guy who missed the entire season just last year, as well as a chunk of previous seasons, his new, electrifying team and their fans aren’t the only ones missing the former MVP and 2-time Finals MVP. Ultimately, the NBA functions better when its All-Stars are able to play, which is particularly true for the Eastern Conference’s highest vote getter in the 2020 -2021 NBA All-Star game, Durant.
- Los Angeles Lakers Power Forward:
The reigning NBA Champions may have the NBA’s third all time leading scorer and a bevy of solid role players, but Lakers’ Nation knows the difference that Anthony Davis can make. He is as gifted a scorer as there is, at his size or otherwise, and controls the paint with dominant rim protection and defensive rebounding, all the while stifling smaller, quicker opponents in pick and roll and switches. Davis, for his career, 23.9 points per game (on 51% shooting), 10.3 rebounds per game, and 2.4 blocks per game. Further, slow start to this season notwithstanding, he still accounted for 22.5 points per game (over 50% from the field), 8.4 rebounds per game, 1.8 blocks per game in 23 games played. Undoubtedly, the Lakers will have a harder time successfully defending their NBA title sans Davis; thus, making Davis’s return from lingering Achilles tendinosis and a calf strain one of the most anticipated player returns during the second half of this NBA season. Even reports of Davis doing “light shooting” gets fans giddy again.