The NBA, arguably more so than any other professional sports league, has always been about star power. Annually this is on full display during the playoffs, where the league’s stars typically shine the brightest on the biggest of stages.
Sports continue to be a young man’s game. This season, New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis made his first playoff appearance and averaged 30 points and 10 rebounds versus the Golden State Warriors in a round-one exit. But while young players enter the mix, it also means those old reliable stars of the past are sometimes relegated to watching from afar – outside and distant from the spotlight they once enjoyed.
Heading into the 2015-16 campaign, there will be numerous big names looking to get back into the playoff mix for another taste of glory. For some it could potentially be their last chase for a championship. For others, missing the playoffs this season was just a bump in the road.
Let’s take a look at some of the star power missing from this year’s playoff festivities:
Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
Anthony, 30, is coming off arguably his most frustrating season as a professional. The veteran played a career-low 40 games due to nagging knee trouble and the Knicks are heading to the draft lottery after recording just 17 victories. It marked the second season in a row Anthony and the Knicks have missed the postseason and the team has advanced past the first round just once in five campaigns during his tenure.
With Anthony armed with a newly signed maximum contract, expensive investments in the front office (Phil Jackson) and on the sideline (Derek Fisher), the pressure is mounting in New York to turn things around and compete at a high level.
Paul George, Indiana Pacers
George and the upstart Indiana Pacers were thrust onto the scene the past few seasons and became the chief playoff antagonists to LeBron James’ NBA Finals runs while he was a member of the Miami HEAT. However, this past season George was limited to only six regular season games after suffering a horrific leg injury while playing with Team USA last summer. Not surprisingly, the Pacers missed the playoffs in the process.
With more time to rehab, George should return to All-Star status next season and it would be surprising if Indiana isn’t back in the playoff hunt in 2016.
Dwyane Wade, Miami HEAT
From a physical standpoint, Wade is clearly past his prime. But the veteran remains a productive player, averaging 21.5 points, 4.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds in 62 contests this past season. The problem hasn’t been production when it comes to Wade, but with the number of games you can truly rely on him to suit up.
Since 2012, Wade has missed 17, 13, 28 and 20 games in each season respectively and his body is breaking down in numerous areas. However, the HEAT continue to add pieces to the rotation (Goran Dragic, Hassan Whiteside, etc.) with the goal of alleviating Wade’s workload as he winds down a Hall of Fame career.
Miami should be back in the playoff mix next season, assuming Wade can remain relatively healthy in the process.
Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
As strange as it may seem, five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant hasn’t played in a playoff game since May 21, 2012 – a span of nearly three years. In fact, Bryant has played in just 41 games the past two seasons while battling through a plethora of injuries.
Bryant is entering the last year of his current contract and retirement undoubtedly looms on the horizon. The Lakers are heading to the draft lottery and are expected to be active in free agency this summer. But in an ultra-competitive Western Conference, it’s not wrong to question whether we’ve seen the last of Bryant in the playoffs before he rides off into the sunset.
Chris Bosh, Miami HEAT
The 2014-15 campaign served as sort of a redemption quest for Bosh after adjusting his game the past four seasons to play alongside LeBron James in Miami’s frontcourt. Bosh averaged 21.1 points in 44 contests before his season was cut short due to injury. It marked the first time since 2010 Bosh averaged at least 20 points and reinforced the view that the veteran could serve as the primary offensive option on a competitive team. However Miami was unable to recover from the loss of Bosh even after factoring in the Goran Dragic trade deadline acquisition and Hassan Whiteside’s emergence.
For Miami to make a return to the playoffs in 2016, Bosh will need to make a full recovery and be the centerpiece of their plans.
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