NBA stars Kawhi Leonard (Spurs), Kyrie Irving (Celtics) and DeMarcus Cousins (Pelicans) won’t suit up for their respective teams during the 2018 post-season, due to various injuries; but, all 3 will collect paychecks as they rehabilitate. NBA contracts, which are guaranteed in full, resulted in injured players taking home more than $125 million this past season. No team spent more on inactive players, than the Boston Celtics; paying over $34 million to Gordon Hayward and Irving, as they missed a combined 103 games. Despite their absences, the Celtics managed to finish the regular season with the Eastern Conference’s 2nd best record (55-27). Coincidentally, the Western Conference’s #2 seed (58-24), the Golden State Warriors, spent the 2nd most money on injured players; spending more than $22 million on Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green, as they sat out a combined 72 games.
Howie Long-Short: If $125 million sounds like a lot of money sitting on the bench, consider analysis of the 2016-2017 season; OnlineGAMBLING.ca found NBA teams paid out $305 million to injured players last season. The 76ers, who finished the ’16-17 season with the league’s 4th worst record (28-54), led the way; spending $22 million on 7 players (including $6 million on Ben Simmons) that were unavailable to take the floor. It must be noted that despite finishing with the league’s 4th worst record, the 76ers won the 2017 NBA draft lottery; earning the right to select first overall in the 2017 NBA draft. The team selected Markelle Fultz, who ironically sat out the first 68 games (taking home $5.8 million while rehabbing) of his career with a shoulder injury.
Fan Marino: Injuries to the league’s biggest stars had minimal impact on their respective franchises this season, and even less on popular merchandise lists. Steph Curry (31 games), Kevin Durant (14 games), Kyrie Irving (22 games), Joel Embiid (14 games), Kawhi Leonard (70 games) and Jimmy Butler (23 games) all missed extended time and still managed to finish 1st, 3rd, 5th, 8th, 11th and 15th, respectively, in jersey sales.
Correction: We wrote that the 76ers had earned the right to select first in the 2017 NBA Draft. While the team ended up with the #1 overall selection, they acquired it in a trade with Boston (via Brooklyn); giving up the #3 pick and a 2018 (or 2019) first round selection to move up 2 spots.
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