LeBron, Lillard, LaMelo... 11 NBA stars who won’t be in 2022 Playoffs
The NBA Playoffs, which began on Saturday, will be without a number of top players whose teams failed to make it through to the postseason.
LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers)
Between 2006 and 2018, LeBron James didn’t miss a single NBA Playoffs. But since arriving at the Los Angeles Lakers, he has been absent from the postseason twice in four years (with an NBA championship ring in between): in 2019, and now this season. James’ ankle problems have contributed to the Lakers’ failure to reach the Playoffs, as have the injury problems suffered by team-mate Anthony Davis. James played just 56 games in the 2021/22 regular season; Davis, a mere 40. Less than half. It’s been a disastrous year for a team that seemed set fair to challenge for the title when Russell Westbrook arrived in Los Angeles last summer. But the point guard hasn’t worked out at all, the Lakers have had major rotation issues, and injuries have pushed the franchise towards such a catastrophic campaign that it didn’t even make it into the Play-In. This is Davis’ first season without the Playoffs as a Lakers player. Westbrook, meanwhile, had previously only missed the postseason in 2009, his rookie year, and in 2015.
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George (Los Angeles Clippers)
The Clippers lost both their Play-In games, first against the Minnesota Timberwolves and then, on home court, against the New Orleans Pelicans. It’s only the second time since 2011 that they’ve missed out on the Playoffs. Kawhi Leonard, who continues to recover from an injury he suffered in the 2021 Playoffs, hasn’t played all season. And Paul George has mustered just 31 games, sitting out the decisive matchup with the Pelicans. The pair have been together at the Clippers for three years, and it’s a partnership that has not delivered the results that were expected. With Kawhi back fit, they’ll attempt to click into gear once and for all next season.
Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers)
For the first time in eight years, the Portland Trail Blazers aren’t in the Playoffs - so neither is star man Damian Lillard. The point guard appeared in only 29 games in 2021/22, and had surgery to fix an abdominal issue that had bothered him last season and had a visible effect on his performance at the Tokyo Olympics. Without Lillard, the Blazers have looked to overhaul their team, with CJ McCollum, Norm Powell and Robert Covington all traded. What’s more, Jusuf Nurkic was hit by plantar fascitis. So a fixture of the Western Conference Playoffs will be absent, and we won’t be seeing any of Lillard’s impossible, game-winning three-pointers.
Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards)
Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal has missed out on the Playoffs in three of the last five seasons. This year, he underwent surgery for a wrist injury, only played 40 games, and was unable to challenge for the MVP award. Now he has to sort out his future with Washington - and try to recapture the form of a 2020/21 season in which he was an All-Star and was named in the All-NBA Third Team. After a very good start to the season, the Wizards fell apart.
Domantas Sabonis (Sacramento Kings)
It hasn’t been a straightforward season for Domantas Sabonis, who in February was traded by the Indiana Pacers - where he had been since 2017 - to the Sacramento Kings. He was unable to secure a third straight All-Star selection and won’t be appearing in the Playoffs in his first season in California, where the Kings have now failed to make the postseason for a franchise-record 16 successive years. The Lithuanian had been in the Playoffs for the past three campaigns, once in the West with the Oklahoma City Thunder, and twice in the East with the Pacers.
Julius Randle (New York Knicks)
It’s been a dreadful season for the New York Knicks, who have dropped away from being fourth seeds in the East in 2021, to failing to even make the Play-In in 2022. And it’s been a dreadful season for Julius Randle, who in the summer signed a four-year, $117m extension. Last year, he was an All-Star, the NBA’s Most Improved Player and a member of the All-NBA Second Team. But after a very poor showing this season, the 27-year-old often cutting a distant, disinterested figure on the court, it’s rumoured that he could be traded. One of the major disappointments of 2021/22.
LaMelo Ball (Charlotte Hornets)
LaMelo Ball will have to wait for his chance to show off his magic in the Playoffs. For the second straight year, his Charlotte Hornets team was eliminated in the Play-In, bidding a sad farewell to a season in which they had some brilliant moments. Ball was Rookie of the Year in 2021 and was an All-Star for the first time in 2022. His development suggests he’s on course for superstardom, but he won’t be challenging for the Larry O’Brien Trophy for at least another 12 months.
Darius Garland (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Aged just 22, Darius Garland has shown himself to be one of the emerging stars of the Eastern Conference. He was an All-Star this season, and has the talent to remain one for many years to come. However, a spate of injuries proved costly for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who were on fine form in the first third of the season but ended up dropping into the Play-In, where they were beaten by both the Brooklyn Nets and the Atlanta Hawks. Garland’s finesse won’t be on display in the Playoffs… not this year, at least.