Commentary

Projecting a healthy Yao Ming

With Yao's career in jeopardy, a look at how he would look if health wasn't the issue

Updated: December 18, 2010, 12:55 PM ET
By Kevin Pelton | Basketball Prospectus
Yao MingAndrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesIf healthy, Yao Ming would have been one of the all-time greats for Houston.

With this week's news that Yao Ming will miss the remainder of the 2010-11 season because of a stress fracture in his left ankle, concern continues to grow that Yao's basketball career -- at the very least the effective portion of it -- is over. For a player who only recently turned 30, that is a sobering thought. However, with Yao's history of foot and ankle injuries -- ones that have limited him to five games over the past two NBA campaigns -- it appears more real than ever.

At this point, it's worth asking just what exactly we might be missing out on. While the best years of Yao's career were probably behind him even if he had been able to stay healthy, he was likely to remain productive well into his 30s. To quantify an expected level of performance, we turned to Basketball Prospectus' SCHOENE Projection System. In the summer of 2009, we used SCHOENE to fill in the gaps in Michael Jordan's career and project into the future for Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Using a similar method, we played out the remainder of a hypothetical career for Yao.