3. Too much early mileage
Smart began playing AAU basketball in third grade, and through the years he might play four AAU games per day and as many as five per day at national tournaments. And that was on top of in-season competition at school.
This was the norm for Smart and other NBA rookies, and it creates perhaps the biggest red flag that trainers and others see in young players today: a considerable amount of mileage that can lead to more injuries at an earlier age.
"The AAU is the biggest thing people around the league pinpoint as to why all these injuries are occurring," Stotts said.
It's simply a matter of wear and tear.
"I think you only have so many jumps and landings in your body before it begins to break down, and you can go down through every body part and say the same thing -- each one has a separate number," DiFrancesco said. "There's no way to go back and get those miles back, but there's ways to manage their overall workload."
Obstacles exist, DiFrancesco said, such as the age-old notion that rookies must be "broken in" once they reach the NBA.
"When I first got into the league, I got this sense that, once you get your hands on a rookie, you can just push him and push him until they drop -- literally sometimes," he said. "By design, there's many people that believe that's how you have to show them the ropes, the hard way, and just grind them to see if they're mentally tough enough to withstand what it means to be an NBA player."
NBA prospects like Tyus Jones are put through the wringer in the pre-draft process, with some players enduring as many as 14 workouts in 20 days. AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
Another obstacle cited by players and trainers alike is the pre-draft process, during which prospects fly around the country and go through grueling workouts for NBA teams.
"They get fast food when they get off planes, then they practice on the site of the team that's requested them, then they do a huge, massive work-up -- very intense, long duration -- then they go on to the next one the next day," DiFrancesco said. "Any one of these guys will tell you it's miserable. It's one of the hardest things they do."
Bryan Doo, the Celtics' strength and conditioning coach, compared the grueling workload that many prospects face leading up to the draft to what LeBron James endured throughout the 2015 NBA Finals, when he averaged 46 minutes a game and dictated a huge portion of the Cavs' offensive possessions.