Tracking the key injuries in NBA postseason race

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This NBA season has been marked by several notable, critical injuries. Here’s a look at the most important injuries to watch for each team still breathing in the playoff chase, when those players could return and the seriousness of the situation.


East

Toronto Raptors: DeMar DeRozan

  • Timetable: None; he missed a win at Orlando on March 20 with a left thigh contusion but has played in each of the team’s past five games.

  • Seriousness: very low

  • Situation: DeRozan is listed here only because he’s the latest player to miss a game because of injury. Toronto is the healthiest team in the league that will appear in the postseason.

Boston Celtics: Kyrie Irving (and Gordon Hayward, Marcus Smart, Daniel Theis)

  • Timetable: Three to six weeks (from March 24) for Irving’s left knee surgery. Hayward is unlikely to return this season from a left ankle injury. Six to eight weeks (from March 16) for Smart’s right thumb surgery. Theis is out for the season following left knee surgery.

  • Seriousness: high

  • Kevin Pelton on Irving: There’s not a lot of precedent for a player of Irving’s caliber returning during the midst of the playoffs after missing an extended period.

Cleveland Cavaliers: George Hill (and Kyle Korver)

  • Timetable: Hill sprained his left ankle on Friday and is out indefinitely. Korver has right foot soreness and last appeared in a game on March 19.

  • Seriousness: medium

  • Situation: The Cavaliers are inching toward being fully healthy (including coach Tyronn Lue) for the first time since the trade deadline. Hill has started all 22 games he has played as a Cavalier this season, while Korver started in his past three appearances before taking a bereavement leave.

Philadelphia 76ers: Joel Embiid

  • Timetable: Embiid had surgery to repair an orbital bone fracture on Saturday and could return in two weeks.

  • Seriousness: high

  • Kevin Pelton on Embiid: The timing of Embiid’s injury is obviously difficult for him and the Sixers with their multiyear rebuilding process on the cusp of bearing playoff fruit.

Indiana Pacers: Trevor Booker

  • Timetable: Booker sprained his right ankle Tuesday and missed a win at Sacramento on Thursday.

  • Seriousness: low

  • Situation: Booker is Indiana’s second big man off the bench, behind starters Thaddeus Young and Myles Turner and top backup Domantas Sabonis. Any time that Booker misses is filled sparingly by first-round rookie T.J. Leaf.

Washington Wizards: John Wall

  • Timetable: Wall returned to action Saturday after missing more than two months because of a left knee injury.

  • Seriousness: medium

  • Situation: Wall’s return decreases the seriousness of the situation, though he will continue to be “managed” for the remainder of the regular season. Wall was able to play 33 minutes in his first game back, while fill-in starter Tomas Satoransky‘s role in the rotation over Jodie Meeks is secure.

Miami Heat: Dion Waiters

  • Timetable: Waiters underwent season-ending ankle surgery on Jan. 23.

  • Seriousness: low

  • Situation: The Heat are used to playing without Waiters, and otherwise enter April at full strength. Tyler Johnson has established himself as the starting shooting guard, while Wayne Ellington and midseason trade acquisition Dwyane Wade are the backup guards.

Milwaukee Bucks: Malcolm Brogdon (and Thon Maker, Matthew Dellavedova)

  • Timetable: Six to eight weeks (from Feb. 2) for Brogdon’s partially torn left quadriceps tendon. Maker has a right groin strain and last played on March 25. Dellavedova has a right ankle sprain and last played on Feb. 4; he is out indefinitely.

  • Seriousness: medium

  • Situation: Brogdon was injured the night before Jabari Parker made his season debut, and Dellavedova was injured in Parker’s second game. Brogdon could return within a week, and he will be coming back to an uncertain role; he had been starting next to Eric Bledsoe at the time of his injury. Milwaukee has been starting Tony Snell at shooting guard while Jason Terry has been in the rotation. The injuries to Brogdon and Dellavedova were instrumental in Milwaukee signing 2009 first-round pick Brandon Jennings for the rest of the season. The Bucks would prefer to have Maker be their backup center over Tyler Zeller behind John Henson.

Detroit Pistons: Blake Griffin

  • Timetable: One week (from Friday) for Griffin’s bone bruise on his right ankle.

  • Seriousness: medium

  • Situation: The Pistons’ chances of making the playoffs are already on life support entering April. Detroit has had to start Anthony Tolliver while giving Henry Ellenson minutes at backup power forward because of Griffin’s latest injury.

West

Houston Rockets: Chris Paul

  • Timetable: Paul has played only once since injuring his left hamstring on March 20 at Portland.

  • Seriousness: low

  • Situation: Paul is being managed; his injuries are minor. The Rockets have little to play for now that they have clinched the best record in the NBA. Houston will take it easy on Paul and allow him to rest up for the postseason.

Golden State Warriors: Stephen Curry

  • Timetable: Three weeks (from March 24) for Curry’s left knee Grade 2 MCL sprain.

  • Seriousness: high

  • Kevin Pelton on Curry: Players have not shot as well from 3-point range after returning from a Grade 2 MCL sprain as expected. Curry was, in fact, less accurate on 3s in the 2016 playoffs, shooting 40.2 percent after returning compared to 45.4 percent during the regular season. But the larger issue for Curry was inside the arc; he shot 56.6 percent on 2s during the regular season and just 48.5 percent in the playoffs. Of course, every player and every injury is unique, so the average performance of all players with the same injury is only a guide to what we can expect. But the broader history does suggest a repeat of 2016 is unlikely. Golden State should expect to get Curry back at something close to full strength.

Portland Trail Blazers: Maurice Harkless (and Ed Davis)

  • Timetable: Two weeks (from Wednesday) for Harkless’ left knee surgery; one to two weeks (from Saturday) for Davis’ right ankle sprain.

  • Seriousness: medium

  • Situation: Harkless had scored in double figures in five of his past six games before getting shut down. His injury moves Evan Turner into the starting lineup and opens up more minutes for Pat Connaughton as a rotation wing. Davis’ injury puts more on rookie lottery pick Zach Collins‘ plate, while fellow rookie Caleb Swanigan (picked late in the first round) may play more as well.

San Antonio Spurs: Kawhi Leonard

  • Timetable: Leonard last played on Jan. 13, and has no timetable to return from a right quadriceps injury.

  • Seriousness: high

  • Zach Lowe on Leonard: Without Leonard, the math of the Spurs’ midrange-heavy shot selection works against them. Their shot profile hasn’t budged from last season. With Leonard playing like an MVP in 2016-17, they outperformed their expected field-goal percentage — based on shot location, shooters, and defender proximity — by the fifth-largest margin in the league, per Second Spectrum. This season, they are shooting almost exactly as expected, and it isn’t good enough — especially since they don’t gobble up free throws or offensive rebounds at a high rate. (Also: Why doesn’t Danny Green play a little more?) The Spurs built this team to play a certain style, and without their foundational talent, they can’t play it well enough to win at a high level.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Jimmy Butler

  • Timetable: Butler underwent meniscus surgery on his right knee Feb. 25 and is out indefinitely.

  • Seriousness: high

  • Situation: The Timberwolves put Nemanja Bjelica in the starting lineup at small forward and moved Andrew Wiggins to shooting guard after Butler’s injury, and Minnesota is 8-7 since Butler last played. Butler’s absence has led to a strict eight-man rotation for the Timberwolves, with Jamal Crawford taking on a larger role.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Andre Roberson

  • Timetable: Roberson had season-ending surgery to repair a ruptured patellar tendon in his left knee on Jan. 28.

  • Seriousness: medium

  • Situation: The Thunder have the NBA’s 18th-ranked defensive efficiency rating since Roberson’s injury, compared to the No. 5 defense at the time of the injury. Oklahoma City is now starting midseason buyout market acquisition Corey Brewer at shooting guard. Other than Roberson, the Thunder are fully healthy.

Utah Jazz: Ricky Rubio

  • Timetable: Rubio missed a win on Friday vs. Memphis because of left hamstring soreness and isn’t expected to miss much more time.

  • Seriousness: low

  • Situation: Rubio’s injury is minor, and the return of Dante Exum on March 15 from left shoulder surgery gives Utah another playmaking option behind rookie Donovan Mitchell. Royce O’Neale starts while Alec Burks enters the rotation when Rubio is out.

New Orleans Pelicans: DeMarcus Cousins

  • Timetable: Cousins had season-ending surgery to repair a ruptured left Achilles tendon on Jan. 31.

  • Seriousness: high

  • Zach Lowe on Cousins: Anthony Davis has seamlessly absorbed more ballhandling responsibility since Cousins’ season-ending injury. He has averaged about seven drives per 100 possessions in that stretch, up from about four before then, per Second Spectrum tracking data. Davis isn’t going to win the MVP, and he shouldn’t. This is James Harden‘s season. But Davis deserves serious consideration for both MVP runner-up and Defensive Player of the Year.

LA Clippers: Danilo Gallinari (and Milos Teodosic, Avery Bradley, Patrick Beverley)

  • Timetable: Gallinari returned from a right hand injury on Friday; his previous appearance was Feb. 22. Teodosic (foot), Bradley (adductor surgery) and Beverley (right knee surgery) are out for the regular season.

  • Seriousness: medium

  • Situation: The volume of the Clippers’ injuries is their biggest issue. Gallinari was injured so often this season that he didn’t play in more than nine consecutive games, and in many of the 20 games he has appeared in, he’s been at less than full health. The Clippers have had to deal with injuries to starting-caliber guards all season, and now Tyrone Wallace (on a two-way contract) is starting alongside Austin Rivers to allow Lou Williams to remain in his familiar bench scorer role.

Denver Nuggets: Gary Harris

  • Timetable: Harris has not played since injuring his right knee March 15. Denver coach Mike Malone said on Friday that Harris may miss another week.

  • Seriousness: high

  • Situation: Harris missed Denver’s seven-game road trip, which wrapped up with Friday’s 126-125 overtime victory against the Thunder. Will Barton has started in Harris’ place, while Torrey Craig (two-way contract) has been in the rotation.



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