With the regular season winding down, many playoff-bound teams in the NBA are monitoring injuries to key players.
NBA and NCAA basketball fans alike are in the middle of one of the best times of the year for the sport. March Madness is in full swing and the NBA regular season is coming to a close, which means one very exciting thing: the playoffs are almost here.
Unfortunately, there are many teams this year that are dealing with injuries while the playoffs are quickly approaching (playoffs begin Saturday, Apr 14). There is still plenty of time for those players that are dealing with very minor injuries, but for many playoff teams, there are longer-term issues at hand.
We already saw the Boston Celtics lose Gordon Hayward to a leg injury to start the season, so we knew he would be out at this point. Kyrie Irving is the big question mark for the C's right now. The Celtics are number 2 in the East and have already declared that Irving is out for the regular season. His return in the playoffs will truly shift the balance of power. Marcus Smart is also nursing a thumb injury, not expected back until May.
Welcome back, Markelle Fultz
For the Philidelphia 76ers, they finally look healthy, with number 1 pick Markelle Fultz coming back from his season-long shoulder injury last night. "The process" is shaping up nicely in Philly. The Washington Wizards are now expecting star John Wall back after a lengthy absence as well.
The Milwaukee Bucks are hoping that last year's Rookie of the Year, Malcolm Brogdon will be back sometime in April, so chalk him up as questionable for the playoffs. Current 8 seed Miami is hoping that Hassan Whiteside can hold up after missing a lot of time this season. He is currently out with a hip injury.
In the Western Conference, the top seeded Houston Rockets are healthy and already starting to rest players to stay that way. It is the 2 seed that is one of the biggest playoff mysteries, injury-wise...
The Golden State Warriors are banged up
Before the emergence of Houston, the only thing that everyone said could stop the Warriors was injuries. Well, they are pretty battered and bruised right now. Draymond Green is just sick at the moment, ready to return soon. However, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson had more serious injuries, though they are expected back before April begins.
Thompson's shooting thumb and Durant's rib are two things the Warriors can ill-afford to chance as far as rushing them back. Steph Curry is the real story though. A grade 2 MCL sprain will sideline Curry for what coach Steve Kerr says will be at least the first round of the playoffs.
The rest of the West
C.J. Wilcox of the Portland Trailblazers is out indefinitely with a knee issue. The Oklahoma City Thunder have already lost all-pro defender Andre Roberson to season-ending surgery. The New Orleans Pelicans took one of the biggest injury hits of the season, losing DeMarcus Cousins to an achilles injury. The Pels have lost a couple role players as well.
The only San Antonio Spur on the injury report is Kawhi Leonard, but there seems to be more to the story there than an injury keeping him from playing. For the Minnesota Timberwolves, All-Star Jimmy Butler is determined to return before the playoffs, though his surgery for his torn meniscus was only in February.
The Utah Jazz currently hold down the final playoff spot and are missing perimeter defender, Thabo Sefolosha, who is out for the season. The Denver Nuggets and LA Clippers are fighting to overtake the Jazz for that spot. Gary Harris should be back soon for the Nuggets while the Clips have lost a couple of guards for the season: Avery Bradley and Patrick Beverly.
Hopefully these teams and players can heal up, because no-matter who you root for, the game is at its best when everyone is fully healthy and ready to go. For more on the NBA and everything basketball, you are in the right place - The Basketball Movement. Check out our NCAA final four preview here.
Injury notes per Rotoworld.