Key Injuries As Seeding Games Approach

Key Injuries As Seeding Games Approach

With scrimmages beginning Wednesday, the return of the NBA season is closer than ever. As all 22 teams prepare for the start of real games on Jul. 30, here are the key injuries to keep a close eye on.

Kemba Walker's knee

Walker's knee began acting up in mid-January, and he missed his first game because of it Jan. 18. From then until the season's suspension, Walker appeared in just 14 of a possible 24 games. He was bothered during those games, as he shot only 36.2 percent from the field.

In the bubble, Walker is practicing just every-other day for the foreseeable future and is expected to be on a minutes limit for Boston's first week of seeding games. That will likely lead to more minutes Brad Wanamaker, while Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum should take on more responsibilities. With Walker off the court, Tatum leads the team in usage (33.1 percent) while averaging 27.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.4 combined steals-plus-blocks per 36 minutes.

Bojan Bogdanovic absent

It was announced back in May that Bogdanovic would be undergoing season-ending wrist surgery. He was excellent for the Jazz this season, averaging 20.2 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists. Bogdanovic added a volume three-point shooting dimension to Utah which was missing last season, as he hit 3.0 triples per game at a 41.4 percent clip.

Considering Bogdanovic missed just one game this season, we don't know exactly how coach Quin Synder will fill the gap. But based on the depth chart, we can assume Joe Ingles and Royce O'Neale will see the biggest bumps in playing time, with possibly some Georges Niang minutes sprinkled in. Jordan Clarkson could even see some extra usage since he's a more potent offensive threat than either O'Neale or Niang. Things could also get tougher on Donovan Mitchell, as opposing defenses will be able to devote more resources to stopping him.

The Nets

The Nets are the most decimated team in the bubble, as Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Spencer Dinwiddie, Wilson Chandler, Taurean Prince, DeAndre Jordan and Nicolas Claxton did not make the trip to Orlando. That leaves Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen and Joe Harris as Brooklyn's three best players – by a wide margin.

LeVert's responsibilities, especially, should skyrocket. With Dinwiddie and Irving off the court, LeVert has a 38.9 percent usage rate and averages 31.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.4 steals per 36 minutes. Harris might begin chucking up threes with reckless abandon, and Jarrett Allen should consistently see 30-plus minutes. There will also be an interesting mismash of prospects and veterans seeing real action, including Chris Chiozza, Tyler Johnson, Jamal Crawford, Justin Anderson – too many to name.

Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans won't play

Beal will not be participating in the restart due to a shoulder injury. Bertans' reason is a bit more abstract, though there is speculation from Adrian Wojnarowski that he's trying to protect himself from injury, considering he's previously torn his right ACL twice. The absences create a huge void in the Wizards' surprisingly effective offense. So who might step up?

With the duo of Beal and Bertans off the court, Troy Brown has seen the most minutes (365), averaging 17.6 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.2 steals per 36 minutes. He's probably the safest bet for increased fantasy relevance, though a variety of players will have expanded roles. Aside from the guard and wing positions, Thomas Bryant is reportedly 100 percent healthy and it's possible we see him trend back to 30 minutes per contest.

LaMarcus Aldridge sitting out

In early June, it was announced Aldridge would be out for the NBA restart due to right rotator cuff surgery. That was likely the final nail in the coffin of the Spurs' playoff push. But San Antonio still has eight games to play out.

With Trey Lyles (appendicitis) also sitting out the restart, Jakob Poeltl should see a massive uptick in workload considering he's seen the most minutes (855) with Aldridge off the court and averages 12.2 points, 12.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 3.2 blocks and 1.2 steals per 36 minutes under that condition. If the Spurs immediately fall out of playoff contention, it's also possible we see coach Gregg Popovich give the young frontcourt guys plenty of run – a group that includes rookies Luka Samanic and Keldon Johnson.

Victor Oladipo trending toward playing

Initial reports suggested Oladipo would join the Pacers in Orlando to rehab but not play. About a week later, the possibility of him playing emerged, and shortly after that, it became a "strong possibility." Oladipo is now set to participate in the Pacers' scrimmages this week, and it seems more likely than not that we'll see him suit up for the remainder of the 2019-20 season.

Oladipo didn't start playing well until late February, but it seems likely the time off would help him get back to his 2017-18/2018-19 self, even if his camp initially said the time off would be a bad thing. All indications are that he's looked strong during the restart's practices. If he's close to fully healthy again, that would open up the possibility of Oladipo being one of the best 20 players in the bubble, if not better. During his previous two seasons in Indiana, Oladipo averaged 21.0 points on 17.1 shots, 5.4 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.6 combined steals-plus-blocks.

Will Kelly Oubre play?

Oubre's return to play is much vaguer than Oladipo's, and there's also much less on the line. Phoenix has the worst record of any team in the bubble and has essentially no chance at making the postseason.

Having Oubre around would make Phoenix more competitive, as he's carved out a legitimate starting role with the Suns and has proven to be a two-way threat. While his rehab is going well by all accounts, being 100 percent comfortable while on the court is important for Oubre to minimize re-injury risk and play well. If he ends up sitting out the remainder of the season, Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson and Dario Saric could see expanded roles.

Marvin Bagley suffers new foot injury, out for season

Bagley suffered a right foot injury during Sunday's practice, and after he was spotted in a walking boot, it was revealed that he suffered a lateral foot sprain and will be out for the remainder of the restart.

Bagley's absence won't change much for the Kings during the restart since he only appeared in 13 games this season. Nemanja Bjelica and Harrison Barnes will continue to hold down the forward spots. But the injury creates some long-term concern, as it's the opposite foot that caused him to miss time this season. Bagley has only played 1,901 minutes in his two-year NBA career, so next season will represent a big stepping stone in his development.

Jonathan Isaac might return

Isaac has continued his rehab within the bubble, with coach Steve Clifford stating that he doesn't expect to know until early August whether Isaac will be playing in the restart. He's participated in five-on-five work, which is a strong indicator of real progress. Regardless, it seems like if Isaac is able to come back, it won't be until late in the seeding games or possibly the first round of the playoffs.

Isaac's presence would help the Magic put on a competitive first-round series against either Milwaukee, Toronto or Boston. He's emerging as one of the best defenders in the league and would be a fantastic option against Giannis Antetokounmpo, Pascal Siakam or Jayson Tatum. In Isaac's 32 appearances this season, he's averaged 2.4 blocks and 1.6 steals per game, not to mention 12.0 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 29.7 minutes.

Justise Winslow done for season with hip injury

Winslow has played in one NBA game since Dec. 4. In that time, he was traded to Memphis as part of the Andre Iguodala deal. Healthy heading into Orlando, the hope was that Winslow could emerge as a key contributor on the wing, but he suffered a hip injury on Jul. 20 that will sideline him for the duration of the restart.

Given that Winslow was essentially the crown jewel in the Iguodala trade, it's a tough setback for the Grizzlies, who were eager to see the 2015 lottery pick in game action. He'll likely be fine for the start of next season, but this latest ailment only adds to a list of concerning injuries for the 24-year-old. Winslow appeared in just 11 games this season – already the second time in his career that he's played fewer than 20 games (2016-17). Winslow also missed 16 games a year ago and 14 games the previous season.

While he remains under contract at $13 million for 2020-21, Winslow will enter the final year of his deal with plenty to prove – both in terms of production and health. 

Rajon Rondo out several weeks

Rondo injured his hand during practice last week, and it was revealed to be a fractured thumb that required surgery. As a result, Rondo is expected to be sidelined until early September. 

The Lakers' backcourt was already thinned out with the news of Avery Bradley opting out of the restart. With both players out, backcourt minutes will be dispersed to some combination of Alex Caruso, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Dion Waiters, J.R. Smith and Quinn Cook. The safest bets for a real minutes boost are Caruso and KCP, and it's likely the other options will have to prove themselves during upcoming scrimmages and seeding games.

Domantas Sabonis has plantar fasciitis

It was revealed Monday that Sabonis hadn't been able to put any weight on his foot for nearly half a week due to plantar fasciitis. He's set to miss the Pacers' first exhibition game as a result and, at this point, his chances of playing during Indiana's opening seeding game Aug. 1 against the 76ers are very unclear.

Losing Sabonis for any period of time would be a big issue for Indiana. He made his first All-Star game this season, averaging 18.5 points, 12.4 rebounds and 5.0 assists. If he's unable to play, Myles Turner, T.J. Warren and Justin Holiday would likely be relied upon to generate more offense in the frontcourt. Notably, with Sabonis off the court this season, Turner has averaged 20.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.7 blocks, 1.7 assists and 1.0 steals per 36 minutes.

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. Alex Barutha plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: FanDuel Username: unclestosh99, DraftKings Username: Roto_Alex.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alex Barutha
Alex is RotoWire's NBA Assistant Editor. He writes articles about daily fantasy, year-long fantasy and sports betting. You can hear him on the RotoWire NBA Podcast, Sirius XM, DraftKings Live and other platforms. Vince Carter and Alex both first dunked during their respective sophomore years of high school.
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