Tracking the key injuries in the NBA playoffs


This NBA season has been marked by several notable, critical injuries. Here’s a look at the most important ones to watch for each team in the postseason.


East

Toronto Raptors: DeMar DeRozan

  • Timetable: None; he missed a win at Orlando on March 20 with a left thigh contusion but played in 10 of the team’s past 11 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 that will appear in the postseason.

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

  • Timetable: Irving will the playoffs in the aftermath of left knee surgery. Hayward is unlikely to return this season from a left ankle injury. Smart needs six to eight weeks (from March 16) for right thumb surgery. Theis is out for the season following left knee surgery.

  • Seriousness: Very high

  • Kevin Pelton on Irving: The Celtics should still be favored to win their first-round matchup. Now all but locked into the second seed, Boston should be hoping for the Milwaukee Bucks to finish seventh among the three teams that have a chance to do so. Milwaukee has actually been outscored this season, despite a winning record, so the short-handed Celtics have been comfortably better without Irving before accounting for home-court advantage in the series.

Cleveland Cavaliers: George Hill (and Kyle Korver)

  • Timetable: Hill sprained his left ankle on March 30 and returned April 9 after missing four games. Korver had right foot soreness and last appeared in a game March 19 before returning on April 3.

  • Seriousness: Medium

  • Situation: The Cavaliers are inching toward being fully healthy (including coach Tyronn Lue, who returned April 5) for the first time since the trade deadline. Hill has started every game he has played as a Cavalier this season, while Korver started in his past three appearances before taking a bereavement leave. Korver returned in April to his more familiar bench role.

Philadelphia 76ers: Joel Embiid (and Dario Saric)

  • Timetable: Embiid had surgery to repair an orbital bone fracture on March 31 and could return in two weeks. Embiid has been fitted for a mask but is unlikely to play in Game 1 of the quarterfinals. Saric had cellulitis in his shooting elbow and missed three games due to the soreness of the infection. Saric returned to action on April 6.

  • 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 March 29. He’s fine, as that wound up being the only game he missed.

  • Seriousness: Very 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 March 31 after missing more than two months because of a left knee injury.

  • Seriousness: Medium

  • Situation: Wall’s return decreases the seriousness of the situation. 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: Brogdon returned on April 9 from his partially torn left quadriceps tendon after suffering the injury Feb. 1. Maker had a right groin strain and last played on March 25; he’s healthy now. Dellavedova had a right ankle sprain and last played on Feb. 4 before returning for the season finale on April 11.

  • 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 is back, and he will be coming back to an uncertain role; he was 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. Brogdon was the first player off the bench when he returned to action. The injuries to Brogdon and Dellavedova were instrumental in Milwaukee’s signing 2009 first-round pick Brandon Jennings for the rest of the season. It appears that Maker has work to do to be the backup center over Tyler Zeller behind John Henson. Maker was a DNP-CD twice since April 3 and played more than 20 minutes in a game once since the All-Star break.

West

Houston Rockets: Luc Mbah a Moute

  • Timetable: Likely to miss the first round, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Mbah a Moute left the Rockets second-to-last game of the season with a dislocated shoulder. He missed 15 games with a similar injury earlier this season. There’s no timetable for his return.

  • Seriousness: High

  • Situation: Mbah a Moute averaged nearly 26 minutes per night for Mike D’Antoni’s squad this season, even starting 15 games. He’s a key part of a Houston second unit that has smothered opponents, and his absence could leave the Rockets’ bench a little thin, even as rotations tighten in 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 suggests that 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 March 28) for Harkless’ left knee surgery; one to two weeks (from March 31) for Davis’ right ankle sprain. Davis returned from his injury on April 9.

  • 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.

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. He returned to action April 6 in Los Angeles.

  • 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 went 8-9 in Butler’s stead. Butler’s absence led to a strict eight-man rotation for the Timberwolves, with Jamal Crawford taking on a larger role. Butler’s return allowed head coach Tom Thibodeau to use a nine-man rotation.

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 buy-out 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.



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