The playoffs are fast approaching and teams are either jockeying for playoff position or fighting to earn a spot in the postseason. Regardless of which, all teams in the playoff picture need to win games now and in order to do so, they must first get everyone healthy and ready to play. But that is not always the case because basketball is a physical sport and as such, injuries can happen to any player on any team.
Let’s find out which teams are still missing players at this stage of the 2018-19 NBA season.
Injured Players from Top Contenders
The defending champions Golden State Warriors are healthy heading to the homestretch. According to their report, only Damian Jones is indefinitely out. The Dubs’ backup center has been out with a pectoral injury since December 1, 2018 but the champs have barely missed him because DeMarcus Cousins is now healthy.
The Warriors’ chief competitors in the West is currently the Denver Nuggets and the Oklahoma City Thunder and both have players on the list. Denver currently has Trey Lyles and Michael Porter out indefinitely. The Nuggets have suffered multiple injuries to key players this season but during the All-Star break, it seemed they had gotten everybody healthy when Lyles suffered a hamstring injury during practice of February 20th. Lyles was a solid bench contributor at 9.2 points and 4.1 rebounds per game in 55 games this season. The good news is that he could be back as early as a couple of weeks.
As for Porter, he was Denver’s first round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. Porter was once considered a possible #1 pick before injuries shortened his college career. Denver took a chance with him in the draft and knew what they were getting. A recent video of Porter effortlessly throwing down a windmill dunk in practice has Nuggets’ execs and fans grinning from ear to ear.
On the other hand, Andre Roberson ruptured his his left patellar tendon in January 2018. He was on the way to recovery but needed an additional procedure at the start of the season that will prolong his absence. Last month, OKC coach Billy Donovan said Roberson is “nowhere near playing” so I guess we won’t be seeing the Thunder’s energy guy this season.
Out East, the Toronto Raptors are battling the Milwaukee Bucks neck to neck for the best record in the conference. The Bucks have been playing at a different level right now but the Raptors have been playing without key reserve Fred Van Vleet since February 11th. Van Vleet, who is averaging 10.5 points and 4.6 assists per game this season, suffered a partially torn ligament in his left thumb. The Raptors are targeting a late-March return for their prized backup guard.
Injured Players From Teams Fighting For The Playoffs
The San Antonio Spurs and Minnesota Timberwolves are currently fighting for the final two (or three?) playoff spots in the Western Conference. As of 2/27/19, the Spurs hold the 8th spot at 33-29 while the Timberwolves are in 10th place at 29-31 and just three games behind San Antonio. Both teams also have injured players right now with San Antonio missing Dejounte Murray and Minnesota playing minus Robert Covington.
Murray was expected to be the Spurs’ starting point guard this season and with Tony Parker leaving, he was supposed to have a big role this year. But Murray suffered a right knee injury during the preseason and has not played since. San Antonio isn’t expecting him to play this season.
Meanwhile, Robert Covington was one of the pieces Minnesota received as compensation during the Jimmy Butler trade. Covington was a reliable scorer and key defender for the Sixers and was considered the best asset Minnesota got in the deal. Covington is averaging 13.3 points and 5.1 rebounds per game this season, not to mention playing tough, hard-nosed defense on opposing scorers. Until now, Covington has yet to be allowed to participate in full-contact drills and there is no timetable on when he will be returning from his ankle injury.
The Brooklyn Nets have been a pleasant surprise at 6th place in the Eastern Conference Just recently, Brooklyn got back Caris LeVert from the injury list but they also lost Spencer Dinwiddie to a thumb injury last January 24, 2018. The is not timetable for his comeback and his absence will surely hurt the Nets if they make the postseason.
Injured Young Stars
Aside from these key players, there are notable rookies and young stars that are still on the injured list. For example, the Orlando Magic are without top draft pick Mo Bamba and their newly acquired Markelle Fultz. Bamba is out with a leg injury since February 2nd while Fults is still suffering shoulder issues and has not played since November 20th. The Chicago Bulls top draft pick Wendell Carter Jr. has been out of action since January 16th with a thumb injury. With their teams almost out of playoff contention, the Magic and Bulls might not want to rush them back to action.
We also saw injuries which ended the season of two All-Star guards from the East. First was John Wall of the Washington Wizards who was shut down in December so that he could undergo a procedure to treat a chronic achilles heel injury. The injury ended Wall’s season but then early this month, the Wizards reported that Wall ruptured his Achilles after slipping and falling at his home. The injury is expected to further delay Wall’s return as the guard is expected to be out for at least a year.
Victor Oladipo already missed a number of games early this season with a minor injury. He was able to return but struggled to recover his form. Then last month, Oladipo suffered a nasty fall while driving to the basket. He landed awkwardly and suffered what the team initially termed as a “serious knee injury”. The injury was later found out to be a ruptured tendon in his right knee and will be out for the remainder of the season.
Another notable player on the injured list worth noting here is Kristaps Porzingis of the Dallas Mavericks. Porzingis was then the Knicks’ future when he tore his ACL last season. He was expected to return late this season if the Knicks were in the hunt for the playoffs. Instead, he was traded to the Dallas Mavericks before the trade deadline. Porzingis is expected to team up with Luka Doncic next season for the Mavs.