Some positive news in a story about injuries: Most of the NBA’s contenders are pretty much healthy. Joel Embiid returned to the Philadelphia 76ers last weekend, and Chris Paul looks like himself again for the Houston Rockets. Kevin Durant turned his ankle last Sunday, but it isn’t even a serious enough issue to make this list — he is before the end of the Golden State Warriors’ road trip.
As always, though, injuries lurk in the background of the league’s major stories. Everybody wants to debate who will come out of the Eastern Conference, but that conversation would be different if the Indiana Pacers still had Victor Oladipo in the lineup. Many things have gone wrong with the Los Angeles Lakers, but it would be irresponsible to discuss their demise without acknowledging how well they were playing before LeBron James‘ groin injury and how much they’ve missed Lonzo Ball on defense.
We have every single NBA injury chronicled here and updated often to let you know who is in or out each night and beyond. But this page will look at the most important injuries in the NBA and how they are affecting teams and players moving forward.
NBA’s biggest injuries
March 15 update: Porzingis is not expected to play this season, but he’s back on the court. During Wednesday’s practice, he played five-on-five for the first time since tearing his ACL, and then told reporters that, while he feels “healthy” and “great” and is “antsy” to play, he and the Mavs are “going to take our time,” per Tim Cato of The Athletic. He also said he started playing video games because he was bored and desperately missed “competition, talking some smack, and being out there and kicking some ass.” His status is a bit confusing, but, as much as he’s talked about wanting to return, it doesn’t seem like there’s much motivation for this to happen this season. Dallas increases its odds of keeping its pick every time it loses and, according to The Athletic, Porzingis’ camp is the side that determined he’d sit out all year.
Holiday’s status hasn’t officially changed since his injury last week, but Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said Thursday that they might end up just shutting him down for the season. “I can tell you right now, we will be overly cautious with it,” Gentry said, per Andrew Lopez of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “Because I don’t think it’s worth it.” Holiday played in the first 67 of New Orleans’ games and, according to Gentry, wanted to play in all 82. At this point, though, the Pelicans should only bring him back if he is completely healthy, and one could argue that, even then, they might be smarter to sit him.
As you can see in this video from NBA TV, Oladipo is walking and shooting set shots again, and that represents real progress as he rehabilitates a ruptured quad tendon. While he’s been out, the Pacers have been much steadier than expected — they still have a half-game lead on Philadelphia for the third spot in the East, and they have gone 12-10 since his injury. Two impressive stats: Indiana has a plus-3.5 net rating with Oladipo off the court this season, and its bench has the league’s best aggregate net rating, per NBA.com. This is the basis for Nate McMillan’s Coach of the Year candidacy, and it is a complete reversal of last season, when the Pacers tended to fall apart without their star. The two craziest parts of this story are that they have done this despite losing their first four games since the injury, and they have done this despite Tyreke Evans‘ wildly inefficient season.
Raptors coach Nick Nurse said than VanVleet is nearing a return after the point guard participated in a light practice Wednesday, per TSN’s Josh Lewenberg, and they have to hope that he gives the bench a boost. Despite all of Toronto’s theoretical depth, its bench is 25th in aggregate net rating this season, per NBA.com. It was first in that category last season. Jeremy Lin has been playing backup point guard for more than a month now, but has been mired in a terrible shooting slump — Lin didn’t make his first 3-pointer as a Raptor until his eighth game, and has shot 5-for-33 from deep with the team.
Warren has missed the Suns‘ last 20 games, and Suns coach Igor Kokoskov said Monday that he didn’t know whether it was time to rule him out for the season. Kokoskov has said that Warren’s ankle injury is a “chronic thing” and an issue of pain tolerance. If there is a bright side to his extended absence, it is that it has opened up playing time for Phoenix’s small army of young forwards: Kelly Oubre, Josh Jackson, Mikal Bridges and Dragan Bender. Kokoskov has had Bender, who was in and out of the rotation earlier this season, in the starting lineup for the past couple of weeks, including the Suns’ upset victories over Golden State and Milwaukee.
Mbah a Moute’s sore left knee has been something of a mystery, and, with less than a month remaining in the regular season, we have no real clarity on what’s going on. “I don’t know if we’re going to have him for this season or not,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said Tuesday, per Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times, and that’s a bummer considering how effective he was when healthy last season. The Clippers have a ton of depth, and integrating Mbah a Moute would be tricky, but if he were to return to full strength, he could certainly make them a better, more versatile defensive team.
Another mysterious one here: Ntilikina hasn’t played since Jan. 27, and there has been plenty of speculation that he is not long for New York. Regardless of his future, it appears it is possible that he will be available for the Knicks in the coming days. Last weekend, the team announced that he had been re-evaluated and would be able to participate in “controlled contact” portions of practice. He will be evaluated again after New York’s road trip, which ends Friday night in San Antonio, but it’s uncertain how much he’ll play if and when he is cleared to return.
March 9 update: On Monday, Wolves coach Ryan Saunders told reporters that Covington would make his long-awaited return “hopefully this week.” The next day, Saunders acknowledged that the team had initially thought he’d have been back by now, and they were still monitoring how his knee was responding to contact and prolonged activity. Minnesota is now 30-35, just like the Lakers, and it has lost four of its last five games, so Covington’s comeback is no longer about solidifying the defense for a potential playoff push. This makes it seem a little less urgent, though I’m sure Saunders would like to see if his presence would elevate the Wolves’ defense the same way it did before the injury.
It’s not official, but the Lakers expect to rule Ball out for the rest of the season on Saturday, per ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, who tweeted that, as of the other night, he wasn’t running or jumping yet. This is not great news if you’d like to see Los Angeles at least play respectable basketball in its final 17 games, as his absence has made the team much less competent defensively and less likely to generate transition opportunities. Ball is still a divisive young player, but, particularly given how poorly the Lakers have played with Rajon Rondo on the court, it is screamingly obvious that they’ve missed him. Anyone who cares about this team has wondered what their record might be if he had stayed healthy.
This one is official: Ingram is out for the season with a Deep Venous Thrombosis — a blood clot — in his arm. Even though the Lakers know that they’re not going to make the playoffs, this is rough news. Ingram had been playing some of the best basketball of his career before his shoulder started bothering him, and it would have been ideal to let him use this last part of the season to work on expanding his game. The big question here is what that solid stretch will mean in the big picture — has he raised his trade value around the league or changed how Los Angeles’ sees him fitting next to LeBron James?
Feb. 28 update: Jackson has had a phenomenal rookie season, but it might be over. While the Grizzlies have not ruled him out for the season, J.B. Bickerstaff said Wednesday that he “wouldn’t expect to see him anytime soon” and “he’s not even at a place where he’s on the court at all right now,” adding that “we’ve talked about it and we’ll be patient.” Memphis looks totally different than it did at the beginning of the season, with Jonas Valanciunas starting at center, Joakim Noah backing him up and both Bruno Caboclo and Ivan Rabb getting starts at power forward recently. Fun fact:
The Cavs announced that Thompson would be out for about two weeks more than a month ago. They aren’t playing for anything, so I guess they might as well be as cautious as possible. Ante Zicic has been starting at center next to Kevin Love, with Larry Nance Jr. and Marquese Chriss rounding out Cleveland’s frontcourt rotation.
The Wizards are still mum on a timtable for Howard, who started light workouts a week ago and hasn’t played since Nov. 18. Recovery from spinal surgery does not tend to be fast, so it would be best to keep your expectations low for the 33-year-old. Thomas Bryant has started at center for most of his absence, but coach Scott Brooks recently decided to bring him off the bench and start Bobby Portis at the 5 spot. Washington is having a forgettable season and likely wishes it signed somebody else instead of Howard last summer, but at 25-36 it is somehow only three games out of the playoffs in the East.
Feb. 10 update: Wall’sis so upsetting that I don’t want to say much about it. It’ll be about a year before he can play again, and this changed the direction of the franchise — owner Ted Leonsis went back on his word and dumped Otto Porter on trade deadline day. By the time Wall returns, the roster could look completely different. One positive to come out of this, though: He’s going to .
Fultz got the fresh start he wanted with a trade to Orlando, and team president Jeff Weltman did not say whether or not the guard will play this season. The Magic front office gave up Jonathon Simmons, a first-round pick and a second-round pick in order to take a chance on him, and they will pay him $9.7 million next season and, if they pick up his fourth-year option, $12.3 million the season after that. If he can get healthy and regain the shooting ability he showed in college, all of that will be a small price to pay, but those are massive ifs.
Jan. 26 update: As if the Bulls‘ season needed to get more depressing. Carter had surgery on his injured thumb last week, which means he will be out for 8-12 weeks. In all likelihood, this means his (mostly great) rookie season is over. Carter’s averages of 10.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 25.2 minutes don’t quite capture how promising he has looked — the guy is 19 years old and plays with the maturity of a seasoned veteran. Chicago is a total mess, and the team is a significantly less interesting total mess without Carter on the court.
Jan. 18 update: Rick Carlisle called the 34-year-old’s season-ending injury “gut-wrenching,” and this is especially true because, despite his age, Barea had continued to run the pick-and-roll on the second unit this season the same way Mavericks fans have come to expect. Dallas is fortunate enough to have plenty of guard depth — even without Dennis Smith Jr., whose status with the team appears uncertain, rookies Luka Doncic and Jalen Brunson are more than capable of running the show — but this is still a real bummer. Barea means a lot to Dallas, and, before tearing his Achilles tendon, he said he wants to play at least two more seasons.
Jan. 11 update: Brooks’ season is over after just 18 games — he ruptured a ligament in his right big toe last Saturday in San Antonio, and had to have season-ending surgery. This is obviously a disappointing development for a player who had an encouraging rookie season and just hasn’t been able to stay on the floor this year.
Dec. 29 update: Reporters watched Roberson’s post-practice work on Nov. 29 and came away impressed, and Thunder coach Billy Donovan said he has “been on a really good track,” per The Oklahoman‘s Erik Horne. A day later, the team announced he’d suffered a setback in his recovery, as an MRI revealed an avulsion fracture, and he would be re-evaluated in six weeks. Oklahoma City deserves all sorts of credit for having the best defense in the whole league without Roberson, who is a Defensive Player of the Year-caliber stopper when healthy.
Jones had surgery on Wednesday, and he might be out for the remainder of the season. The Warriors announced he will “begin the rehab process” six weeks after the surgery. Jones had started in 22 of his 24 games this season, but only averaged 17.4 minutes — Golden State takes a platoon approach to the center position. If he’s done for the year, Golden State will rely on Kevon Looney and Jordan Bell in addition to the still-sidelined Cousins as its traditional 5s. Of course, its best look in the playoffs will probably remain Green playing “center” with Kevin Durant next to him in the frontcourt.
Nov. 29 update: The mysterious Porter continues to be out indefinitely despite saying he was pain-free in the summer. The 20-year-old was only available to the Nuggets because he had two back surgeries, so he should be seen as a long-term, low-risk, high-upside play. There is no meaningful analysis to be done here, but Denver would love to look brilliant for taking him at No. 14 in the draft if/when he is healthy down the road.
This sucks so much for both him and the Spurs — Murray is the their best defender, and they have been 23rd in defensive rating. He was supposed to take the leap this season, but that went out the window when he crumpled to the floor in a preseason game. On offense, San Antonio has relied on DeMar DeRozan’s playmaking even more than it planned to, and Bryn Forbes has stepped into a starting role at point guard. We will soon find out if Lonnie Walker can earn a role in the rotation, too.
The Bulls have been hit with a whole bunch of injuries early in the season, from Markkanen’s elbow to Bobby Portis‘ knee and Kris Dunn’s knee. Valentine is on this list because he is done for the year after undergoing what the team called an “ankle stabilization procedure” on Tuesday — his injury was initially described as a moderate ankle sprain in September.