Injury Report: East
The purpose of this column is straight-forward, providing a quick overview of the league's injured players, including those who are still rehabbing and those who have already recovered from significant injuries. Timetables are subject to change, and every player responds differently to different injuries, so I will periodically update this column through the start of the season. We begin in the Eastern Conference with the Hawks.
*Disclaimer*: Every player thinks they'll be "100 percent" healthy for opening night. Some feel they'll return even better and stronger than before their injury, and many of their coaches claim to feel the same way. Most of them are wrong, and when someone 'hopes' to be ready for a certain date/event, that optimism should be balanced out with a healthy dose of skepticism. I'm simply passing along the most relevant, recent information available...judge for yourselves.
Jarrett Jack had right knee surgery in January to repair a torn ACL and meniscus. He expects to participate in training camp and in early August described his knee as "80 percent [healthy]." At 32 years old, and with Dennis Schroder poised to dominate minutes at point guard, there's no reason to touch Jack in standard leagues.
Tiago Splitter's right hip injury ruined his first season with the Hawks, limiting him to just 16.1 minutes in 36 appearances. He had hip surgery in late February with an expected timetable of eight months, which would seemingly rule him out for training camp, but he said in August, "I'm not sure 100 percent [that I'll be ready for camp], but that is my goal." It's rarely wise to take a player's own optimistic guesses at face value.
Thabo Sefolosha was limited during the 2015-16 season by leg injuries and right ankle surgery stemming from a clash with police the previous postseason, but he still managed to average 23.4 minutes in 75 appearances. His outlook is rather poor, however, thanks to the return of Kent Bazemore and the addition of first-round picks Taurean Prince and DeAndre' Bembry.
Dwight Howard dealt with nagging ankle, shoulder, oblique and back injuries last year, but he said in July that his surgically-repaired back "hasn't been an issue, and I don't think I'll every have an issue out of my back for the rest of my career." Dwight was an iron-man to begin his career, but in three years with Houston he missed an average of 21.0 games per season.
Kelly Olynyk had right shoulder surgery in May to address recurring subluxations, which is a partial dislocation of the joint. The Celtics can afford to ease him slowly into the mix with Al Horford, Amir Johnson, Tyler Zeller and Jonas Jerebko all healthy entering training camp.
Avery Bradley's season ended in the playoffs when he strained his right hamstring and never returned vs. the Hawks. He said he heard a 'pop', but fortunately tests revealed nothing worse than a Grade 1 strain. There haven't been any substantial injury updates, but all signs point to him being fully recovered long before training camp.
Jae Crowder played on a sprained and bone-bruised right ankle toward the end of the season, and said that he still felt pain until early July. He shot just 42.9% from the field in his final 18 games of the season, due at least somewhat to the injury, but he should be his typically efficient self now that he's healthy.
Jordan Mickey hurt his left shoulder during the Utah Summer League, but he avoided a dislocation and was able to play five games for the Celtics in Las Vegas. He's healthy, but the Celtics' loaded frontcourt means that he'll spend most of his time in the D-League.
The Nets are relatively healthy. Brook Lopez put together another healthy campaign, free of foot injuries, averaging 33.7 minutes in 73 appearances -- his highest playing time since the 2010-11 season. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson fractured his right ankle last December, but he was able to return (with limitations) in late March, ensuring that the steals-specialist will be ready for training camp. There are no outstanding injury concerns for newcomers Jeremy Lin, Randy Foye, Justin Hamilton, Luis Scola or Trevor Booker.
Greivis Vasquez had right ankle surgery in mid-December, which forced him to miss 56 games before returning in late March. He didn't play for Venezuela in the Olympics, reportedly because he was "concentrating on getting in shape." His health isn't as much of a concern as his uncertain role in the Nets' backcourt.
Rookie Caris LeVert comes into the league with significant injury baggage -- he fell in the draft due to concerns about repeated left leg injuries. First he underwent foot surgery to repair a stress fracture, then needed another surgery after a fracture his junior year, and as a senior he was hampered by a vague 'lower left leg injury'. He missed Summer League after having surgery in March to repair a fractured metatarsal in the same foot, and wasn't running on a treadmill until late July. He's hoping to be ready for camp, but that’s doubtful since Nets will obviously be very cautious with him.
Frank Kaminsky had surgery in June to repair a pocket of air in his chest wall, which forced him to miss Summer League, but a six-week timetable ensures that he'll be fine for camp. He's gained weight and is being asked to post-up more often, filling some of the void left by Al Jefferson's departure, but his fantasy value is limited while Marvin Williams is starting at PF.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's run of bad luck continued last season, when a second torn labrum in his right shoulder forced him to have season-ending surgery in February. He said in June that he was already running, shooting, and lifting weights, and by July he was confident that he'd be ready for opening night. "Good. All healthy now," he said. "I'm 200 percent ... I mean, just ready to go."
Kemba Walker had 'elective' left knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus in May. The surgery was "intended to relieve pain and wear and tear going forward," and he said in early August that he was already "fully recovered." It's worth keeping an eye on throughout camp, but his knee shouldn't be an issue.
Marco Belinelli fractured his jaw during an international exhibition in late June, but he slapped on a protective mask and was on the court a week later. There's no cause for concern here.
Rajon Rondo battled toe, thumb, shoulder and elbow injuries with the Kings last year, which eventually led to some DNPs down the stretch, but those nagging ailments have had plenty of time to heal.
Taj Gibson gamely played through cracked ribs last year, but was eventually shut down with the Bulls out of the playoff race. The 31-year-old veteran has an opportunity to seize more minutes with Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah gone, and now that he's healthy he'll have a chance to earn the starting PF job during training camp.
Chris Andersen played a combined 27 games with the Heat and Grizzlies last year, but the Cavs rolled the dice on the 38-year-old center with a one-year deal at the vet's minimum. A left shoulder injury last March didn't cost him much time, but even in perfect health he's unlikely to get more than 12-15 minutes per game.
Iman Shumpert finished the Cavs' championship season with a left knee injury -- soreness and inflammation forced him to miss a few games and have the knee drained, but he didn't miss a single postseason game. There have been no reports of a setback (or surgery) this summer, so presumably he's fine.
Mo Williams said in March that his left knee has "been bothering [him] the last couple years," adding, "I think it's something I'll have to deal with the rest of my career." He had a platelet-rich plasma injection which shut him down for a few weeks, and may not have returned with the Cavs if he didn't pick up his player option. With promising rookie Kay Felder available to spell Kyrie Irving, the Cavs can afford to severely restrict Mo's wear and tear.
Darrun Hilliard didn't play in Summer League due to a lower back injury -- it was initially reported as a stress fracture, but subsequent rests overturned that diagnosis. He'll be ready to fight for backup SG minutes during camp.
Reggie Bullock missed time down the stretch last year with an unspecified "nerve issue" in his left leg. We've heard nothing about the injury since the Pistons' season ended, so for now it seems like he's in the clear.
The Pacers absorbed Jeremy Evans and cash from the Mavericks this summer, after the 28-year-old's season ended last year due to arthroscopic right shoulder surgery. He's on a guaranteed contract and has had plenty of time to recover physically, but there are no guarantees that he'll crack the rotation.
Al Jefferson returned from right knee meniscus surgery in February and wound up playing in 47 games, averaging 12.0 points, 6.4 rebounds, 0.6 steals and 0.9 blocks in 23.3 minutes per game. All of those numbers are his lowest since the 2005-06 season with Boston. Big Al started only 18 games last year and he projects as a full-time backup in Indiana, making it hard to like him while Myles Turner is healthy.
Jeff Teague missed only three games last season and he's hardly an injury concern. He did say that his offseason goal was to "get healthy," specifically mentioning his knees and ankles as injuries that were "more than wear and tear." It's just something to keep in mind as the season approaches.
Rodney Stuckey is ostensibly healthy, though he's coming off a 58-game season and (even without any pressing issues) his injury risk compounds already limited fantasy production in a backup role.
C.J. Miles battled a strained left calf, sore right shoulder, sore right ankle and a sore lower back last season, in addition to multiple illnesses. It added up to 18 missed games, and he's played more than 65 games just three times in his 11-year career. That said, he's healthy entering training camp.
Chris Bosh is the big story for Miami. He's been shut down two years in a row due to blood clots (and the blood-thinners they require), as it's still unclear whether he'll get medical clearance for the 2016-17 season. The Heat have been very tight-lipped about his status, though it was reported in mid-August that the team is "cautiously optimistic" he can suit up, and owner Micky Arison suggested he’d see Bosh at training camp. There's obviously still an extreme amount of risk here.
Hassan Whiteside missed the final four games of the playoffs due to a first-degree right MCL sprain, but he didn't need surgery and said he was fine as early as June 28. "I got time to really strengthen up," he said. "I rehabbed with the Heat and everything's good." He's the league's premier source of blocks, and returned first-round fantasy value last year, but a lack of across-the-board versatility could dent his stock.
Michael Carter-Williams is expected to be ready for training camp after having season-ending hip surgery in early March. His role is unclear, however, since the Bucks want Giannis Antetokounmpo to play PG and they brought in Matthew Dellavedova to solidify the backcourt. Jason Kidd wants MCW to work on both his defense and shooting, which says a lot about the holes in his game.
Other than that, the Bucks are healthy...Khris Middleton's minor thigh injury to close the season was never a real concern, as the Bucks had no incentive to win games.
New York Knicks
The list of Derrick Rose's injuries last season includes his back, hamstring, groin, elbow, knee, ankle, face/eye, and "overall soreness." He's been working out all summer and said in June that he feels "close to MVP form," but there's still obvious risk attached to Rose as a fantasy pick. Throw in his statistical limitations and he's simply not a very appealing target.
Joakim Noah had surgery to repair a dislocated left shoulder in January, which ended his season, but as of August he declared himself fully healed. The Knicks will rely heavily on Noah to anchor the frontcourt this season, and if his health fails him they'll need guys like Kristaps Porzingis, Kyle O'Quinn and Willy Hernangomez to step into unfamiliar roles.
Lance Thomas' season ended with a sprained left knee, but it could have been worse since he went down with a non-contact injury. An MRI cleared him of any serious damage and the Knicks happily retained him on a four-year, $27 million deal this summer, setting him up to play the same backup forward role he saw last year.
Newly acquired PG Brandon Jennings said that his Achilles feels good, though he still has a daily regimen to keep it limber and healthy. The Knicks' backcourt will be very interesting to watch this season, but most owners should do so from a distance -- it's hard to see Jennings getting enough playing time while D-Rose and Courtney Lee are healthy.
A strained right shoulder caused Kristaps Porzingis to miss the Knicks' final seven games, but we've heard nothing about the injury since the end of the season. He decided not to play for Latvia in the Olympics so that he could focus on adding muscle, working with teammates, and staying healthy under the watchful eye of Knicks' trainers. Touches are still a concern with Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose alongside him, but KP is poised for a big year regardless.
Soon after Jodie Meeks was acquired by the Magic in June, he declared that his surgically-repaired right foot was "fully healed." In a perfect object lesson for fantasy owners, it was less than three weeks after that statement that he had another procedure on the same foot. That mid-July surgery leaves him out indefinitely, and the Magic have enough depth that they won't be rushing back their oft-injured veteran.
C.J. Wilcox had surgery in early July to repair his broken right hand, with an expected recovery time of 4-6 weeks. He's spent most of his time in the D-League, but could carve out a reserve SG role with Meeks out of commission.
After multiple foot surgeries which delayed the start of his NBA career, Joel Embiid is the elephant in the Sixers' training room. He was cleared for 5-on-5 scrimmages in late June and was reportedly fine a few weeks later, and everything points toward a debut during the 2016-17 season. When he does hit the court he will assuredly be handled with delicacy, in terms of playing time, and (I'm speculating) there's always the possibility of precautionary DNPs. All of which makes him a supremely risky stash.
Jahlil Okafor needed right knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus in March, which came with a 4-6 week timetable. That ruled him out for the regular season and has limited him all summer. He did go through non-contact drills with the Team USA Select Team prior to the Olympics, which team president Bryan Colangelo said was because Okafor was "simply not in the kind of basketball condition required to compete at this level." His value could shift for better or worse if he's eventually traded, which adds another level of uncertainty to Okafor's outlook.
Nik Stauskas appeared in 73 games last year, but his effectiveness was limited by injuries to his shin, neck, shoulder and knees -- all of this following an offseason during which he was recovering from a right tibia stress reaction. He skipped the Olympics and was lousy in limited action during Summer League, and there's no reason to recommend him as a flier target. It's tough for a purported shooting guard to have value when they've gone 37.8 percent from the field in their career.
We're also likely to hear something about Carl Landry's health before long, but for now the veteran is on pace to begin the season without any limitations.
DeMarre Carroll played through pain in his right knee to begin the season but ultimately needed arthroscopic surgery, forcing him to sit out until the final week of the regular season. He said he was only "70 to 75 percent" healthy in the playoffs, which (unlike most players) seems like a conservative estimate -- he was also dealing with ankle, wrist, hip and elbow ailments. The good news is that he had the entire offseason to get his body right, setting him up for retribution in his second season with Toronto.
Delon Wright dislocated his right shoulder during Summer League and needed arthroscopic surgery to fix a labral tear. He was expected to miss "at least four months," which ensures that he'll miss some time to begin the season. Even when he's fully recovered, Wright isn't a fantasy option with Cory Joseph and Kyle Lowry on the roster.
Bradley Beal inked a max contract this summer, worth $128 million over five years, which is a clear indication that the Wizards aren't paranoid about his frequent right leg injuries. One day after the signing was announced, Beal stated that he hasn't had "any soreness" in his leg, and that it was "probably the best offseason" he's had in his brief career.
John Wall had surgery on both of his knees this offseason. He had calcific deposits removed from his left patella tendon, and loose bodies removed from his right knee, with both procedures designed to reduce pain and avoid bigger problems in the future. The left knee surgery reportedly could have sidelined him for a few months if it happened during the season, and he's said that he won't rush his return to the court. “I’m just taking it day by day and just hopeful that I’m ready for the opening of the season," he said in August. This is obviously a reason to discount his value on draft day.