Paused Season Gives Playoff Teams Time to Get Healthy

by March 18, 2020
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The 2019-20 NBA season remains in limbo. Play was suspended with 15-18 games left to play per team. Both the NBA and NBPA have suggested they’d like to see this season resumed, even if it means a different schedule that what remains.

Returning to play and starting right back up with the NBA Playoffs has not been ruled out. The playoffs are the league’s most lucrative and highest-viewed games of the season. All parties will do what they can to avoid sacrificing playoff games.

One thing the paused season is doing is allowing those playoff teams to get healthy. Almost all of the current 16 playoff teams was dealing with injuries on some front. Here’s where each team stood when play was suspended and where they could be when play resumes.

Eastern Conference

Milwaukee Bucks

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo had suffered a sprained left knee shortly before the season was suspended. Antetokounmpo was looking like he would return from it in relatively short order though. That means the reigning MVP should be ready to go when the season resumes.

Toronto Raptors

  • Marc Gasol had recently returned from a strained left hamstring. He was going to be spotted rest days to keep him healthy, and now has plenty of recovery time.
  • Norman Powell went down with a sprained left ankle two days before play was suspended. The team said it wasn’t serious, so Powell should be healthy upon resumption of play.
  • Fred VanVleet had been out for a couple of weeks with a sore left shoulder. He was expected to return soon, so the downtime will only make that more likely.

Boston Celtics

  • Jaylen Brown had missed five straight games with a strained right hamstring before the season was suspended. The time off gives Brown, who is also suffering from an ankle injury, time to get right. He should be fine when play resumes.
  • Gordon Hayward and Kemba Walker have both dealt with recurring soreness throughout the season. Hayward still has issues with left foot/ankle from when he broke his leg a couple of years ago. Walker has battled left soreness. The time off should allow both veterans to get the rest they need.

Miami Heat

  • Jimmy Butler injured his left toe a week before the pause. He downplayed the injury, so he should be fine when the season starts back up.
  • Meyers Leonard had been out over a month with a badly sprained left ankle. The time off should give him the time he needs to be ready for the re-start.

Indiana Pacers

  • Victor Oladipo has dealt with residual soreness in his back and legs since his return from knee surgery. The time off will only help him manage that.
  • Malcolm Brogdon has had seven different injury this season. The latest was a tear in his left quad. As this happened shortly before the season was suspended, there is no official timeline for Brogdon’s return. This is one to keep an eye on.
  • Doug McDermott had been battling a sore right big toe, but should be ready to go when play resumes.

Philadelphia 76ers

  • Ben Simmons was essentially ruled out for the remainder of the regular season schedule shortly before play was suspended due to a nerve impingement in his back. There might not be a player who could benefit more from the downtime than Simmons. He may have missed time in the postseason had things stayed on schedule. Now Simmons could be ready to go when things start back up again.

Brooklyn Nets

  • Could Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving return if the season starts back up in a month or two and it’s right into the playoffs? It’s probably a no for both players, but the door was left open a bit for Durant. The plan is to keep him out, but as his business manager Rich Kleiman said “Could that change? I guess it could change.” Durant was one of four Nets to test positive for coronavirus, but that shouldn’t have any bearing on him being able to play one way or the other.
  • The Nets ruled Irving out for the season following shoulder surgery, but that’s when the season was set to end on time. Irving is probably still out, but expect the question to at least be asked.
  • Three unnamed Nets, beyond Durant, also tested positive for COVID-19. It’s expected that they’ll have made a full recovery before play resumes.

Orlando Magic

  • In mid-February the Orlando Magic said Jonathan Isaac would not return this season. The NBA had previously denied Orlando’s petition for a Disabled Player Exception for Isaac, which lent some credence to the belief he could come back this year. How the season being stretched out impacts that is an unknown at this point.
  • Al-Farouq Aminu was originally though to be out for the year, but shed his knee brace recently. His quicker than expected recovery, combined with the pause in the season, means he could return this year.

Western Conference

Los Angeles Lakers

  • Outside of some minor bumps and bruises, the Lakers went into the break in play healthy and ready to go.

Los Angeles Clippers

  • Lou Williams had a sore right calf right before play was suspended, but should be fine when things pick back up. He’s the only LA rotation player dealing with even a minor injury.

Denver Nuggets

  • After a season filled with injuries, the Nuggets were finally healthy. They’ll hope to stay that way when play resumes.

Utah Jazz

  • Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell both tested positive for coronavirus, but are expected to be healthy and ready to go when the season restarts.

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • Rookie forward Darius Bazley suffered a right knee bruise that was expected to keep him out for the remainder of the regular season. He’s now likely to be ready to return when play starts back up again.

Houston Rockets

  • The Rockets were fully healthy when the season paused. Houston had been going small and playing only about eight players a night. The extra rest will certainly benefit them.

Dallas Mavericks

  • Jalen Brunson was the only Mavs regular dealing with anything beyond bumps and bruises. He chose to have shoulder surgery, after previously electing to play through a right labrum tear. Brunson could be back, but it’s expected he’ll be out whenever the season restarts.

Memphis Grizzlies

  • Memphis was really banged up. Starting forward Jaren Jackson Jr. was out with a sprained left knee, but was closing in on a return. He should be good to go when play picks back up.
  • Brandon Clarke was down for the Grizzlies frontcourt. He had a right quad injury, but the team had announced he was progressing well before the shutdown. He should be ready when the season resumes.
  • Justise Winslow had yet to make his Memphis debut when play was suspended. He was upgraded to questionable just before the stoppage of play, so he could be ready when games resume.