Fantasy Basketball: Injured players to monitor closely during draft season

By Nick WhalenRotoWire

Special to Yahoo Sports

Paul George, Los Angeles Clippers

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George was clearly hampered by a rotator cuff issue in his right shoulder in the second half of last season, and he underwent a pair of procedures on each shoulder this offseason. To date, neither George nor the Clippers have handed down a concrete timetable. At his introductory press conference in July, George had the following to say: “There’s no set date. I’ve been progressing really well. I’m at a great point in my rehab. We’ll take our time and look forward to returning whenever that day is.”

Shortly after, somewhat of a consensus appeared to emerge suggesting George could miss as much as the first six weeks of the regular season, though it’s very much unclear if that will be the case. Fantasy-wise, George’s stock should be discounted slightly given the possibility of missed time to begin the year, but he has recently been working out at the Clippers’ facility and doesn’t appear to be limited.

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Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans

Deep vein thrombosis put an end to Ingram’s final season in Los Angeles, and the condition has kept him limited for much of the offseason. However, Ingram was cleared last week for full participation in the Pelicans’ voluntary offseason workouts. While the blood clot issue, which affected his right arm, will continue to require monitoring, the expectation is that Ingram will enter the regular season fully healthy.

Lonzo Ball, New Orleans Pelicans

Like Ingram, Ball was also cleared for full participation in offseason workouts as he prepares to take the reins of the Pelicans’ offense alongside Jrue Holiday. Ball suffered a sprained ankle back on Jan. 19, and it caused him to miss the Lakers’ final 35 contests. The UCLA product also missed 30 games as a rookie, though there’s reason to believe his early career injury woes may be related to some questionable footwear choices. Whether that’s true or not, Ball will need to prove he can hold up for 82 games before shaking the “injury prone” label that hangs over his fantasy stock.

Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers

Still working back from a ruptured quad tendon suffered back in January, Oladipo will almost certainly miss the start of the regular season. It remains to be seen just how much time he’ll miss, but coach Nate McMillan recently confirmed that Oladipo is yet to progress to full-contact. "He's not playing live but he's moving. He's in a good position mentally," McMillan said. "He feels that everything is going well. I like what I see with him. ... He's doing great. He's not doing any live contact, still in that rehab stage of working with the trainers.

While Oladipo’s rehab appears to be going well, McMillan added that even he has not been privy to any sort of timetable. "I just know [opening night on Oct. 23] he probably won't be there,” McMillan said. “The time frame, we have no idea of when he will return."

So long as Oladipo is sidelined, Malcolm Brogdon will likely operate as the Pacers’ primary initiator, with fellow new additions Jeremy Lamb and T.J. Warren also in line for increased roles.

Wendell Carter, Bulls

After losing 38 games to a thumb injury as a rookie, the second-year center underwent surgery in early July to repair a core muscle injury. And while the Bulls haven’t provided much in the way of an update in the two-plus months since, all indications are that Carter, who was initially given a 6-to-8-week timetable, should be at full strength when the regular season opens. A lottery pick in 2018, Carter projects to be the every-night starter at center — a position at which the Bulls don’t have extensive, experienced depth.

Kristaps Porzingis, Dallas Mavericks

Porzingis hasn’t played in an NBA game since February of 2018, so he’s had nearly 19 months to recover from the torn ACL that ultimately ended his tenure in New York. Porzingis has been scrimmaging at full speed in recent weeks and drawing rave reviews from teammates, so his health shouldn’t be an issue when the regular season begins. However, it remains to be seen if the Mavericks will implement any sort of load management schedule in an effort to limit the strain on the 7-foot-3 forward.

Can Kristaps Porzingis return to his previous form? (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images)
Can Kristaps Porzingis return to his previous form? (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images)

Michael Porter, Jr., Denver Nuggets

After spending his entire rookie season rehabbing from a back injury, Porter was prepared to make his highly anticipated debut at the Las Vegas Summer League. However, he tweaked his ankle just days before play began, and the Nuggets ultimately held him out, likely on a precautionary basis. As a result, Porter still carries a degree of mystery given his pedigree as one of the highest-rated high school players in his class, but even if he’s able to stay healthy this season, his path to minutes on a deep Denver roster will be a difficult one.

Blake Griffin, Detroit Pistons

After limping through a first-round sweep at the hands of the Bucks, Griffin underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee in April. He returned to basketball activities in July, and while he’s expected to be fully healthy for the start of the season, Griffin figures to receive more nights off for rest purposes in 2019-20. Per Keith Langlois of Pistons.com, Griffin could be limited to fewer than 70 games after he appeared in 75 contests a year ago.

Kyle Anderson, Memphis Grizzlies

A shoulder injury limited Anderson to only 43 games in his first year with the Grizzlies, but the 26 year old should enter 2019-20 at full health. The starting small forward job appears to be Anderson’s for the taking, though he could face additional competition for minutes this season in the form of Brandon Clarke, Jae Crowder, and Josh Jackson.

Jusuf Nurkic, Portland Trail Blazers

Nurkic’s late-season broken leg was one of the year’s most gruesome injuries, but Nurkic was lucky to avoid any nerve or muscle damage in his lower left leg. Still, multiple compound fractures will keep Nurkic on the shelf for several more months. The Blazers are yet to hand down a timetable, but Nurkic was already putting weight on the leg in mid-June, suggesting he could be ahead of schedule. Given the expectation that he could miss 40-plus games, Nurkic will be available at a deep discount in drafts and auctions, and he may be worth a flyer if you can spare an IR spot.

Robert Covington, Timberwolves

An arthroscopic knee procedure put an end to Covington’s 2018-19 season shortly after the Timberwolves acquired him from Philadelphia in the Jimmy Butler deal. Now fully healthy, Covington is expected to step back in as the Wolves’ starting power forward alongside Karl-Anthony Towns. When healthy, Covington is among the league’s best three-and-D wings, but the fact that he’s missed at least 15 games in three of the last four seasons must be taken into account.

Dejounte Murray, Spurs

Murray got the all-clear from the Spurs’ medical staff back in August as he preps to take over as the starting point guard. San Antonio was expecting a breakout from the Washington product a year ago before a torn ACL in the preseason sidelined him for the entire season. Murray is not yet a proven commodity, but he carries plenty of upside, especially on the defensive end, after averaging 1.2 steals and 0.4 blocks in just 21.5 minutes per game in 2017-18.

Isaiah Thomas, Wizards

Thomas hasn’t been an effective NBA player since 2016-17, but he’ll attempt to get his career back on track in Washington as the likely backup to Ish Smith. Thomas’ comeback tour hit a bit of a snag last week, however, as he suffered a torn radial collateral ligament in his left thumb during a pickup game. The injury is expected to sideline Thomas for 6-to-8 weeks, meaning his Wizards debut will likely be delayed until sometime in November.

Notable players who will miss most, if not all, of the 2019-20 season: Kevin Durant, Nets; DeMarcus Cousins, Lakers; Klay Thompson, Warriors; John Wall, Wizards

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