NBA injury report: Return timeline, updates, impact for Paul Millsap, DeMarcus Cousins, Victor Oladipo, other injured stars
A regularly updated look at the injuries that are causing the biggest stir across the NBA
The Denver Nuggets are suddenly in a rough spot. On Friday, Paul Millsap broke his toe in Charlotte. On Saturday, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Gary Harris would be out for 3-4 weeks because of a hip injury. The Nuggets' strong start to the season has them in good position, but their depth is going to be tested and their loss in Atlanta on Saturday was a bit concerning.
We have every single NBA injury chronicled here and updated multiple times a day to let you know who is in or out for tonight's games 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. This list is ordered chronologically based on updates, with the newest news first:
NBA's biggest injuries
Dec. 9 update: Millsap is integral to Denver's fourth-ranked defense, and the team has also been 5.6 points per 100 possessions better on offense with him on the court this season. As long as he's out, Trey Lyles will get major minutes, and coach Michael Malone will have to figure out whether or not he is comfortable giving Nikola Jokic and Mason Plumlee more minutes together. As we saw last season, the Nuggets are a completely different team without Millsap, but his absence will be felt even more now that two other starters -- Gary Harris and Will Barton -- are out of the lineup.
Harris is not having his most efficient season, but Denver still relies on him to fill in the gaps as a playmaker, floor spacer and defender. This team is now awfully thin on the wing, with Torrey Craig forced to start at shooting guard and Juancho Hernangomez at small forward. The Nuggets are lucky that Monte Morris has been so solid; Malone will play the backup point guard next to Jamal Murray in the backcourt when he can get away with it.
The Pacers went 0-7 in game's Oladipo missed last season and were outscored by 7.9 possessions when he wasn't on the court. This year, however, has been a different story: Indiana is 6-4 since he hurt his knee (or 7-4 if you include its win against the Hawks when he left the game after five minutes), and it has a minus-0.3 net rating with him off the court. "We understood the void we had to fill," guard Darren Collison said, via the Indianapolis Star, and the front office strengthened the bench in the offseason. The weird part of this storyline, though, is that Tyreke Evans has not shot well for the Pacers, and he has yet to play 30 minutes in a game, even with Oladipo out.
Statistically, the Warriors missed Green's defense about as much as they missed Stephen Curry's offense: on the season, they have been 8.6 points per 100 possessions better defensively with him on the court. This shouldn't be surprising, as he is one of the best defenders of all-time and the backbone of what his team has done on that end of the court throughout its historic run. Steve Kerr said Sunday that Green will be back on the floor against Minnesota on Monday, via ESPN -- this should help Golden State's 18th-ranked defense get back to normal.
The big man still does not have an official timetable to return, but Kerr said on Friday that he would practice with the G-League's Santa Cruz Warriors "in the next couple weeks," via the San Jose Mercury News. Kerr also said Cousins could possibly even suit up for Santa Cruz before making his return with Golden State. Obviously, integrating him into the system will be the Warriors' biggest challenge in between now and the playoffs, aside from simply staying as healthy and harmonious as possible.
After Fultz saw some specialists in New York, his agent, Raymond Brothers, announced that the guard had been diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. (ESPN reported that "there's optimism" about a three-to-six-week rehabilitation process. As confusing as this whole saga has been, everyone can agree it would be fantastic if this diagnosis leads to some real progress as Fultz tries to become a shooter again. In the meantime, T.J. McConnell has been capably handling the backup point guard spot -- the only time Philadelphia has really missed Fultz, based on the way he started the season, is when it needs some more defensive versatility on the wing..) He is officially out indefinitely, but
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.
The Lakers announced Saturday that Ingram's sprained left ankle would be re-evaluated in a week. He suffered the injury against the Spurs on Wednesday -- the game in which LeBron James went off for 42 points in a comeback victory -- and will miss their upcoming games against the Heat, Rockets and Hornets at minimum. Ingram has not had the breakout season everybody was hoping for, but he is one of Los Angeles' main ballhandlers -- with Rajon Rondo still sidelined, coach Luke Walton doesn't have a lot of playmaking on the court when James and Lonzo Ball are sitting.
It has been a long road back for Knight, but he played a real professional basketball game on Nov. 30, suiting up for the G-League's Rio Grande Valley Vipers on assignment from the Rockets. He has since been recalled, but has yet to make his Houston debut. It is unclear if Knight has much of a future with this team, but the way it has started the season, it could use any help it can get.
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.
Dec. 3 update: Devin Booker left the Suns' game against the Lakers on Sunday with a hamstring issue, and unfortunately, it's not clear when he'll be back. Gina Mizell of The Athletic reported that there is currently no timetable for Booker's return, as the star guard said that he plans to be cautious and take his time with his recovery.
Nov. 29 update: There was a mini-controversy earlier this month when coach David Fizdale apparently didn't know that Porzingis had started sprinting, but hey, the fact that something this minor qualifies as a controversy now is a step forward for New York. Porzingis told GQ somewhat recently that his rehab is "coming to an end" and said that "now that it's getting closer, I can taste it." None of that, however, should pass as a real update on his status.
He remains out indefinitely, and as the New York Post's Marc Berman put it, if he doesn't return to practice soon, he won't be back for a "Merry Kristaps." Without their franchise player, the Knicks have mostly struggled this season, with an offense that doesn't create many high-value shots and a defense that surrenders a lot of them. They have been much more fun lately, though, with just about all of their young players at least showing flashes of more-than-competence.
Love appeared on ESPN's The Jump with Channing Frye and former teammate Richard Jefferson on Nov. 20 and said that he expected to return "after the new year." He had surgery in early November and has been seen rehabbing without a walking boot recently, per Cleveland.com's Chris Fedor. The Cavs were probably never going to be good this season -- they started 0-4 with Love in the lineup -- but his absence has been devastating to their hopes of being competitive. Cleveland is 24th in offensive rating and 29th in effective field goal percentage largely because it hasn't had the guy who was supposed to be the focal point of its attack. The bright side: It will all but certainly keep its top-10-protected first-round pick now.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told the Dallas Morning News' Eddie Sefko that he expects Nowitzki back in the next two weeks. Nowitzki said he "could probably go out there and play a few minutes" now, but there's no need to rush. While everybody should be excited about seeing him pick-and-pop with Luka Doncic before passing the torch, Nowitzki is absolutely right: Dallas has won seven of eight games and looks like a possible playoff team without him, so it's not like the team is desperate for a shakeup in the rotation. When he does come back, it will be interesting to see where Rick Carlisle finds minutes for him now that DeAndre Jordan is in the picture -- he might not be able to play much center anymore unless you consider him a power forward when playing next to Dwight Powell.
There is never a good time to suffer an ugly leg injury, but it's particularly awful when you're playing at an elite level for the first time. LeVert wasn't even penciled in as a starter before he started schooling everybody in scrimmages a couple of months ago, but he was so phenomenal at the beginning of the season that the Nets were thinking big. He might have been an All-Star this season, and he might have led them to the playoffs. Since he went down, Brooklyn has gone 2-6, but that doesn't tell the whole story: Its offense is extremely dependent on Spencer Dinwiddie and D'Angelo Russell, and fourth-quarter execution has been a major problem. LeVert is obviously missed, but at least the damage wasn't as serious as it looked live.
Dragic has been dealing with a knee injury for three weeks, even though he played four games in the middle of November. Friday's game against the Pelicans will be his sixth straight absence, and the Heat are feeling the pain. They are 2-8 on the year with Dragic out and have lost eight of their last 10 games overall, leaving them hovering around the Bulls and Knicks in the Eastern Conference standings largely because their offense has been an absolute mess. They have quite a bit of depth, but Dragic is supposed to keep them organized and Miami has dealt with other backcourt injuries, too: Tyler Johnson is still out with a hamstring injury and Dion Waiters is still recovering from ankle surgery.
The hyperactive Barton isn't usually thought of as a calming presence, but I believe he could bring some stability to a Denver team that has been excellent in the big picture but, sometimes frustratingly, inconsistent. While Juancho Hernangomez, Torrey Craig and Malik Beasley have largely held the fort, I'll bet the Nuggets wouldn't have lost six of seven games in the middle of the month if Barton was filling the gaps for them. They need his playmaking, especially in crunch time, and they could use his defensive versatility, too.
The Pelicans' preferred starting five -- Payton, Jrue Holiday, E'Twaun Moore, Nikola Mirotic and Anthony Davis -- has a plus-21.5 net rating, but they've only shared the floor for 65 minuets spread over five games. Payton had surgery last week and it came with a recovery timetable of six weeks, so New Orleans is looking for answers at the point guard spot aside from simply asking Holiday to .
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich revealed Wednesday that Pau Gasol has a stretch fracture in his left foot, so he will be out for a while, per Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News. It sort of feels like San Antonio's season is cursed, and Popovich was correct when he said the team missed his passing on the second unit. It's messed up that the Spurs don't have many good passers anymore. Gasol hasn't played since Nov. 4.
It should shock no one that Rondo wants to come back early -- Brandon Ingram said the point guard has "been trying to practice ever since the first day he broke his hand," via the Los Angeles Times' Tania Ganguli. The Lakers have been 3-3 since Rondo got hurt, but the last one -- a 117-85 defeat in Denver -- was embarrassing. It's sort of strange that, for all the complaints that have been levied against Los Angeles' roster construction, it is rarely mentioned that the front office decided not to have a third-string point guard. Ingram has basically become Lonzo Ball's backup lately, and the ball just isn't popping around like it should be.
Howard now needs back surgery on two discs, per Stadium's Shams Charania, and the optimistic timeline is set at eight weeks. It is tempting to say that the Wizards, an awful defensive and rebounding team, could use Howard in the lineup. This, however, ignores that they have actually been worse on both ends with Howard on the court this season. If he ever eventually helps Washington, it will be because he addresses the injuries that have bothered him all season -- rather than accompany the team to New Orleans on Wednesday, he went to Los Angeles to see a nerve specialist to try to do just that.
Mbah a Moute's status has been confusing, as his sore left knee was not seen as a big deal when it started bothering him five weeks ago. On Wednesday, Clippers coach Doc Rivers said he doesn't have a clue when the forward would be back, adding that he's "not close," via the Los Angeles Times' Andrew Greif. Fortunately for Los Angeles, the roster is that it hasn't really needed Mbah a Moute. When he is back in the lineup, it will make the already-difficult job of balancing the rotation even more complicated for Rivers' staff. It is incredible that the Clippers have built a top-10 defense with one of the smartest and most versatile defenders in the game sitting there in a suit for all but 61 minutes of their season.
Thomas doesn't officially have a timetable, but ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported in early November that he should be back at some point in December. We should all hope that, this time, he is fully healthy and capable of doing the things he did a few years ago. The tricky part about this situation, though, is that backup guard Monte Morris has been way too good for the Nuggets to simply sideline him. Minutes are going to be hard to come by.
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.
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