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Offseason Beat

Eastern Conference Injury Roundup

by Jonas Nader
Updated On: May 5, 2020, 3:12 pm ET

What’s up everyone! It’s been close to two months since I’ve written up a column but it certainly feels like a lot longer. No one knows what’s going to happen with the NBA in the coming months but it’s hard to not get excited about all the promising updates we’ve been getting from practice facilities gradually opening back up to the NBA discussing venues such as Disney World or Vegas to resume the season this summer.  

It’s too early to say what that means for fantasy basketball since we don’t know if the NBA will try to squeeze in some regular season action or go directly to the playoffs, but I figured it would be a good idea to round up all the latest injury news in one place to get everyone back up to speed. Keep in mind that my focus is on the household names for fantasy basketball so don’t get upset when I don’t provide an update on Chandler Hutchison and Andre Roberson

For NBA news and fantasy advice, you can find me on Twitter here! I'll start off with the Eastern Conference this week and then take a look at the Western Conference in the coming days. 


Clint Capela

Clint Capela has been battling plantar fasciitis since Dec. 22, and even with some maintenance-related DNPs with the Rockets, the injury kept getting worse which forced their hand to shut him down. After joining the Hawks in early February, the franchise was adamant that he wasn’t going to debut for them until he was 100%. It was looking increasingly likely that his season was over before the league was suspended for Covid-19, but a return to action may be on the table if the NBA goes forward with some regular season action as opposed to going straight to the playoffs. 

Capela had progressed to participating in half-court workouts right before the NBA was put on hold, and he said on April 20 that his pain range was 3-5 compared to 5-7 a month before. As far as fantasy value goes, I think the trade improves Capela’s stock. The Hawks play at a blistering pace just like the Rockets (both teams are in the top six of that metric), and while both teams rank near the bottom of the NBA in postups, that’s not Capela’s style anyways. Instead, he’s going to make a living cleaning up the glass, protecting the rim, setting wide screens for Trae Young and feasting off lobs from one of the best playmakers in the world. To put into perspective just how much playing with Trae could help Capela, Trae helped Damian Jones of all people rank in the 95th percentile as a roll man -- Capela ranked in the 52nd percentile in Houston. 

Capela is going to be a rock solid source of FG% and boards in Atlanta, and the blocks should be elite too after bouncing back from a down 2018-19 season. Despite being hobbled, Capela posted the third highest block rate of his career with 2.0 swats per 36 minutes. Capela is 27th in per-game value for 9-cat as it stands, so there’s plenty of reason for optimism if he can put the durability concerns behind him -- he was averaging less than 71 games per season for four straight years even before this injury-plagued campaign. 

Jaylen Brown 

Jaylen Brown injured his right hamstring back on March 3rd and has since made a full recovery. According to his trainer Desmond Eastmond back on April 23rd, Brown "wouldn't miss a beat" if the season resumed right away. This means we can expect him to be all systems go with little to no restrictions when the NBA is back in our lives. 

Brown was in the midst of a breakout season, posting top-70 numbers (per-game) in 9-cat leagues with 20.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.2 dimes, 1.1 steals, 0.3 blocks and 2.1 triples on a 49/38/73 shooting line. That’s a massive jump for a player who averaged 13.0 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.9 steals and 1.3 blocks with a 46/34/65 line last season. Safe to say he doesn’t miss playing with Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving

Speaking of Kyrie, we’ve heard little to nothing about his progress since he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder back on March 3rd. The Nets ruled him out for the season at the time, and the fact that he had a right knee sprain too made the decision even easier. He tried to delay the surgery until the offseason when he opted for a cortisone shot in his shoulder back in January, but it only bought him a little bit of time before it flared back up on him. 

As far as timetables go, Dr. John Kelly IV told the New York Daily News back on April 20 that Kyrie was likely looking at a 6-month timetable which would be in early September. With the NBA kicking around the idea of starting the 2020-21 season in December, that may be the earliest we see Kyrie back on an NBA floor. 

He’s likely going to be one of the most polarizing players in fantasy basketball next season. Despite a lengthy history and an average of 59 games played over the past eight seasons, he still hasn’t been discounted much in drafts with an ADP of 12 this season. I’m curious to see how the fantasy community values him in 2020-21, but I don’t see myself taking the plunge unless he falls to the turn of rounds 2-3 and I don’t think he will because of his name value. 

Kevin Durant

Durant and the Nets have been on the same page all year in regards to sitting out until the 2020-21 season. Assuming that season doesn’t begin until December based on previous reports, that would give him roughly 18 months of recovery time. That’s not to say he won’t have restrictions because KD will be 32 years old and playing for a team that has been super cautious with injuries, so I would guess the over/under for games played will be around 72. 

Mike Gallagher did a deep dive on KD’s fantasy value recently, so check that out here (link). He pegged him as a pick in the 10-14 range, and as of right now we’re on the same page if he continues to check all the boxes of his rehab. The reports out of Brooklyn have been glowing, with teammate Theo Pinson recently saying that KD has been “unguardable” in 3-on-3 workouts. 

Kris Dunn

Dunn was diagnosed with a sprained right MCL back on Feb. 2. Later on Feb. 19th, the Bulls said he would be re-evaluated in 4-6 weeks. Obviously that re-evaluation never happened as far as we know because of the pandemic, and while the Bulls ruled him out for the season back in early March, you never know if they will change their stance with so much time off. Plus, with a new front office I’m sure they’d love to get a longer look at him before his restricted free agency. 

Dunn came into the year with his Chicago career on life support with trade rumors constantly swirling, but he started making noise in the preseason and it carried over into the regular season when he earned a starting role as a defensive enforcer. He had the best steal rate in the NBA at 2.9 per 36 minutes, and he had the second best defensive box plus/minus in the NBA. While his offensive production wasn’t exactly head turning, he was actually an 8th-round value in 9-cat fantasy leagues on the back of his steal rate. I think his market this summer is going to surprise some people. 

Blake Griffin

Griffin underwent a successful arthroscopic debridement of his left knee back on January 7th and was not given a timetable. Given Blake’s history and Detroit’s record, it’s safe to say that the earliest we will see Blake back on the court is for the beginning of the 2020-21 season. His rehab is going well though and he has looked noticeably more trim. “It’s great. Feel great. Making sure we check every box, so I’m taking it day by day – or week by week, really,” Griffin said in a feature with NBA.com. “We kind of have our check-ins and plan out the week ahead and we accomplish that and move on.” 

He’s going to be on a lot of do-not-draft lists in 2020-21 and for good reason, as he recently turned 31 and he’s played an average of 52 games for the past six seasons with a growing list of injury red flags. You also have to wonder if he even has a future on the rebuilding Pistons with Christian Wood and Sekou Doumbouya in need of more reps. 

Luke Kennard

Kennard was having his best season as a pro before it was derailed by soreness in both knees. He was sidelined for a few months and nearly traded to the Suns, but right before the season was suspended, Kennard was supposed to make his return to the court on March 14th according to beat writer Keith Langlois. 

“We’re starting to figure out what I can do to prevent it from happening again,” Kennard said in a feature for NBA.com. “There’s some strengthening stuff around my legs I need to work on, some mechanical stuff, mobility stuff. It’s something I’ve got to be doing every day now, something I can prevent from happening again, which is a positive sign.”

Kennard should be all systems go if the NBA resumes this summer like we’re all hoping. Entering the fourth and final season of his rookie contract, Kennard has already established himself as an elite shooter but he’s also going to get an extended look as a primary playmaker. Per NBA.com, Kennard ranked in the 80th percentile as a pick-and-roll ball handler with 0.96 points per possession. As far as fantasy value goes, he has shown enough promise to become a mid-round fantasy value as soon as next season with averages of 15.8 points, 4.1 assists and 2.6 triples. 

Jonathan Isaac

Isaac was diagnosed with a severe sprain and bone bruise back in early January, though it wasn’t nearly as bad as it looked. In fact, there wasn’t even any structural damage. While the Magic initially ruled him out for the season before the pandemic hit, Isaac recently said on April 30th that he could return for the playoffs if he's "110 percent" and everybody is comfortable with him playing. 

“My knee is getting better by the day and I’m looking forward to getting back to the arena pretty soon here to get back to work on my rehab at the arena and not just doing it in my home,’’ Isaac said. His injury was such a buzzkill because he was breaking out right before our eyes. He was ranked 16th in 9-cat at the time, averaging 12.0 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.6 steals, 2.4 blocks and 0.9 triples. 

The blocks jumping from 1.3 per game in 2018-19 to 2.4 is the main catalyst, but the positive regression with his steal rate helped too. After averaging 2.2 steals per 36 minutes as a rookie, it dipped to 1.1 per 36 in 2018-19 before rebounding back up to 1.9 per 36 this season. He might be the modern day version of Shawn Marion and could enter the first round conversation in the near future for category leagues. 

Evan Fournier

We haven’t had an update on Fournier in quite some time. He was diagnosed with a right elbow UCL sprain back in early March and was never given a timetable. Coach Steve Clifford said on March 6 that the injury would "keep him out for an extended period of time," but that’s all we had to work with until Josh Robbins of The Athletic delivered. In a recent column, Robbins said that Fournier is expected to make a full recovery by the time the suspended NBA season resumes. That’s wonderful news for an Orlando team that was pushing for a playoff spot, as Fournier was having one of the best seasons of his career with a career-high 18.8 points, 3.2 assists, 1.1 steals and 2.7 triples on 47% shooting. He was playing at a 6th-round level in 9-cat and has set himself up for a big payday this summer if he declines his $17M option. 

Malcolm Brogdon

Brogdon played just 48 out of 65 games so far this season due to a variety of ailments. His most recent injury was a torn left rectus femoris which was diagnosed back on March 7th, but as of April 25th, he claimed he was 100%. 

Brogdon fared well in his first extended run as a point guard, averaging career-highs in points (16.3), assists (7.1) and rebounds (4.7). He was playing at a 6th-round value in 9-cat if you take away the missed games, but it’s going to be interesting to see how he fares alongside another ball-dominant guard in Victor Oladipo. The early returns suggest that Brogdon’s value is going to take a pretty big hit;

Brogdon’s per-36 stats without Oladipo: 20.1 points, 8.6 assists and 1.6 triples. 

Brogdon’s per-36 stats with Oladipo (242 minute sample): 14.6 points, 7.1 assists and 0.9 triples. 

Ben Simmons

The time off has done wonders for Simmons’ back by all accounts. According to ESPN's Jackie MacMillan, Simmons has not suffered any setbacks and "will be good to go as his lower back impingement has all but dissipated." A team source also indicated to Jackie that the 76ers are expecting to have Simmons back in their lineup as soon as the season resumes. 

Averaging roughly 17/8/8 with 2.1 steals and 0.6 blocks, Simmons was on pace for a top-35 season in 9-cat but his value skyrockets in punt-3 and/or punt FT% roster builds. If you draft Giannis Antetokounmpo next season, Simmons would be the perfect complement in Round 2. 

John Wall

Wall underwent surgery on his ruptured Achilles tendon back in February of 2019 but he and the Wizards have maintained that he won’t play no matter what in 2019-20. That will set him up to return to the court for the 2020-21 season which will likely begin this December, giving him close to two years of rehab. 

Wall has looked incredible in some recently surfaced videos, dunking all over some G League players and showcasing his trademark burst on drives. I haven’t thought much about where to target him in 2020-21 drafts, but with assists being the most coveted category in the early rounds I don’t think he’s going to be discounted too much from all the time off and durability concerns. Round 4 is probably the earliest I’d feel comfortable taking the plunge.