With the All-Star game in the books and the trade deadline days away, fantasy owners are entering a critical stretch toward the playoffs that could determine their team's fate. With several players yet to play this season, let's take a look at the injuries that could shape the fantasy landscape.
The Warriors played the first half of their schedule without Bogut and still managed to be a surprise team in the West. The team has strangely struggled since the Aussie returned but they could be attributed to the fact that he has been forced in and out of the lineup as the team elected to ease him back into the rotation and hold him out of the second game of back-to-backs. However the restrictions should be lifted coming out of the break and stability should return to the Warriors starting five. Bogut underwent offseason microfracture surgery on his problematic left ankle. His numbers this season have been respectable as he has averaged 7.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game in limited minutes. Those numbers should steadily rise as his minutes increase but patience remains a must. Don't be surprised to see him struggle initially as he adjusts to his expanded role as conditioning will be a factor.
Drummond has been one of the more productive rookies this season but is currently sidelined with a stress fracture in his lower back. The crack is isolated specifically to his fifth lumbar vertebrae. The spine is divided into four main segments, the cervical spine, the thoracic spine, the lumbar spine, and finally the sacral region. The lumber region is made up of five vertebras that allow for a high degree of movement and flexibility. The lumbar vertebrae are the largest in size as well because they are responsible for the bearing the majority of the body's weight. Unfortunately the high amounts of stress placed in and through the area leave it susceptible to injury. It's not hard to imagine how an individual that has a 6'10" frame weighing 270 develops a stress fracture in this region.
Drummond's injury is fairly common and is known as a spondylolysis. In this condition the bone cracks but does not shift. If a shift occurs it becomes another, more serious condition known as spondylolisthesis, made infamous by Lakers point guard Steve Nash. Fortunately Drummond hasn't reached this point and his problem is best treated conservatively. He has been wearing a brace and has already reported an improvement. He still remains several weeks away but he appears set to return on the earlier side of his estimated timetable.
Gordon's a guy whose name keeps popping up on in trade rumors and on medical reports. Gordon missed 29 games to start the season recovering from a patellar tendon disorder in his right knee. He's since missed six additional games with soreness in the knee, back stiffness, and most recently, a sprained right hand. The hand is the most pressing of the injury given Gordon's past. In the 2010-2011 season, Gordon suffered a chip fracture in his right wrist. The current sprain occurred in close proximity to the previous injury and forced New Orleans to send Gordon for a MRI. The MRI did not reveal any significant damage but expect the Hornets to continue handling Gordon with kid gloves. He's too valuable to the Hornets future, whether it is on the court or as a trade asset for them to put his health at risk.
Granger was all set to return from his season-long absence but he did not play Wednesday due to flu-like symptoms. Granger has yet to dress this season while he's recovered from patellar tendonosis in his left knee. He has progressed well and should return within the next week. However he will have to adjust to a new role on the team with the emergence of All-Star Paul George. George's presence will allow Indiana to limit Granger's minutes early on but could limit Granger's productivity when he's 100 percent. If you've held on to Granger you have to ride him out but there are a lot of question marks surrounding a talent once considered the face of the franchise.
Carmelo Anthony: A deep forearm contusion suffered before the break didn't slow Melo down. The All-Star forward led the Eastern conference in scoring Sunday night with 26 points. Look for Anthony to continue to be an elite fantasy option in the second half of the season.
Tim Duncan: I'm surprised Duncan lasted eight minutes in Sunday's All-Star game with head coach Gregg Popovich running the show for the Western Conference All-Stars. Duncan has been nursing a bone bruise in his left knee and a tender right ankle. The knee is more of a concern, particularly when you consider this is the knee that has given Duncan the most problems throughout his storied career. He need surgery back in the 2000-2001 season to repair a lateral meniscus tear and has missed more time of the years with other minor maladies. With the Spurs sitting atop the standings and looking like legitimate contenders, expect Pop to continue resting the former MVP for games down the stretch.
Derrick Rose: Determining Rose's return date has been nearly impossible and it seems like the former MVP is the only person who knows if and when he's coming back. He has spent grueling hours rehabbing his torn ACL and no one knows his body better than him. If Rose feels he's not ready then he's not ready, whether the limitation is physical or mental. Rose has said he's willing to sit out the season so fantasy owners struggling to make the playoffs may need to see what's available on the trade market.
Larry Sanders: The league leader in blocked shots remains sidelined with a lower back contusion. He has missed four games and received multiple medical opinions on the injury. The good news is that all medical images keep coming back negative but that doesn't change the fact that these types of injuries can be slow to heal. I suspect Sanders will miss a few more games with the ailment, despite the extra rest provided by the All-Star break.
Jeff Stotts is a Certified Athletic Trainer, MAT, PES and the Injury Analyst for Rotowire.com. You can follow him on twitter @RotoWireATC.