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NBA Injury Analysis: Big Break for the Big Three

Jeff Stotts

Jeff Stotts

Jeff Stotts works as a Certified Athletic Trainer (MAT, ATC, PES, CES). He won the 2011 Best Fantasy Football Article in Print from the Fantasy Sports Trade Association.

The end of the NBA regular season is less than 10 days away and teams locked in their playoff position will begin resting players with little regard to fantasy owners fighting in their own postseason. Now is the time to ignore names and start adding healthy bodies, as superstars around the league trade in their jerseys for suits and ties.

Chris Bosh, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade
It starts in Miami where each member of the Big Three has received at least one day off over the last week with more games of rest expected. Wade has openly admitted he's willing to sit for the remainder of the regular season to insure his body is prepared for a long postseason run. Wade has endured his usual variety of ailments this season, playing with or through illness, sprains to his foot, thumb and ankle, and migraine headaches. He has missed six of Miami's last eight games nursing a sore right knee and a sprained right ankle. Sadly his right leg has generally been his good leg as it was his left knee that needed to be drained during last year's title run and ultimately required offseason surgery. The Heat will do everything they can to avoid a repeat and will play it ultra-conservatively with the nine-time All-Star. The lingering uncertainty makes him a risky play for the remainder of the season and I'm looking elsewhere if I'm still playing for something.

James and Bosh are a bit trickier to read. James missed three consecutive games last week nursing a strained right hamstring. The three-game absence was the longest such stretch for James since he joined Miami but he returned Sunday in a rout of the Sixers. While he appeared healthy, the Heat have a magic number of two to clinch home-court advantage throughout the playoffs so don't be surprised to see him back on the sidelines once they meet that goal. Bosh is in a similar situation as he has received a one game respite for a hyperextended right knee. The game off comes on the heels of a dominant stretch for Bosh where he averaged 21.3 points in a three-game span covering for James and Wade. Like his compatriots, Bosh will likely bounce in-and-out of the lineup for the remainder of the year making him a tough play in weekly leagues but a keeper in daily formats.

The remaining member of the Heat suddenly become interesting fantasy options as guys like Mike Miller and Rashard Lewis are seeing an increase in minutes and subsequently a bump in productivity. Miller erupted for 26 points in a win over Charlotte while Lewis has scored 14 points in back-to-back games. Neither one should be consider 100 percent trustworthy but if your waiver wire is looking thin then they are at least worth a consideration.

Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker
While seeding in the Eastern Conference has all but been decided, the race for the top spot out West remains heated. The Thunder sit just a game back from the Spurs and San Antonio could be forced to play the remainder of their schedule without two key players. Ginobili is expected to miss the remainder of the regular season with a right hamstring strain. His availability for the postseason is also in question and anyone still clinging onto him should move on.

Ginobili's backcourt mate is also hampered as Parker continues to struggle with a myriad of injuries. Injuries to his knee, finger, and neck have slowed him down and a troublesome shin injury has coach Gregg Popovich worried. Parker suffered a Grade 2 ankle sprain during March and while the ligaments have healed enough to allow him to play, pain and soreness from the resulting bone contusion continue to be a problem. He's missed two of the team's last three games and was clearly limited in his lone outing, scoring two points on 1-of-6 shooting. With the injuries mounting and the always-unpredictable Popovich in charge, fantasy owners just can't count on Parker playing on a nightly basis.

Fast Breaks
Danilo Gallinari: Gallinari will miss the remainder of the season after tearing his left anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). The timing of the injury is even worse as it will likely impact this year and next. For comparison sake let's look at Ricky Rubio. Rubio tore his ACL in March of 2012 and did not return until December. However Gallo could return a bit earlier since his injury is isolated to his ACL. Unlike Rubio, Gallinari suffered no damage to his meniscus and his MCL remained intact. Look for him to be back shortly after the start of the season, assuming he has a productive offseason in rehab.

Kevin Garnett: Garnett was back in action after missing eight straight games with ankle inflammation. He played a reasonable 24 minutes, scoring 12 points and collecting six rebounds. Garnett will be closely monitored but it sounds like he will at least be on the floor for the next several games.

Wesley Matthews: Matthews turned his right ankle Sunday night and his availability moving forward is in doubt. With Nicolas Batum also dealing with injury, now may be a good time to take a look at rookie Will Barton. He posted a career-high 22 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and three steals in 32 minutes of action after Matthews went down and has seen his minutes steadily increase in four straight games. He may not be as good as those numbers indicate but it looks like there will be plenty of minutes available.

Dirk Nowitzki: The Mavericks are playing for pride with their miniscule playoff hopes fading quickly but don't expect Nowitzki to let up. The former MVP sat for the second half of Dallas's win over Portland on Sunday after injuring his left ankle. Nowitzki suggested he irritated a bone spur, causing the joint to stiffen up. He has a history of bone spurs in both ankles and even needed a debridement in 2002 to remove one from this particular ankle. Though Nowitzki said he expects to play Wednesday against the Suns, keep a close eye on the situation. The circumstances are eerily similar to Garnett's and the Mavs won't put their superstar at risk.

Jeff Stotts is a Certified Athletic Trainer, MAT, PES and the Injury Analyst for Rotowire.com. You can follow him on twitter @RotoWireATC.