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NBA Injury Analysis: Looking to Next Season

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.

In terms of injuries, the 2013-14 NBA season was a difficult one for fantasy owners. The league missed more games to injury than it had in over five seasons, and a plethora of highly ranked fantasy options ended up on the bench or even worse, the waiver wire. With the final days of the season dwindling away, it's never too early to begin looking to next year.

Kobe Bryant
Bryant's recovery from a ruptured Achilles limited his value out of the gate and dropped the former MVP to the third round in most drafts. After a 19 game absence to start the year, Bryant returned to the Lakers and labored through six games before suffering a fractured left knee that ended his season. To be specific, Bryant broke the lateral plateau of his left tibia, an area located on the outside portion of the lower leg. He did not require surgery but simply ran out of time in the recovery process. The reason for the delay could likely be attributed to the amount of weight that the tibia bears, making a strong union crucial to long-term recovery.

Bryant will return to the Lakers after signing a two-year extension in December. Fortunately for the team, bone is capable of returning to its original strength when allotted the proper amount of time to heal. He should be an active participant in training camp, and the tibia should be fine. However, several complications, including arthritis, can arise following an injury of this magnitude, especially for a player who has as much mileage as Bryant. He won't be an elite fantasy weapon next season, but his reputation alone suggests his average draft position will likely be similar to this year's.

Derrick Rose
Rose, another former MVP, spent the majority of the season on the sidelines after suffering a torn medial meniscus in his right knee. He missed all 82 games of the 2012-13 season with a torn ACL in the opposite knee, and he opted for a meniscus repair rather than a meniscectomy. The decision came at the sacrifice of this year but will be more beneficial for the health of his meniscus in the long run. The Bulls wisely treated the injury conservatively, and Rose plans on being ready for training camp. Fantasy owners may even get an early glimpse of Rose's overall health as he vowed to play for Team USA in this fall's FIBA Basketball World Cup. If Rose plays to a high level in international play, he could garner attention in the top two rounds of next year's fantasy drafts.

Brook Lopez
Brooklyn played with a complete lineup for just one game this season, largely in part to a fractured fifth metatarsal in Lopez's often-injured right foot. The subsequent surgery was his fourth on the area in the last three years. This time he had a first metatarsal osteotomy performed to help stabilize the area and hopefully guard against any future complications. Players have come back from this type of procedure, but Lopez faces an uphill battle given his size. It appears the Nets have already begun discussing decreasing Lopez's weight to help further minimize the stress placed on and through the foot. The center remains a valuable option when healthy, but his inherent injury risk is too high to consider taking him in the early rounds of most formats. He's played just 96 games over the last three seasons, and we haven't even mentioned that he underwent another surgery in March. This time his left ankle needed the procedure, as a torn tendon and loose lateral ligaments were repaired in his left ankle. Without a good leg to stand on, Lopez' outlook for next season remains cloudy.

Anthony Davis
The Pelicans center put together an impressive sophomore campaign and emerged as a top-five fantasy weapon. However, for the second straight season, he failed to play 70 games as multiple injuries limited his court time. He missed seven games early on with a non-displaced metacarpal fracture in his left hand. Davis would go on to miss more games with a dislocated finger, illness, and a left ankle sprain before back spasms prematurely ended his season. While none of these injuries are associated with any serious long-term issues, Davis does appear to be slightly fragile. The fact that he remains just 21 years old may play a part as his still developing physique becomes accustom to the rigors of patrolling the paint in the NBA. However, most of his more serious injuries fall into the unlucky category, and Davis should remain one of the first names off the board next season.

Nerlens Noel
The 76ers center was forced to sit out this season recovering from a torn ACL suffered in February of 2013 while still a member of the Kentucky Wildcats. As Philadelphia struggled through a dismal season they wisely kept Noel on the sidelines, providing ample time for a full recovery and ligamentization. This phenomenon occurs when a surgically repaired ligament has completed the healing process and displays the same biomechanical and physical properties as the original ligament. Studies have shown this can take as much as a year to complete following surgery. Noel has been telling reporters he feels great and that the joint is 100 percent. Reports of an improvement in his jumping ability have also surfaced, raising eyebrows about his potential next year. He will experience the normal ups-and-downs of a rookie but should emerge as a decent option for rebounds, blocks, and steals.

Nikola Pekovic
The Timberwolves center struggled with Achilles bursitis throughout the season and faces several question marks entering the offseason. The injury itself is a chronic issue that can improve with extended rest, and the Minnesota medical staff will likely help their bruiser take the necessary steps to insure this isn't a problem beyond this season. However, given the emergence of rookie Gorgui Dieng, I wouldn't be surprised if Pekovic ends up on the trading block. Dieng excelled as a starter, averaging 12.7 points and 12.5 rebounds in 13 starts so far. It may be a small sample size, but Dieng may have made Pekovic and the $47.9 million left on his contract expendable.