As the final month of the season plays out, teams are going to be jockeying for position in the NBA playoffs. These lingering injuries could have a big effect on the final standings.
For teams with postseason aspirations, the last few weeks of the season are all about getting healthy, building momentum and securing the best possible positioning in the playoffs. But we’re coming to the end of a long and grueling regular season that takes its toll on everyone. These lingering injuries could all be big determining factors in who makes the playoffs and who gets the seed they’re seeking.
5. Jalen Brunson, Dallas Mavericks
Brunson has been dealing with a shoulder injury suffered just seconds into his first stint of the Mavericks’ Feb. 22 loss to the Hawks. He plans to return at some point this season but when he does, he’ll be playing with what’s feared to be a torn labrum in his non-shooting shoulder that could require offseason surgery.
Brunson a complimentary player deeper in the rotation, and the Mavs have won three of the five games he’s missed, but his loss could dampen Dallas’ playoff outlook. He’s a relentless pest for opposing ball-handlers to deal with and the Mavericks’ defense has been better by 5.6 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the floor. He’s also a reliable ball-handler and respectable outside shooter.
In his absence, Dallas has had to dust off Courtney Lee and J.J. Barea, neither of whom is an appealing option at this point in their careers. Brunson could be back on the floor for the first round of the playoffs but may not be the same player. And while he’s out, Dallas could see their playoff position continue to erode, setting them up for a pairing with the Clippers in a No. 2 – No. 7 matchup.