Notable fantasy basketball players returning from injury in 2022-23
With the NBA season just days away, chances are there will be plenty of fantastic drafts over the weekend. There are a lot of things to consider when putting together your squad and it’s no secret that a player’s injury history remains a serious determining factor.
More often than not, guys are able to return to their pre-injury form quite easily. After all, we are talking about the greatest athletes in the world here. But there is a risk, however small, in choosing a player who is coming out of a serious injury. I’m not a doctor, so I’m not going to sit here and tell you all the intricacies that come with all of these ailments, but it’s worth noting which players will return to the pitch next week.
Here are five notable players returning from serious injuries.
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It’s not a secret. Zion and his health have come under intense scrutiny over the past two seasons. The criticism seems fair when you remember that he missed 142 regular season games in his first three seasons. For reference, that’s almost as many games as LeBron James has missed in his 19-year career (173).
On a more positive note, all reports indicate that Zion is looking great and will be there on opening night. He looked good in pre-season and that led to his mixed ADP of 31.1 before the start of the season. Even still, the asterisk next to his name will remain until he can go a season without suffering a serious injury/setback.
Simmons and Zion have a lot in common. Both sat out last season with injuries and both have come under public scrutiny over the past few years. Much like Zion, Simmons is back and appears to be in full health after undergoing back surgery this offseason. He’s had his ups and downs in the preseason, but that’s to be expected after not playing an NBA game in over a calendar year.
Ultimately, Simmons is an elite player. I know that’s not the popular opinion of the day, but it seems his public perception allowed his ADP to hover outside the top 80 for most of the offseason before settling into the top 70 in the last few days.
Playing alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, Simmons has a nighttime triple-double on the rise and will bring elite numbers on defense. Of course, there is a risk. But at this point, its cost is well worth the reward.
Those two years were frustrating for Murray. After lighting up the NBA Bubble in Orlando in 2020, a torn ACL forced him to miss the final year and a half of basketball. There were talks he could have returned for last year’s playoffs, but ultimately the Nuggets opted to play it safe with their point guard.
Now set to return this season, it’s unclear what kind of restrictions, if any, Murray will be under. It certainly doesn’t help matters that he picked up a hamstring injury during pre-season. Because of this, he carries a little more risk than the other guys on this list. Unlike Simmons and Zion, Murray has a quality backup behind him at Bones Hyland. All the more reason for the Nuggets to be cautious to start the year.
Kawhi Leonard, SF – Los Angeles Clippers
Oh Kawhi, you must love it. I mean it when I say the NBA is a better product with him on the court. Luckily for us, that will be the case this season as he returns from a one-year absence. There is no doubt that Kawhi is one of the top 10 fantastic actives when healthy. Even with all the load management charades over the past two years, he still finds himself among the league’s elite.
For example, he finished in the top 10 in 2020 and 2021 despite playing less than 60 games in both seasons. There aren’t many players who can do that. Looking ahead to today, many have the Clippers as favorites to come out of the West now that Kawhi and Co. are healthy.
Sure, you might have to deal with a few days off here and there, but all signs point to Kawhi getting back to his ways early and often. At the end of the season, there’s a good chance he’ll be considered a steal at his mixed ADP of 33.
Damian Lillard, PG – Portland Trail Blazers
Lillard has been one of the league’s most enduring players throughout his career, so it was surprising to see him shut down for the year after just 29 games last season. Now that he’s officially back, it’s easy to wonder how he’ll fare on the pitch. After all, he was largely disappointed with the games he played to start the year.
Luckily for him and the fantasy managers, it seems the abdominal surgery was a good thing. Over the past year, Dame has alluded to illness as the reason for his poor play last season. Now that that’s settled, we should expect him to end up where he usually does – in the upper echelon of fantasy superstars.
With Portland expected to be more competitive this year and CJ McCollum no longer in the picture, Lillard has a top-three advantage if things break down this season. The fact that he is usually available in the second round is laughable considering he finished third in total value in his last healthy season.
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