Spurs: Piling injuries in West are further complicating season

Kawhi Leonard (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kawhi Leonard (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images) /

When the NBA decided to cram a 72-game season into a condensed timeline, it didn’t bode well for the San Antonio Spurs. When they had the COVID-19 outbreak that derailed their season, it went from bad to grim. San Antonio was given no choice but to play 40 games in 68 days, an unheard-of stretch in the NBA.

To make matters worse, the league recently decided to fine the team $25,000 for sitting DeMar DeRozan, Patty Mills, and Jakob Poeltl in a game they ended up winning by 26. So much for understanding the circumstances.

With every team having to play similarly packed schedules, the league is experiencing an outbreak of its own — injuries. As of Wednesday morning (knock on wood), the Spurs are among the few teams in the Western Conference without a significant injury. Only Trey Lyles remains on the injury report, although it appears he’s simply been shut down for the season.

Piling injuries could greatly affect the San Antonio Spurs’ seeding

San Antonio has been hovering between 9th and 10th in the West for the past few weeks and is likely to stay there unless the New Orleans Pelicans finally start winning games. With each win and Pelicans loss, it’s more likely they’ll be participating in the play-in tournament, as I predicted one month ago.

With 16 games left on their schedule, San Antonio is two games behind Dallas, who sits at 7th, and one game behind the 8th-place Memphis Grizzlies. As always seems to be the case, the Western Conference seedings are a jumble that will likely come down to the final weeks. With that said, injuries are likely to be a significant factor in how the playoff picture turns out.

The Golden State Warriors

Let’s start with the team closest to the Spurs in the standings, the Golden State Warriors. After already losing Klay Thompson before the season began, the Warriors have lost four players due to injuries in April:

  • Damion Lee (toe): day-to-day
  • Juan Toscano-Anderson (concussion): day-to-day
  • James Wiseman (knee): out indefinitely
  • Eric Paschall (hip): week-to-week

Fortunately for Steve Kerr’s squad, Stephen Curry is having one of the most ridiculous stretches of basketball that’s ever been displayed, so they’re still at 9th in the West with a 29-29 record.

The Memphis Grizzlies

Memphis has treaded water without a crucial piece in Jaren Jackson Jr since his knee injury in August, but he’s expected to make his return as early as the next one or two weeks.

Besides that, the only current injury in their latest report is Dillon Brooks with a thigh injury, but he’s listed as day-to-day. At 29-27, the Grizzlies could creep up the standings once they get their guy back.

The New Orleans Pelicans

If there’s one team that might spoil the Spurs’ chances of competing in the play-in tournament, it likely would be the Pelicans. They certainly aren’t playing like they want to, though, having lost four straight to fall to 25-33.

The Pelicans have also suffered multiple injuries in April:

  • James Johnson (groin): day-to-day
  • Nickeil Alexander-Walker (ankle): week-to-week
  • Josh Hart (thumb): out indefinitely

New Orleans has 14 games left to make up four games on the Spurs. To have a decent chance, they’ll have to beat San Antonio when they meet on April 24th.

The Rest of the West

I don’t expect the Spurs to rise in the standings any higher than the Dallas Mavericks, who are currently healthy. Still, there are significant injuries from seeds one through six that will likely shift things in the top half of the standings as well.

Here are the major ones as of Wednesday, all courtesy of NBCSports.

(1) Utah: Ersan Ilyasova (hamstring): day-to-day, Donovan Mitchel (ankle): day-to-day(3) LAC: Kawhi Leonard (foot): re-evaluating April 27th, Patrick Beverley (hand): targeting early May, Serge Ibaka (back): week-to-week(4) DEN: Monte Morris (hamstring): out indefinitely, Jamal Murray (knee): out indefinitely(5) LAL: Kentavious Caldwell-Pop (calf): day-to-day, LeBron James (ankle): targeting May 1, Anthony Davis (calf), targeting April 22(6) POR: Damian Lillard (hamstring): day-to-day, Zach Collins (ankle): out indefinitely

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The end of the season and playoffs may come down to who has the most available healthy players at the rate injuries have been stacking up. The Spurs have the league’s second-toughest schedule remaining, but I’d still expect Coach Popovich to continue sitting guys for rest when needed, even if it means being fined.