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Why Getting Players Back Is Pertinent For The Playoff Push

Why Getting Players Back Is Pertinent For The Playoff Push

The Memphis Grizzlies are among some NBA expert picks to perform well and deep into the NBA playoffs. They went 5-3 without star point guard Ja Morant, who has fulfilled his suspension handed out by the National Basketball Association commissioner, Adam Silver.

His absence was due to his actions after a 113-97 loss to the Denver Nuggets on March 3. Morant was photographed in a nightclub shirtless and holding a gun, which Morant claimed was not his own. The Nuggets suspended him indefinitely, and Silver ruled that those games counted.

So Morant is due back for the Grizzlies’ game Monday, and it is part of a key stretch for Memphis, which is 43-27 and tied for second place in the Western Conference with the Sacramento Kings. Morant’s maturity, especially after spending some time in a facility after the incident, and steady play will be important to the Grizzlies’ success.

Getting players back is an important theme for some teams, and peaking at the right time could lead to them making the playoffs or not. It could lead to those teams hitting their stride and making a run while they underperformed earlier in the year.

Here is a look at some teams who could benefit from good health.

Los Angeles Lakers

The league’s career-scoring champion is sidelined with a foot injury that will keep him out until late March. LeBron James put in a lot of effort and was on a tear to break the scoring record, but he has needed some time off since.

That has put plenty of pressure on the shoulders of point guard D’Angelo Russell, who returned via a three-team trade that sent Russell Westbrook away, and Anthony Davis, who is in and out of the lineup with a foot injury.

Add in center Mo Bamba, who the Lakers also acquired at the trade deadline, when he returns from an ankle injury – though that may not be until the playoffs – and the Lakers could do something if they make the play-in tournament.

As of this writing, the Lakers were 34-37 and a half-game out of the final play-in spot. But eight teams in the West are within 3.5 games of one another, which ranges from fifth to 12th.

New Orleans Pelicans

The Pelicans are the team in 12th with a 33-37 record. They continue to have key injuries to star Zion Williamson, who is out until late March with a hamstring injury. 

Williamson missed the 2021-22 season with a foot injury, only played 24 games in his rookie season, and has only played 29 games this season, though he has been productive when in the lineup. The former No. 1 overall pick in 2019 is averaging 26.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game.

New Orleans is also missing defensive mastermind point guard Jose Alvarado, who is dealing with a shin injury. Williamson would certainly help make a playoff push, but so would Alvarado if the Pelicans could only get him back.

Minnesota Timberwolves

The Timberwolves have had a weird season. They started strong and somehow maintained playoff positioning despite trading Russell and getting Mike Conley Jr. back. Their big trade for center Rudy Gobert, which was widely scrutinized, has not taken full effect because of his injuries.

But star center Karl-Anthony Towns has also had his issues. Towns, who was picked first overall in 2015, is out until late March with a calf injury. He has only played in 21 games this season and is averaging 20.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game, playing more on the perimeter.

Minnesota is eighth in the West with a 35-37 record and is a loss away from missing the postseason or a win and a pair of Dallas Mavericks losses away from avoiding the play-in altogether.

It will be interesting to see how the health of teams plays a factor over the final month of the season. There is plenty to play for, with teams angling for a shot at the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Some teams can’t afford to miss out.