6 NBA Teams with Holes to Fill Following Preseason Injuries
It's natural for players to suffer through minor bumps and bruises throughout training camp and preseason, but this year we've seen a few significant injuries leave teams with some large holes to fill.
While no true "stars" have gone down yet, the teams most affected by the injury bug this preseason might be those who could least afford to lose valuable rotation players.
The Minnesota Timberwolves, Dallas Mavericks, Portland Trail Blazers and Washington Wizards all have legitimate playoff aspirations this season, but right now the focus will shift to filling the void left by these injured players.
Trade Fill: ESPN's Marc Stein reported shortly after Burke's injury that the Utah Jazz had previously shown interest in acquiring Chicago Bulls backup point guard Marquis Teague.
It's hard to say what the Bulls would ask in return for Teague, but salary relief or a backup big man would probably be the main priorities. The two teams aren't a great match in that regard, so the Jazz will likely not fill the hole via trade.
Internal Fill: The thought of John Lucas III starting for the first month of the season might be a little scary, even if Utah doesn't have serious playoff hopes anyhow.
Alec Burks will likely shift over and handle some point guard duties as well, but with only 12 fully guaranteed contracts on the roster, the Jazz will certainly carry another backup point guard on opening night.
Out of the preseason roster invites, Lester Hudson appears to have the one-up on Scott Machado, if Utah chooses to go that path.
Free-Agency Fill: What seems like the best fit of the three options, however, is for the Jazz to reunite with Jamaal Tinsley, where there is apparently mutual interest between both parties.
Tinsley started 32 games and earned the trust of head coach Ty Corbin as a capable distributor last season. The 35-year-old point guard naturally offers little individual upside, but he could be a calming influence on the rest of the offense.
Utah is just in survival mode right now, and bringing in a veteran to hold down the fort and then mentor Burke once he returns could be beneficial.
The Injury: Chase Budinger suffered a meniscus injury to his left knee and is out indefinitely.
Budinger's knee problems kept him out of 59 games last season, but the the shooting-deprived Minnesota Timberwolves still re-signed him to a three-year, $15 million dollar contract this offseason.
Budinger looked to be a breakout candidate back in Rick Adelman's corner offense, but now the Timberwolves will have to find floor spacing and smart cutting from another source at the 3 spot.
Free-Agency Fill: Minnesota only has 14 guaranteed contracts including Budinger, so a free-agent acquisition isn't out of the question. Perhaps Lazar Hayward, who was recently released by the New Orleans Pelicans and played for the Timberwolves last season, could come in and fill a roster spot as a reserve small forward.
Robbie Hummel and Othyus Jeffers, two players with non-guaranteed contracts currently on Minnesota's preseason roster, might be used to fill the void as well.
Trade Fill: The Wolves were the league's worst three-point shooting team percentage-wise last season, so adding another piece alongside Kevin Martin on the wing would make sense. Targeting a young player like Jeff Taylor in Charlotte, Quincy Miller in Denver or Reggie Bullock in L.A. could fill the void, but the price for those players could be very high.
Internal Fill: Well, here's why you drafted Shabazz Muhammad.
Corey Brewer should handle the starting duties and Derrick Williams will slide over to take some minutes as well, but Muhammad is probably the best three-point shooter of the trio, which could earn him some playing time at some point. Brewer and Williams both shoot around 30 percent from three-point land on their careers, and that might not cut it.
Minnesota will rely on Brewer to add defense and be a terror in the transition game, but if half-court spacing becomes an issue, Adelman may need to exhaust all his options.
The Injury: Carl Landry suffered a torn left hip flexor and will be sidelined three to four months.
Landry signed a four-year, $26 million dollar contract this offseason, but it will be quite some time before the Sacramento Kings get a return on their investment. Landry was slated to be the starting power forward next to new max man DeMarcus Cousins, but now the job appears to be wide open.
Internal Fill: Patrick Patterson, Jason Thompson, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Chuck Hayes could all conceivably start at the 4 for Sacramento this year.
The good news is, if the Kings could afford an injury to any of their core players, it would probably be Landry. With all the depth at power forward, new head coach Mike Malone will have a few different options to play with.
For a more uptempo, run-and-gun style, Patrick Patterson is the man. For ace perimeter defense, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute can slide down and play the 4. For a mix between stretch and size, though, Jason Thompson might be the best option overall.
Free-Agency Fill: Because Sacramento already has 14 guaranteed contracts and one-partial guaranteed deal, it's unlikely it looks outside its own roster to fill the void.
Trade Fill: Eventually Sacramento may look to deal if Patterson or Thompson stumble in an extended role, but it's more likely that the Kings will stay put for now and use their current frontcourt depth to plug the gap.
The Injury: Brandan Wright suffered a fractured left shoulder and is out indefinitely, although surgery isn't expected to be necessary.
Another newly signed player bites the dust. Wright signed a two-year, $10 million dollar deal this offseason to remain with the Dallas Mavericks, but a shoulder injury will appear to sideline him for at least the start of the season.
Wright has struggled to stay healthy his whole career, and with Samuel Dalembert currently out of shape, according to head coach Rick Carlisle, Dallas may play a lot of minutes without a rim protector in the lineup, as undersized big man DeJuan Blair certainly won't help in that area.
Free-Agency Fill: The Mavericks already have 15 fully guaranteed deals. Depending on how serious Wright's injury is, chances are the Mavs stay put with the current roster and don't add a free agent.
Trade Fill: This is probably too "pie in the sky," but Dallas could probably dangle Shawn Marion and a draft pick to the small forward starved Cleveland Cavaliers for Anderson Varejao. Mutually beneficial trades between two teams both going for the playoffs don't happen often, but this would help Cleveland fill a void while freeing up money for this year's offseason.
Internal Fill: Dalembert will soak up some of Wright's projected playing time, but he hasn't played over 26 minutes a game in five years. It's hard to see Blair and Nowitzki not getting lit up defensively, so seldom used second-year big man Bernard James will likely be in line for time at the 5 spot until Wright can return.
Portland Trail Blazers
The Injury: C.J. McCollum fractured his foot during training camp. A time line hasn't been set because he won't have surgery, but he will be reevaluated in six weeks.
A sneaky pick to win the Rookie of the Year award as a sixth man off the bench for the Portland Trail Blazers, McCollum lost all that steam when he fractured his fifth metatarsal. Unfortunately, that's the same injury that sidelined him for most of his senior year at Lehigh.
McCollum's scoring prowess and ability to play either guard spot was supposed to carry a new-look Blazers bench, but that will have to wait until his foot heals.
Free-Agency Fill: The Blazers have 15 fully guaranteed contracts and two partially guaranteed deals, so signing a free agent is probably out of the question.
Trade Fill: McCollum will be back eventually and should play a big role, so blocking his path to playing time with any significant trade wouldn't make much sense.
Internal Fill: Luckily for the Blazers, there's already a player on the roster who can easily fill McCollum's minutes. Backup point guard Mo Williams is a former All-Star and a dead-eye shooter from deep, and he thrived in the sixth man role with the Los Angeles Clippers two seasons ago.
Although the size pairing in some of Portland's backcourts might be problematic, Williams can serve as instant offense and probably replicate much of what McCollum would have brought to the table. Signing Williams looks like one of the smarter moves of the offseason already.
The Injury: Emeka Okafor suffered a neck injury in training camp and is out indefinitely. There is no timetable set for his return.
Free-Agency Fill: The Wizards have 15 fully guaranteed contracts, but it might be worth letting a guy like Garrett Temple go to get another true center on the roster. The only big man on the preseason roster that doesn't have a guaranteed contract is Pops Mensah-Bonsu.
If the Wizards do look to the free-agent market, Chris Wilcox or Jason Collins are available veterans that can hold their own defensively and pick up a system quickly.
Trade Fill: Trevor Ariza's expiring contract is Washington's best bait in a trade, and targeting Omer Asik, Jason Thompson (although that will be tougher with Landry's injury) or Anderson Varejao would be wise.
It sounds like Okafor could very well be out for the season, and relying on Nene to stay healthy and be the one established player in the frontcourt is awfully dangerous.
Internal Fill: Nene can slide over to the 5 easily, but he's not a workhorse who can play 36 minutes a night anymore.
While Al Harrington, Trevor Booker and Jan Vesely can sap up minutes at the 4, it might be Kevin Seraphin who is asked to shift between the 4 and the 5 when Nene sits. Seraphin has the most potential of Washington's backup bigs, and how he performs early in the season could dictate what Washington does in free agency or through the trade market.