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Healed or Hurting? Notable NBA Players Returning From Injuries In 2023-24

Zion Williamson - New Orleans Pelicans

As basketball fans, we can all agree that injuries are the worst part of the game. They can ruin seasons, teams, and even careers.

Just like every season, the NBA had its fair share of injuries in 2022-23, as we saw many talented players miss significant time due to injuries. However, the players listed here are looking healthy now, and are trying hard to be ready for the new campaign.

With that in mind, this article will look at ten fantasy-relevant players who are returning from injuries this season. This list is in no particular order.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received five total writing awards and 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, tops in the industry! Congrats to all the award winners and nominees including NBA Writer of the Year, Best NFL Series, MLB Series, PGA Writer and Player Notes writer of the year. Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!


#10. Danilo Gallinari (Washington Wizards)

Let's start with arguably the most heartbreaking injury of this past season. Italian NBA veteran Danilo Gallinari turned down offers from multiple teams to sign with the Boston Celtics last year, as they were his team when he was growing up. However, fate works in mysterious ways as Gallinari suffered a torn ACL in his left knee during a game with the Italian national team, which ended his season.

This wasn't the first time an injury like this had happened to Gallinari, as he missed the entire 2013-14 season due to tearing the ACL of that same left knee. After getting traded by the Celtics to the Wizards for fellow European Kristaps Porzingis, Gallinari's Celtics career ended before it even began, and now he is hell-bent on revenge, as he was quoted as saying: "I'll put an X on the games we will play at Boston."


#9. Cade Cunningham (Detroit Pistons)

The number one overall pick of the 2021 NBA draft showed flashes of greatness during his rookie campaign despite playing on a terrible Pistons squad. He was looking to take that All-Star leap in year two similar to what LaMelo Ball had done in 2022, but just like LaMelo, Cunningham's 2022-23 season was cut short.

He played in just 12 games and filled up the stat sheet, but he felt uncomfortable as he was dealing with a shin issue that dated back to his rookie season. He consulted team doctors about whether he should get surgery or not, and after they told him that surgery would be the best option for him long-term, he underwent successful surgery on his left shin and missed the rest of the season. He is now looking to be the leader of an exciting young core in Detroit.


#8. Ben Simmons (Brooklyn Nets)

Will anything ever make sense with Ben Simmons? We will never know. Nothing about the former generational prospect has made sense ever since that infamous 2021 playoff series against Atlanta. He held out for the entire 2021-22 season, then refused to come back when he was traded to the Nets. Then, he started the 2022-23 season playing like he had never touched a basketball before, which cost him his starting job.

He got the job back after a five-game stretch where he looked like the two-way star of old, but then he kept getting hurt all the time. His tenure with the Nets has been a massive disappointment thus far, but it looks like his health and confidence are back. "I’m excited because I know I can do it," Simmons told ESPN when asked about returning to All-Star form.


#7. Aleksej Pokusevski (Oklahoma City Thunder)

It's time for Pokusevski to finally shed that "project" label. Some NBA "project players" like Giannis Antetokounmpo succeed while others like Bruno Caboclo burn out and are forgotten quickly. Year four is always integral to determine if these players will be good or not, and "Poku" has to prove his worth to this young and talented Thunder squad.

Last season, he showed that he can produce when given sufficient playing time. Pokusevski averaged 16.2 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.7 steals, and 2.2 blocks in games where he played in more than 30 minutes. He also shot 52.7% from the field and 55.6% from deep. Unfortunately, a leg injury cut his season short. After suffering some more injuries in the offseason, Christos Tsaltas reported that Pokusevski will be 100% ready for training camp.


#6. Chet Holmgren (Oklahoma City Thunder)

Staying in OKC, it's a shame that both of the "Thin Towers" got hurt last year and haven't played together yet. But now Chet Holmgren, the second overall pick of the 2022 NBA draft, is fully healthy after suffering a broken foot that robbed the NBA world of his rookie campaign. Some people think that OKC could have made the playoffs if Chet played last season.

Now that he's healthy, this young squad can surprise a lot of fans. Holmgren should give Victor Wembanyama a run for his money in the Rookie of the Year race, and could even upset him to win the award, similar to Blake Griffin and Ben Simmons in 2010-11 and 2017-18 respectively.


#5. Devin Vassell (San Antonio Spurs)

Speaking of Wemby, the Spurs have quietly built a very solid young team with the likes of Keldon Johnson, Jeremy Sochan, and Devin Vassell, and these players are looking to lead San Antonio to a new era along with Wembanyama. Vassell quietly improved as a player during his sophomore season, which culminated in him becoming a starter.

He continued his improvement by starting the 2022-23 season like a house on fire before suffering a knee injury that forced him to undergo microscopic surgery in January. He did come back late in the season but was quickly shut down. Before his injury, Vassell averaged 19.4 points a night with 44.5/40.4/79.3 shooting splits and should continue his development in the coming seasons.


#4. Steven Adams (Memphis Grizzlies)

After leaving the Thunder, it was thought that Steven Adams' career would die a slow and uneventful death, and it certainly seemed like it after a lukewarm season with New Orleans. But when Adams joined the Grizzlies, he transformed his playing style, as he made passing a priority. He also became a fiend on the offensive glass, grabbing a league-high 349 offensive rebounds in his first season in Memphis.

He was on pace to shatter that mark in 2022-23, as he was averaging 5.1 offensive boards a night (0.5 more than the previous season) before going down with a knee injury which ended his season. The Grizzlies felt Adams' absence in the playoffs, as they were helpless in the paint against the Lakers.


#3. Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves)

Remember when we all thought that KAT would run the league for many years to come, winning MVPs and championships on his way to making the Timberwolves a dynasty? That seems so long ago. Now, we think of KAT as a talented, but injury-prone and soft player who doesn't have the killer instinct to win when it matters most.

However, his injury last season certainly didn't help him. He suffered a right calf strain right as he was starting to build chemistry with his new frontcourt partner Rudy Gobert, and was rushed back before the playoffs, where he looked rusty against Denver. It's clear that KAT needed just a little bit more time with his injury, and now that he spent the summer recuperating, he's looking to bounce back.


#2. LaMelo Ball (Charlotte Hornets)

As we mentioned previously in the Cade Cunningham segment, LaMelo Ball took the All-Star leap as a sophomore and was looking to potentially make an All-NBA team in year three, but started the year off by dealing with some ankle issues, which made him miss 24 out of his first 27 games.

The Hornets went 7-20 in that span and the season was lost right then and there, but LaMelo came back and fought valiantly. He averaged 23.6 points per game in those 33 games but went down in a game against the Pistons in late February. It was later revealed that Ball had fractured his ankle, ending his 2022-23 season. Hornets GM Mitch Kupchak recently revealed that Ball is now fully healthy.


#1. Zion Williamson (New Orleans Pelicans)

Zion Williamson has averaged fewer games (28.5 games) in his first four NBA seasons than he did at Duke (33 games). LaMelo Ball, who, as we just mentioned missed the majority of last season and was drafted one year after Zion has somehow played in 50 more games than him (48 in the regular season and two play-In games).

No, we're not making this up. Zion is one of the most electrifying talents in the NBA right now, but the poor guy just can't stay on the court. The two-time All-Star was leading the Pelicans straight to the playoffs as one of the best teams in the West but was struck down by a hamstring injury in the first game of the new year. We're hoping that Zion can avoid injury and have another season like 2020-21, where he was healthy for the most part.


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