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Key injuries to monitor heading into 2021 NBA playoffs

We go over some of the injury reports and which players may be impacted heading into the first round.

Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz warms up before the game against the Portland Trail Blazers on May 12, 2021 at vivint.SmartHome Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

As the NBA playoffs get underway, a few teams will be without valuable contributors while others will have to deal with stars returning from injuries. Here are the injury situations worth monitoring for the 2020-21 postseason and how the sports betting landscape could shift in each case.

Caris LeVert, Indiana Pacers

Status: Out for the play-in game

According to Shams Charania, LeVert will not participate in Indiana’s play-in game against the Charlotte Hornets due to the league’s health and safety protocols. He was averaging 20.7 points per game since returning to the team after kidney surgery. While LeVert’s absence is a tough break for Indiana, the Pacers should had Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon in action. The Hornets are down Gordon Hayward as well. This game was a toss-up before LeVert was ruled out and remains one with him sidelined.

Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Pacers

Status: Expected to play

Update: Coach Nate Bjorkgren told reporters he expects Sabonis to play vs. the Hornets.

Sabonis is the key for a depleted Pacers squad vs. Charlotte. He’s averaging 20.3 points, 12.0 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game this season for Indiana and will need to be a major force in the play-in game. The Pacers are already down Caris LeVert and Myles Turner and Brogdon is dealing with his own injury, although the guard is expected to suit up. Even if Sabonis isn’t 100 percent, Indiana will need everything it can get from him in what should be a tight contest.

Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards

Status: Expected to play

Beal said his hamstring wasn’t 100 percent and will take time to heal, but that isn’t stopping Washington’s star guard from playing against the Boston Celtics. Beal is confident he will be on the floor and should be a huge factor in the game. He’s averaging 31.3 points per game on the season and is more than capable of singlehandedly carrying the Wizards to a win.

LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

Status: Expected to play in play-in tournament and beyond.

Although James has made comments about him never being back to 100% and being in and out of the lineup late in the season, it appears the Lakers star will play against the Warriors. DraftKings gives the Lakers the best odds to win the West (+200) and the second best odds to win the title (+400). Those numbers don’t exist unless James is suiting up for the Lakers. While Los Angeles could cap his minutes, the team has found itself in a position where they won’t have the luxury of facing traditional lower seeds. James could be forced to play additional minutes early, which is something to monitor deeper into the postseason. For bettors picking him in play-in tournament lineups, it’s safe to assume you’ll get the same LeBron who has made nine finals in the last 10 seasons.

Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz

5/20 update: Mitchell practiced for the Jazz and says he is planning to play in Game 1 for the West’s top-seeded team.

Status: Expected to play in first round.

Mitchell is the unquestioned leader for the top-seeded Jazz, averaging 26.4 points, 5.2 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game. He is out indefinitely with an ankle injury sustained April 16 vs. the Indiana Pacers and while Utah is confident he will return for the postseason, there’s reason for concern. Backcourt mate Mike Conley is also dealing with an injury and Utah’s first round opponent will not be a traditional No. 8 seed, given the play-in tournament teams. The Jazz have the fifth best championship odds and third best conference odds at the moment, but if Mitchell misses additional time or re-aggravates the injury, Utah will be in trouble.

James Harden, Brooklyn Nets

Status: Healthy.

Harden battled a hamstring injury early in the year and even returned to action briefly before sustaining further damage. He returned for two games late in the regular season and played 25 minutes in each contest before sitting out the finale. The Nets are the clear front-runners to win the East at +120 and also have the best title odds at +250. If Harden shows any lingering effects from the hamstring injury or continues to remain on a minutes restriction, it could impact Brooklyn’s chances against the Milwaukee Bucks or Philadelphia 76ers deep in the playoffs.

Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns

Status: Expected to play in first round.

Another player expected to be back in time the playoffs begin, Ayton has been a consistent force for the upstart Suns. He’s averaging 14.4 points and 10.5 rebounds per game while shooting a ridiculous 62.6 percent from the floor. However, Ayton missed the final three games of the regular season with a knee injury and is considered day-to-day. The Suns have been the surprise story of the NBA season, but they’ll need everyone at full strength given the teams they’ll likely see in the first round. Phoenix is currently a distant fourth at winning the West (+700) and a distant seventh at lifting the championship (+1800), but those odds will get worse if Ayton can’t go.

Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets

Status: Out for season.

Murray was averaging 21.8 points, 4.8 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game before tearing his ACL April 12 vs. the Warriors. Although MVP candidate Nikola Jokic has kept Denver in the middle of the playoff pack, Murray’s injury likely took the Nuggets out of championship contention. Although Denver is slightly favored in its opening round series with the Portland Trail Blazers, the Nuggets have slipped to the fifth best odds of winning the West and eighth best odds of lifting the trophy.

Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics

Status: Out for season.

The Celtics have been in a downward spiral since Brown suffered a season-ending wrist injury. Boston went 2-5 to wrap up the season and will face a red-hot Washington Wizards team in the play-in tournament. While this team wasn’t expected to do much damage in terms of winning the East or the Finals, it certainly could’ve benefitted from Brown gaining additional postseason experience. The small forward is expected to resume basketball activities in three months, according to the team.