Breakout players and injuries that helped them

Special to Yahoo Sports

The end of the NBA regular season and fantasy basketball season is right around the corner. After Wednesday night’s monster slate, every team will have 10 or fewer games remaining.

As we prepare to put a bow on our first 82-game campaign since 2018-19, let’s take a look back at some key injuries that shaped the fantasy season and highlight the players who emerged because of their teammate’s extended absences.

Lillard’s abdominal injury may have completely changed the Blazers’ franchise.

A first-round pick in the vast majority of fantasy leagues (7.0 Yahoo ADP), Lillard has only played in 29 games and has been ruled out for the rest of the season. With his injury in mind, the Blazers tore things down at the trade deadline, moving CJ McCollum in a deal with the Pelicans and offloading Robert Covington and Norman Powell to the Clippers.

Lillard’s injury — and the trade of McCollum, specifically — opened up an opportunity for Anfernee Simons to take on an expanded role. He moved into the starting five permanently in January, filling that role for a 27-game span. He couldn’t have played much better, averaging 23.4 points, 2.7 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 4.4 three-pointers per game, while shooting 45.6 percent from the field and 86.6 percent from the charity stripe. Unfortunately for those who added him, he’s missed eight straight games with a quadriceps injury and might not take the floor again with the Blazers tanking.

The question is, can Simons keep up that kind of production next season? Even if Lillard returns, he could start alongside him with McCollum gone. If Lillard is traded, then Simons all of a sudden becomes one of the primary players who the team decides to build around. If Lillard stays, much of Simons’ outlook will depend on who the Blazers sign or trade for this summer. Either way, expect the 22-year-old to be a popular target during draft season — and rightfully so.

Story continues

The Damian Lillard injury allowed Anfernee Simons to blossom as a fantasy basketball asset. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

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