Injuries are a part of the game of basketball, and thus, they are a part of the game of fantasy basketball. With that said, injuries are one of the things that can violently derail an otherwise promising fantasy season even faster than they can derail a promising NBA season in many cases, and we just had several big ones this week. Before I get into the specifics, I will lead with the following points on injuries and injured players:
1 – Sadly, there is never any reason to keep a player who had a season ending injury on your roster. Unless you think a team is lying, it’s the end. I’ve seen people hold out hope once or twice, but it doesn’t end well. Cut bait and move on.
2 – The Yahoo / ESPN disparity is large in this space, as ESPN typically offers IR spots where Yahoo does not. If you have the ability to stash players on the IR, it makes things like adding their handcuffs viable. By which I mean tons of Kemba Walker owners in ESPN leagues probably own Brian Roberts right now, because they have an obvious move (put Walker on the IR) to make to open up a roster spot. This becomes an issue when your IR is already full, and at that point, you are in the same boat as the Yahoo guys, which is to say you are guessing when a guy comes back and if he is worth holding onto until then. The answer is always context dependent: what is on the waiver wire? How strong is your team? How good will this guy be when/if he gets back? You have to do your homework.
3 – For injuries to non-stars, the divide between weekly and daily leagues is large. In weekly leagues, you can park the injured guys in the non-playing spots and use it as a form of semi-IR. In daily leagues, if you keep guys who are not playing on your roster, you almost always lose games. Thus, your sensitivity to injuries should be dependent on this setting as well.
So the punch line is simple, which is ironic, because the punch line is that there isn’t a simple answer. How you handle any injury short of the catastrophic season-ender always depends on your team, so keep that in mind when you are evaluating the drops this week.
Well, I would like to say I saw that coming, but I saw like half of that coming. Since being named the starter in Detroit, largely by default, Augustin is averaging 27.0 points, 8.5 assists, and 4 rebounds. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that is not sustainable. However, Detroit clearly relies heavily on their point guards in their offense and Augustin is still in line to do something more along the lines of 17 points and 7 assists going forward, so I am going to say this is my highest conviction of all of the top adds this week… though he’s probably not still available in your league. What I will say is this: the Pistons have been rumored to be interested in another PG, but they are backup level guys, so Augustin is a safe bet to continue producing at a decent level for now. Barring injury, of course. Verdict: Solid add.
16.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.8 three pointers, and 1.3 steals over the past seven days with solid percentages. There’s a lot to like here, other than the fact that Byron Scott is coaching this team and his long-term minutes distribution probably looks like a shotgun blast. With that said, Ellington is probably over performing right now thanks to Nick Young being in the doghouse instead of the shoehouse, and when Young returns to bring his brand of Kobe-like shooting to the Lakers, Ellington’s usage rate will drop off a bit. Even so, there is enough here that I can’t fault anyone for an add, though I suspect Ellington is the classic sort of all-around producer that will be more valuable for the roto crowd than the H2H side of the world. Verdict: Solid add.
This one was powered by the Yahoo crowd, as Jones was likely stashed on many IR spots in the ESPN setup. The positive side of injuries is when players return, and while Jones will be on a minutes limit initially, I have to respect anyone making the speculative add here. Josh Smith is not the answer, unless the question is “How do we shoot as many inefficient midrange shots as possible?”, and most teams aren’t going to be asking that. Donatas Motiejunas is a nice player, but not in Jones’ league. Dwight Howard has been having health problems all season. In short, I’m saying that the concern about minutes for Jones might be a bit overstated given the turmoil up front for Houston, and his per-36 averages of 17.2 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.2 blocks, 1.2 steals, and 1.0 three-pointers on decent percentages are vastly superior to almost anything on the waiver wire. If you have a weak link you can clip to take a risk on Jones, you should. Verdict: A gamble, but a smart one.
On the flip side of the returning from injury coin, I am far less impressed with Pekovic in fantasy terms. I know he has reclaimed a starting spot in Minnesota, but the reality is that averaging 0.3 blocks and 0.5 steals means that a big man has to be exceptional in points, rebounds, and percentages to overcome that. Pekovic simply hasn’t gotten there this season, and with the added emphasis on developing the younger players on the Timberwolves, I don’t think he is going to have significant value going forward. If you can trade him to an owner who doesn’t understand the value of defense, or if you are a small ball team punting blocks, he might have some value. However, in roto leagues or if you aren’t punting a defensive stat, Pek just doesn’t have enough meat on the fantasy bones to be worth it. Verdict: Very situational.
Super Mario lives! Well, kind of. In reality, he is going to live as long as Dwyane Wade is out with a hamstring injury. It’s been a tale of two seasons for Mario, as his averages of 10.9 points, 4.2 assists, 1.5 steals, and 0.8 three pointers tell the story of a point guard who is returning marginal value. However, with Wade out of the lineup, Chalmers has a much longer leash and has repeatedly dropped games like his 21 point, eight assist outing in Miami’s last matchup. I like this move purely because Wade is one of those players who you know will miss time, and Miami tends to handle him with kid gloves. If the Heat are eliminated from the playoffs and shut Wade down for the season, Chalmers could have additional value… but the East is so poor this year that is unlikely to happen until close to the finish line, if at all. Verdict: Medium-term help.
Kobe Bryant, Brandon Jennings, and Tony Wroten
It’s curtains for these three. All three injuries are genuinely severe – a torn rotator cuff and a ruptured Achilles tendon are nothing to joke about. I don’t even have to mention how ugly ACL injuries can be. In the case of Kobe, his removal from the Lakers probably puts them into full-on tank mode, so players like Jordan Clarkson are going to be much more interesting down the stretch. In the case of Jennings, the Pistons are still good enough to chase a playoff spot in the east, and Augustin is at least competent as a backup. In the case of Wroten, his minutes are probably going to be divided amongst the other wings on the Philly roster, while Larry Drew II will continue in the backup point guard role. Here, the fantasy value is more distributed, so small bumps for K.J. McDaniels, Hollis Thompson (if he can ever get right), Michael Carter-Williams, and Drew are all likely. Right now there is no reason to roster either of these guys in anything other than a dynasty league, and all we can do is hope they come back next year stronger and in better shape. Verdict: Drop.
Unlike the trio of terrible injury above, Walker might actually return this season. His six-week timeframe would bring him back before most leagues begin their playoff stretch, so if you have the ability to stash him, he’s valuable enough to be worth holding onto until then. On the flip side of the coin, if your team is already on the fringe of the playoffs, you probably can’t handle getting six weeks of blanks from Walker, and it’s time to cut bait and try to find something on the waiver wire (Brian Roberts?) that will recoup some of his value for you. In short, this is the ultimate situational play, as the stronger you are, the more able to you are to gamble on becoming even stronger if Walker returns. Verdict: Not for the faint of heart.
I’m honestly not sure if Jason Kidd is coaching a basketball team or engaging in a form of performance art with his lineups. Starters play seven minutes. Backups play thirty. They switch back and forth on a nightly basis. Seriously, is there anyone on this team that is genuinely trustworthy outside of Brandon Knight? Middleton has been hot lately, but how long until Jared Dudley becomes the flavor of the week again? In short, I’ve never felt good about any of the Bucks, and I feel even less good about Ilyasova, as he had a history of this kind of inconsistency even before Jason Kidd was in the picture. Suffice to say, he’s shown no glimpse of the upside he once had this season, and with Kidd standing between him and consistent playing time, Ilyasova is unlikely to be a good bet to return serious value this season. Verdict: No.