Last week, I mentioned the importance of injuries in this column. This week, I will again mention the importance of injuries in this column. However, what injuries take away in fantasy with one hand, they often give with the other hand. I would encourage anyone who is dealing with injured players on their team, or who merely notices injuries on other teams, to always consider the knock-on effects.
Someone has to play minutes, after all.
In many cases, fantasy value can be unlocked because of the misfortune of other teams (or your own). D.J. Augustin has been a revelation in place of Brandon Jennings, and this is both the best case and simplest scenario for injuries: a player steps into the exact shoes of the guy who went down and begins to do the same things. With that said, there are situations that are also far more complex, such as the return of Deron Williams seeing him re-invented by Lionel Hollins as a combo-guard off the bench spelling players at both spots and running alongside Jarrett Jack, which means Jack may also retain his value down the stretch after initially being unlocked because of the Williams injury.
As you read through these recommendations, I would emphasize that I can’t possibly write about every single player in the NBA, but always keep an eye on the knock-on effects of injuries for situations like Deron Williams. The same may happen with the rapidly approaching trade deadline. There is always an opportunity to improve most teams.
Speaking of injuries, Ellington is one of the most direct beneficiaries of Kobe Bryant‘s season-ending surgery. Over the last 15 days, Ellington is averaging 32 mpg, 15.7 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.5 three pointers, 1.2 steals, and shooting nearly 47 percent from the field and 92 percent from the line. While the percentages are likely to regress a bit, as Ellington is well above his season and career averages, the minutes are likely to be there until Byron Scott decides on his next random lineup change. For now, Nick Young remains at least semi-exiled to Scott’s shoehouse, so the counting stats for Ellington should remain. Verdict: Solid add, but watch out for Byron Scott doing his thing.
If Kevin Martin is out there in any league, he shouldn’t be. Yes, his game is basically only about shooting. Yes, he gets injured frequently. Yes, he’s playing for the Timberwolves. However, every single time he gets an opportunity, Martin puts up points in bunches along with threes and free throw percentages. Since his return, he’s averaging 83 percent on 4.5 free throws per game, as well as 18.3 points and 1.5 three pointers per game. These numbers are only going up if he stays even somewhat healthy. If Martin is still somehow out there in your league, pick him up. If his current owner is terrified of his health, pitch him a buy low offer. Martin can legitimately light it up and is often underestimated. He is fragile, but lethal. Verdict: Solid add.
Another member of the returning from injury brigade, the mascot-hating Lopez brother returned to action for the Trailblazers, Lopez is the easiest player on this list for me to peg: he is a very strong bet to get back to doing exactly what he was doing before he got injured. Terry Stotts runs a relatively predictable rotation for his starters, Lopez has a clearly defined role on the team, and his fantasy game translates to almost any context well. In particular, Lopez is valuable in roto because of his lack of any severe deficiency, but in head to head leagues, he is easy to integrate into most teams. Expect about 9.5 points, 7 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, 1 assist, and half a steal per game with solid percentages. Verdict: Solid add.
Now things get interesting. Kidd-Gilchrist is a player that seems to have been unleashed since his return to the lineup for Charlotte, and as a result, he is both contributing and anti-contributing to fantasy teams everywhere. Over the past 15 days, owners can enjoy 12.8 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.0 steals per game. However, they can also enjoy 45 percent shooting on 10 shots paired with 57.5 percent shooting on 6.7 foul shots per game. Is that Josh Smith‘s music I hear!? The punch line is that Kidd-Gilchrist is joining the pantheon of players who will chip in major counting stats while obliterating the percentages. Josh Smith may be the charter members, but luminaries such as Michael Carter-Williams, Tony Wroten, and Tyreke Evans populate the club. Kidd-Gilchrist may be the newest member if he holds this pace, so be very aware of precisely what he will do to your team when you add him. Verdict: If you can withstand the punch to the percentages, add him. Otherwise, back away slowly.
Hollis Thompson is probably only the third best Thompson to own for fantasy purposes in the entire NBA, behind Klay Thompson (obvious) and Tristan Thompson (it’s not good news when you are worse than him for fantasy). My suspicion is that Thompson is being added largely on the back of 23 point, 4 three pointer, 3 rebound, 3 assist, 2 block, 1 steal game, on 66 percent from the field. This ignores the fact that for the rest of the season, Hollis Thompson has not been good at basketball. He is shooting 39 percent on the year, and vastly outperformed his counting stat averages. One of the rules of thumb I have for adding players is that picking guys up based on unusually strong percentage games is usually not a good decision. Hollis Thompson is going to turn back into a pumpkin, and owners are going to get the exact same guy who has been on the Sixers this whole season. Verdict: No thank you.
Normally I don’t like dropping players with what are likely to be short to medium term injuries, but I am going to make an exception for J.J. Redick. Redick is one of the players I like least in fantasy: the empty-line shooting guard. He will reliably produce points, threes, free throw percentage in moderate amounts and that’s the entire list. In that situation, if Redick is not firing on all cylinders and remaining healthy, he’s just not going to deliver enough to justify a roster spot in many leagues. He lacks the upside of a guy like Kevin Martin, and he lacks the all-around game of other lesser known shooting guards like Danny Green, Kyle Korver, or even J.R. Smith. Suffice to say, when you are less well-rounded than J.R. Smith, that’s not a good sign. Verdict: This is a justifiable drop unless you have a very deep roster or are in a very deep league.
How have we gotten to the point in time where Dwight Howard might be a justifiable drop? No matter what you do here, this is going to be a dangerous game. So far this season, Howard has looked like he has never really been healthy, and knee problems have already robbed him of weeks worth of games. Right now, he is out for a least a month, which means if your team is chasing from behind for a playoff spot or in the roto standings, you likely can’t hold him unless you have an IR. Even when he has played, he has lacked the typical Dwight Howard level of explosion, and his season averages of 16.3 points, 11 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks have basically turned him into a less good Hassan Whiteside. Given that Howard is also shooting a brisk 53 percent on 6.9 free throws, he has become a player who can single-handedly lose you a category every week without contributing outsized stats in other categories. If Howard can’t regain his form, he is probably only worth owning on teams that are straight up punting free throws in head to head leagues. In roto leagues, he is definitely not worth the headache. Verdict: Unless you are punting free throws or can park him on the IR, let someone else deal with this.
Jordan Hill is a player who has never stayed healthy for a full NBA season. Jordan Hill has returned to form. Out for roughly two weeks with a grade 1 hip flexor strain, Hill is still traveling with the Lakers and looks like he will return. To that end, Hill has been chipping in 12.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.9 blocks, and 0.5 steals on decent percentages so far this season. His role with the Lakers seems like one of the few that is stable, and his absence is likely to be limited. Thus, if you have the ability to stash him for a week or two, this is actually a player that should be added, not dropped. If you are desperate for games or way behind in the standings, it’s time to cut him loose, but be aware it may eventually strengthen a rival. Verdict: If you can take the short-term pain, add him, don’t drop him.
Swaggy P has come out fighting with Byron Scott, his own ankle, and anyone who advocates not taking long twos with 22 seconds left on the shot clock. As a result, he was out due to injuries and then out due to DNP-CD, which was Byron Scott’s way of saying he prefers that players pretend to drive to the hoop before settling for long twos instead of doing it immediately. Young will invariably get back on track at some point, then crash off the track again in spectacular fashion, only to return to step one. Unless your field goal percentage already looks like a trash dump or you have a philosophical opposition to passing the ball, Young is another empty line shooting guard. In truth, I’d rather have Redick once he gets healthy. Verdict: Only if shoes owned are a category in your league.
Fate is a fickle thing. A few weeks back I tepidly endorsed Galloway as the beneficiary of the Knicks disaster largely on the basis of him getting consistent minutes. Now, I am being rebuked by the fantasy community while Galloway is mass-dropped. With that said, Galloway is still averaging 33 minutes, 9.8 points, 4 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.3 3 pointers, 0.8 steals, and 0.5 blocks over the past four games. His shooting has fallen off a cliff, as he has connected at a truly atrocious 34 percent on 11 shots per game, but unless you believe Galloway has magically lost the ability to shoot, he is going to revert to the mean. This is basically an inverse Hollis Thompson from above: when other people drop a player because of an unusual cold streak, as long as the peripheral stats are still there, pick them up. There are better days ahead for Galloway. Verdict: Add, don’t drop. The minutes are there.