The first significant injury (Brook Lopez) was sustained before the season commenced.
Since games tipped off Christmas Day, the list of impact fantasy players missing at least 20 percent of their team’s games due to injury has been epidemic, frustrating helpless fantasy owners to no end and reducing their chances of finishing “in the money.”
By my count, 15 of the Top 50 fantasy basketball players have already missed significant playing time, and the abbreviated season is still a week shy of the All-Star break: Rajon Rondo (7 games), Al Horford (out for the season), Derrick Rose (9 games), Luol Deng (7 games), Danilo Gallinari (5 games and counting), Nene (7 games), Stephen Curry (9 games), Zach Randolph (26 games and counting), Dwyane Wade (9 games), Andrew Bogut (out for the season), Brook Lopez (30 games and counting), Eric Gordon (27 games and counting), Carmelo Anthony (8 games), Manu Ginobili (22 games) and Andrea Bargnani (19 games and counting).
The antidote for fantasy injuries is being prepared with a backup plan.
If Kyle Lowry goes down in my 9-CAT league, I have Goran Dragic on my bench as insurance. Better yet, take advantage of others’ misfortunes and pounce when opportunity arises. Jarrett Jack goes down, Greivis Vasquez is the new point guard in New Orleans. With Rondo in Boston’s lineup, Paul Pierce’s stats have been pedestrian. With Rondo sidelined in late January/early February, the stats Pierce produced were worthy of second-round value.
The following players have little to zero fantasy value in their current role as a backup, but have the potential to make a noteworthy impact on your fantasy squad should a certain player (listed in parenthesis) become injured or traded:
Omer Asik, Chicago Bulls (Joakim Noah): Noah has a history of missing chunks of seasons because of his high-energy style and playing with reckless abandon. Last March, Asik, the seven-footer out of Turkey, in just 14.6 minutes per game, averaged 5 rebounds and 1 block. Double that with starters minutes and Asik becomes quite useful at the all-important center position.
Ramon Sessions, Cleveland Cavaliers (Kyrie Irving): Sessions has both rewarded and disappointed fantasy owners during previous seasons with his rollercoaster numbers. In Milwaukee in 2008-09, he averaged 12.4 points, 5.7 assists and 1.1 steals. In Minnesota the following season, he averaged a paltry 8.2 points, 3.1 assists and 0.7 steals. With Rookie of the Year candidate Irving tearing it up in Cleveland, Sessions is putting up a respectable 9.4 points and 4.8 assists per game coming off the pine. In the three games Irving recently missed, Sessions started and put up 18.3 points and an eye-popping 12.3 assists per game.
Nate Robinson, Golden State Warriors (Stephen Curry): The Warriors’ firecracker is instant offense in short spurts off the bench. With Curry and Monta Ellis entrenched as starters that log heavy minutes, Robinson averages 21.6 minutes per game. Should Curry’s ankle fail him again (and the chance of this happening is far from remote) figure Robinson to become the starter and potentially average 15 points, 6.5 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.5 3-pointers.
Goran Dragic, Houston Rockets (Kyle Lowry): Lowry’s been a fantasy stud since the midpoint of last season. I drafted him in our 9-CAT league and dealt LaMarcus Aldridge for him in our 8-CAT league. Should Lowry go down, Dragic proved in Phoenix last season as a fill-in for Steve Nash that he’s no fantasy slouch, averaging 13.4 points, 1.6 3-pointers, 7.8 rebounds, 7.8 assists, 1.4 steals and 0.6 blocked-shots per game. In the two games this season he started for Lowry, Dragic averaged 15.0 points on 55.0 fg%, 1.5 three-pointers, 9.5 assists and 1.5 steals.
George Hill, Indiana Pacers (Darren Collison or Paul George): Many NBA fans were shocked the Spurs dealt Hill this past offseason given the success he had in Gregg Popovich’s system. Though Hill’s minutes played per game increased only from 28.0 to 31.4 in the five games he started last season, the numbers he produced playing with the Spurs’ first team were significantly higher in terms of field goal percentage, free throws made, assists, steals and points. Should Collison or Paul George go down, Hill is versatile enough to start at either guard position and become a viable guard option for fantasy owners.
Randy Foye, Los Angeles Clippers (Chris Paul): I suggested a few weeks back Foye would not have value unless two guards were injured. Chauncey Billups is now gone for the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon. Foye is starting in his place, but his fantasy numbers have thus far been insignificant with Paul still running the Clippers’ show. Should CP3 go down (he did miss 5 games earlier this season due to injury), Foye becomes valuable. While starting 24 games last season for the Clippers, he averaged 16.1 points, 1.9 3-pointers, 3.5 free throws-made, 4.0 assists and 1.3 steals. Yes, Mo Williams becomes more valuable should Paul go down, but it is Foye who most likely se the bigger jump in value.
Evan Turner, Philadelphia 76ers (Andre Iguodala or Jodie Meeks): With Iguodala having fully bought into Doug Collins’ team-first system to become the facilitator and defensive stopper the coach asked him to become, Turner’s playing time has been decreasing rather than increasing. Watching ET play on a nightly basis, the skill level is most definitely there. What isn’t is the opportunity for him to play starter’s minutes. Should Iguodala or Meeks go down, I look for Collins to start Turner and keep Sixth Man of the Year candidate Lou Williams in his current role. With 35 minutes per game and running with the first team, Turner could very well average 15 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists, and perhaps qualify as a multi-position player (guard and forward).
Beno Udrih, Milwaukee Bucks (Brandon Jennings): The knock on Udrih has always been that he’s a sieve on defense. In fantasy basketball the only defense we care about are steals and blocks (Joe Dumars was perennial All-Defensive NBA for Detroit and did neither for fantasy owners!). While starting 64 games last season for Sacramento, Udrih averaged 14.5 points, 5.3 assists and 1.3 steals whle shooting 50.2% from the field. Jennings missed 19 games last season, so Udrih is a replacement worth keeping in mind.
Jordan Farmar, New Jersey Nets (Deron Williams): It does not appear Williams–the impending free agent who has been noncommittal on his future with the Nets past this season–will be dealt prior to the trading deadline. If he is, swoop in on Farmar, who in 18 games started last season for the Nets averaged 13.7 points, 1.5 three-pointers, 9.1 assists and 1 steal. In Avery Johnson’s system this season, Farmar’s numbers have increased each month. In February, he has averaged 13.4 points, 1.9 three-pointers, 3.8 assists and shot 51.3% from the field.
Isaiah Thomas, Sacramento Kings (Tyreke Evans): While Jimmer Fredette has garnered the media hype, it is the Kings’ other rookie that has been the better NBA player thus far. Friday night Thomas earned his first career start, with Evans sliding over to point-forward and John Salmons demoted to the bench. Even should this modified lineup stick, Evans most likely still will dominate the ball on offense, leaving Thomas with little fantasy value. However, should Evans become injured (he’s missed 10 and 25 games in his first two NBA seasons, respectively), look for the diminutive, lightening-quick Thomas to run the offense, where he’s displayed the aptitude to score and distribute the rock.
Marc Kravitz, based in Philadelphia, provides Quality Assurance Mystery Shopper services to Restaurants throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. He is a Mixed Martial Arts fanatic and Fantasy Basketball junkie. In Fantasy Hoops, “Krewtime” has finished “in the money” in 85% of the leagues he has participated in. Follow Marc’s fantasy advice on Twitter @Marc_Kravitz