Fantasy Focus: Injury Update
Player injuries rocked the world of fantasy basketball last season. No matter how well owners draft or how clever the trade or waiver-wire pick-up, maneuvering successfully through unexpected injuries is a huge part of the game.
Often it’s difficult to determine if the key is patience (should an injured player be benched on a short-term basis until full health is restored?) or if opportunity is knocking (should an injured player be dropped in favor of a waiver-wire replacement?). The most reliable research available at owners’ fingertips can’t always answer either of these questions. Sometimes it’s all about risk-taking. Such decisions are part of the games’ beauty; it’s also what makes the game maddening.
We figured it was an appropriate time to check the status of some bigger-name, fantasy-friendly injured players. As there was no shortage of injuries last season, we limited our list to high-profile, fantasy-relevant players, most of whom were not suited up at season’s end.
RUDY GAY – MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES
Gay suffered one of the more surprising injuries last season when a separated shoulder limited to him just 54 games. He had surgery in March which left him sidelined during the Grizzlies strong postseason run. Until that injury occurred, Gay had missed only ten games in his four-year career.
Having to give up Gay so late in the year was beyond disappointing to fantasy owners, as Gay was putting up career numbers in shooting across the board: field-goal percentage (.471), three-point percentage (.396) and free-throw percentage (.805). Not only that, he also had career numbers in assists (2.8), steals (1.7), blocks (1.1) and defensive rebounds (4.7). He tied his best record in total rebounds (6.2) and logged his second-best numbers in scoring (19.8) and field-goals made (7.6).
Recently Gay estimated he’s ninety-percent recovered from the surgery. The delayed start of the upcoming season will certainly aid Gay reaching full health by the time fantasy drafts occur.
RAJON RONDO – BOSTON CELTICS
Rondo proved he is one tough player in this league last season. Throughout the year, he dealt with plantar fasciitis and injuries to his ankle, finger and hamstring; all of which limited him to 68 games. He had missed just three games during the previous two years.
Despite all the injuries, Rondo was ranked second in both assists per game (11.2) and steals per game (2.2) last season. He was named to the NBA All-Defensive Team for the second year in a row, as well as a back-to-back All-Star honors.
The pièce de résistance for Rondo occurred in Game Three of the Eastern Conference semifinals. He left the floor after dislocating his elbow in a particularly gruesome fashion, yet returned to play the entire fourth quarter with the use of just one arm. Not only did he play, he directed the offense, he hustled, he passed, he made a lay-up and a dunk…it was one for the ages.
All reports indicate Rondo has fully recovered from the elbow injury, as well as all the other injuries suffered during last season.
DAVID WEST – NEW ORLEANS HORNETS
After West suffered a season-ending injury in late March (left anterior cruciate ligament tear), estimates for returns hovered around a six-to-eight-month timeframe. This is precisely why he ranks among players who stand to benefit from this lockout. By the time the 2011-12 finally commences, West should be one-hundred percent healthy.
As 31-year-old West – an unrestricted free agent – decides between staying in New Orleans or jumping ship, he continues playing at a high level. Last season, he averaged a team-high 18.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 2.3 apg, .508 field-goal percentage and .807 free-throw percentage.
CARON BUTLER – DALLAS MAVERICKS
Butler suffered an injury (ruptured right patellar tendon which required surgery) during a New Year’s Day game which sidelined him the rest of the regular season.
Despite valiant claims to return to the court, he was unable to participate in his team’s postseason run which, of course, culminated in an NBA title.
During the 29 games in which he appeared, Butler averaged 15.0 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.0 steal in 29.9 minutes. He had 1.0 average three-pointers at a career-high .431 percentage and .450 in field-goal percentage.
Butler, an unrestricted free agent, has started in every game in which he played since the 2006-07 season. By all indications, Butler wants to remain in Dallas as much as Dallas wants to re-sign him. Perhaps Dallas is thinking more short-term until the knee is sufficiently tested. The good news is that he was given the all-clear to play full-on basketball in July.
ERIC GORDON – LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
If Gordon can have an injury-free season, fantasy owners who snap him up will be richly rewarded. This player flies way far under radar, yet his across-the-board contributions are beyond notable. Last season in 56 games, the 22-year-old averaged 22.3 points, 4.4 assists, 1.9 three-pointers, 1.3 steals, 2.9 boards and 5.1 free throws (at .825).
A nagging wrist injury, later determined to be a bone chip fracture, was the culprit last season. In the 2009-10 season, he missed 20 games with an injured ankle.
TYREKE EVANS – SACRAMENTO KINGS
Evans’ up-and-down season was tied directly to his up-and-down foot injury, later diagnosed as plantar fasciitis. Though he logged an impressive 17.8 ppg, 5.6 apg and 4.8 rpg in 57 games – all lower than his rookie year numbers – some predict a third-year jump.
JERMAINE O’NEAL – BOSTON CELTICS
O’Neal frankly stated recently that this season could be his last. With 15 years in the NBA under his belt with a mountain of past injuries suffered, he faces eventual wrist surgery which doesn’t particularly bode well for this season. The 33-year-old has logged respectable career averages of 14.0 points and 7.5 rebounds.
ANTAWN JAMISON – CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
A fractured left pinky ended Jamison’s season early; he played 56 games (18 off the bench) in total last season. He could’ve pushed an early return, but there was no reason to do so. He averaged 18.0 points, 1.6 in threes and 6.7 rebounds.
GREG ODEN – PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
Oden has all the potential in the world; he just needs to stay healthy. The way he started last season was downright inspired: 11.1 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and .605 in field-goal shooting. These numbers were posted in 23.9 minutes of playing time in 21 games. Oden may not be NBA-ready until January, 2012.
ANDREW BOGUT – MILWAUKEE BUCKS
Bogut forewarned he would not be playing at 100% last year after suffering a serious elbow/hand injury at the end of the 2009-10 season. True enough, he was right, as evidenced by the lowest shooting percentages of his career. Incredibly, he still he managed to appear in 65 games at an average 35.3 minutes with averages of 12.8 points, 11.1 rebounds and a league-high 2.6 blocks per game. Bogut had surgery in April and looks good to go for this season.
ANDERSON VAREJAO – CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
Cleveland could ill-afford to lose their top rebounder (9.7 rpg) to injury last season, but that’s exactly what occurred to the 29-year-old starter. A torn tendon in his right ankle limited Varejao to just 31 games and ended his season. He had surgery in February followed by a multi-month period of recovery. The ankle has now healed, and he’s ready for action.
Again, we didn’t address all injuries; players with fantasy implications were the target.