by: Daniel Dobish
We look at the most important injuries for Fantasy owners, analyzing not only the injured player and when he’ll be back, but who benefits from his absence.
Players with nagging injuries have had the benefit of the All-Star break to rest for six or seven full days, if need be. It’s a great time for players, who get a much-needed rest, and for Fantasy owners who might have a totally different looking team coming out of the break with healthy players returning. Some guys with long-term injuries also key on the break as a goal for returning.
Boston Celtics PF/C Jared Sullinger (finger) is nursing a right index finger injury, but the Boston Herald reports he avoided heavy traffic to protect himself as much as possible. In fact, nine of his 11 field goal attempts were from behind the 3-point arc. … PG Rajon Rondo (knee) has gotten much-needed rest for his surgically repaired knee during the break, but it’s uncertain if that means he will play both ends of a back-to-back situation coming up on the team’s west-coast road swing Friday at L.A. Lakers and Saturday at Sacramento. Fantasy owners beware. … G Avery Bradley(ankle) could miss time after the break, head coach Brad Stevens told The Boston Globe. If you normally depend upon Bradley for Fantasy purposes, keep him reserved to be on the safe side.
The Denver Post is reporting that a decision will come by March 1 on whether C JaVale McGee (leg) will require surgery for the stress fracture in his tibia. He has been sidelined since early November, and while he has started to do lower-body work on the elliptical machine, there is still uncertainty if he’ll be able to play. Fantasy owners should hang onto him, but if he goes for surgery he is obviously no longer worth hanging onto. PF/C J.J. Hickson and C Timofey Mozgov remain the top dogs in the frontcourt for the Nuggs.
Los Angeles Lakers PF/C Pau Gasol (groin) told the Los Angeles Times that he could return as soon as Wednesday, the first game for the team after the break. While that’s great news, there are a few notes of concern. One, he might be a bit rusty heading into that game, and two, he could very well be without another team by that date. The Feb. 20 trade deadline is approaching, and it is no secret the Lakers have been shopping Gasol, as this season has been lost in L.A. Fantasy owners will want to play wait-and-see with Gasol in the first scoring period after the break.
Memphis Grizzlies C Marc Gasol (knee) hit the break with a worrisome injury for Fantasy owners, as he hurt his left knee Wednesday. The Memphis Commercial Appeal reports an MRI on his left knee was clean, and revealed no structural damage. He will be re-evaluated by team doctors Monday. As a rule of thumb, it is a good idea to keep a player who is a question mark reserved in Fantasy leagues, but check back on the reports Monday. If he gets the green light from doctors, there is no reason to have him languishing on your bench in the new week. … PG Mike Conley Jr.(ankle) was nearing a return before the break, but the team took advantage of the extra week of rest to get Conley right. PG Nick Calathes has been outstanding in Conley’s stead, but it appears his Fantasy appeal will take a hit with Conley soon to return. Calathes is still worth hanging onto in the event of an aggravation, but Conley is the show in Memphis.
Miami Heat SG Dwyane Wade (foot) did not play Wednesday before the All-Star break due to a sore foot, but he played in the All-Star game. Fantasy owners probably would’ve preferred to see the Mayor of Wade County sit and rest, rather than risk aggravating the injury in an exhibition. The good news is that Miami does not have any back-to-back situations, so he looks fine for the post-break lineup.
Milwaukee Bucks C Larry Sanders (eye) suffered a fractured orbital bone right before the break, and the injury required surgery. He will be sidelined at least six weeks before it is safe to risk contact with the area. Sanders can probably be dropped in all Fantasy formats if you need the roster spot, but if you have a deep bench and plenty of flexibility, feel free to hang onto him. PF John Henson and C Zaza Pachulia are strong additions for Fantasy frontcourts.
Oklahoma City Thunder PG Russell Westbrook (knee) will have his knee re-evaluated Tuesday, according to Yahoo! Sports. That’s good news, as there is a strong possibility he is able to return for Thursday’s game against the Miami Heat. The team announced Dec. 27 that Westbrook had right knee surgery for the second time since late October, and the projections were that he would be out until after the All-Star break. It appears those projections were right on target. Fantasy owners will want to keep him reserved until he can officially return and prove his health in at least one or two full games. Owners of PG Reggie Jackson are not as thrilled with Westbrook’s return, and SG Jeremy Lamb are even less excited. Both Jackson and Lamb are sure to see heavy workload decreases with Westbrook gobbling up starter’s minutes and leaving scraps for the others.
Phoenix Suns PG Eric Bledsoe (knee) continues to progress, according to The Arizona Republic, and while there is no official timetable for his return, it is believed that he will not be sidelined long after the All-Star break. “He’s making good progress on his rehab,” Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby said. “He’s progressing as expected. We’re still optimistic that he’ll return some time after the All-Star break.” Bledsoe has started some spot shooting, and lift on the floor, so there is light at the end of the tunnel for Fantasy owners.