The NBA is back, but it’s not without some troubling news regarding some star players. In today’s Fantasy Edge, I’ll look at some injured players and ways to cope with their losses for your fantasy teams.
Kyrie Irving is out for the season
Kyrie Irving’s first season for the Brooklyn Nets is done.
Irving is having surgery on his shoulder, which was a rumoured course of action earlier this season when a cortisone shot provided a temporary sense of relief.
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But the pain has resurfaced and Kyrie is done.
So, in a fantasy league, Kyrie is a drop, but what about the replacements?
Well, for a start, if Caris LeVert is on your waiver wire, you have to add him.
LeVert has dealt with his own injuries this season, but without Irving this season, LeVert is averaging 1.13 fantasy points per minute, which dips all the way down to 1.01 points per minute when he is on the court with Irving.
Spencer Dinwiddie will start, but he should already be rostered.
LeVert could be as well, but it’s worth taking a look. In a deeper format, Garrett Temple and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot will also see a boost in value (TLC goes from 0.48 ppm to 0.71 ppm without Irving).
Damian Lillard’s groin injury
Lillard hurt his groin in the Trail Blazers last game before the All-Star break, missed the game and now he is saying he will miss three, or maybe four, or maybe five, or maybe six games.
A torn groin is no joke and we saw how it impacted LeBron James last season.
The Blazers are going nowhere this season, so a few weeks off for Lillard could be on the cards.
I would expect Anfernee Simons to step into the starting lineup. Simons averages 0.89 fantasy points per minute without Lillard versus 0.59 when he shares the court with Dame.
"It's just one of those things that you can't just say 'Alright I'ma play through it' because it could be bad ... I'm sore as hell but I've gotta take time off to let it heal completely." — @Dame_Lillard on his groin injury pic.twitter.com/qgGFcWHyyn— Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) February 20, 2020
Now, admittedly, most of his minutes come without Lillard anyway, but he could see his minutes spike as well, making him an interesting option.
We could also see Gary Trent Jr. see more minutes, although he was already playing near 30 a night off the bench, while Trevor Ariza could see himself get a few more shots.
Karl-Anthony Towns’ set to miss multiple games
When Towns missed a month with a knee injury, the Wolves just kept listing him as questionable.
Now he’s is out indefinitely with a wrist injury and the Wolves expect him to miss multiple games.
That is obviously bad news, but in fantasy someone always stands to benefit from it.
Malik Beasley is going to absorb a lot of Towns’ shots and that makes him a must-roster player.
As for the frontcourt, last game it was James Johnson starting at centre.
Saunders says Towns still being evaluated but he will not practice out of the break. Saunders said he will miss games but did not give a specific timeline on that left wrist— Jon Krawczynski (@JonKrawczynski) February 19, 2020
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Naz Reid get some starts as well, while Juancho Hernangómez will see his minutes rise a little as Johnson plays more centre, rather than power forward.
Reid is probably the most interesting, averaging a massive 1.12 fantasy points per minute this season.
He has suspect defence and he is a chucker, but that 1.12 ppm is third on the team behind Towns and D’Angelo Russell. Johnson is a possible add as well, but behind Reid.
Kemba Walker is managing knee soreness
At the start of February, Walker missed three games with a knee issue, then came back and played four straight, including 46 minutes in the overtime win over the Clippers.
Then Kemba started the All-Star game and played 29 minutes, pushing through his apparent minutes restriction, and wouldn’t you know it, he has appeared on the injury report for the first game back as OUT.
Now, some of that could be due to the fact that the Celtics are managing some soreness against a subpar team like the Wolves, but anytime a player plays one game in a week and then has to sit with an injury that has already caused time off, it’s a worry.
#Celtics announce Kemba Walker (sore left knee) won’t play tomorrow against the T-Wolves.— Clevis Murray (@ClevisMurray) February 20, 2020
Walker will have missed nine games this season. His most since the 2014-‘15 season.
Walker appeared in 79 games the past four seasons.
We aren’t dropping Kemba, but it does boost the value of Marcus Smart quite a bit.
When Smart has played with Walker this season, he has averaged 0.79 fantasy points per minute. With Walker off the court, it leaps to 1.05 ppm. To drill down even more, when Smart plays with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Gordon Hayward, with Walker off the court, he averages 0.99 ppm.
If he wasn’t on a roster, I would be looking at Smart as an option, while Brad Wanamaker gets a boost in minutes for deeper leagues.
How Marc Gasol’s hamstring affects the Raptors’ minutes distribution
Marc Gasol hurt his hamstring for the second time on January 28, the day before the birthday. We haven’t seen him since and the latest report has him out ‘a while longer’.
He is a pretty tough player to hold, given he is ranked just 126th this season.
Serge Ibaka’s minutes will continue to rise, while Rondae Hollis-Jefferson will get some minutes at centre as well, while Chris Boucher gets limited minutes as a backup.
With Gasol out, Ibaka plays over 30 minutes a night, while when both are healthy, Ibaka only gets minutes in the mid 20s.
Every week, I’ll be looking at some weird trends across the NBA and seeing what they mean, so make sure you’re checking out The Edge, here every Friday.