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Fantasy: Which NBA Injuries Are Worrisome?

Basketball Insiders takes a look at the more concerning injuries to hit fantasy contributors early on this season.

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The 2014-15 NBA season hasn’t even reached the end of one full week and already fantasy owners are groaning over injuries.

Seasoned owners analyze the injury status of desired players prior to draft day, weighing the damage of missed games against the benefit of eventual return. Of course, some are no-brainers. Kevin Durant (foot surgery) wasn’t among the top two picks in most leagues this season, but he didn’t fall far in the first round. No return date has been provided for the reigning MVP, but he’s projected to return in December. Even Steve Nash was a gamble despite the gushing eyewitness reports all summer of his healthy return. Those who drafted Nash were sorely disappointed when he was officially ruled out for the year (back pain) just five days before the season started.

On the other hand, some players who were expected to miss games (Rajon Rondo, for one) delighted owners with his surprise start on opening day. For owners of Marcus Smart, well, they were not so delighted. And on the opposite end, we have rookie Julius Randle who suffered a broken leg in the Los Angeles Lakers’ opener and will miss the entire season. You can’t anticipate events like that.

Injuries are maddening to fantasy owners, but it’s an unavoidable part of the game. Without question, injuries are tricky to manage as decisions must be made quickly when news breaks. Do you stash, run to the waiver wire or propose a trade? You have to determine who will get more minutes because of injury and what could happen if said benefactor plays so well that the returning player doesn’t return to his previous numbers. Trying to master it all is what makes this game so fun and so very addicting.

Ideally, owners draft healthy players or those projected to return to 100 percent health in the very near future, and then hope for the best. An injury-free season is rarely the case, but experienced fantasy owners know the importance of staying on top of injuries on a daily basis.

There are a number of solid players who were drafted yet aren’t scheduled to take the court for some time. We’ll focus on some of these players recovering from injury and what their absence could mean to your season.

As always, when we talk fantasy basketball here, it is based on nine-category fantasy scoring leagues that account for points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocks, three-pointers made, turnovers, field goal percentage and free throw percentage.

Russell Westbrook – Oklahoma City Thunder
What’s in the water in Oklahoma City? When a camp invitee – Lance Thomas – averages 25.0 minutes in the first three games of a new season, you know something is terribly wrong. The injuries just won’t stop for this team. The season started without the services of Durant, Anthony Morrow (sprained MCL), Mitch McGary (fractured foot), Reggie Jackson (twisted ankle) and Jeremy Lamb (back sprain). Now Westbrook is sidelined after breaking the second metacarpal of his shooting hand. He just had surgery and will be re-evaluated in four weeks, so his official return remains unknown at this point. With a player of Westbrook’s caliber, fantasy owners will keep him benched. Don’t lose sight of the fact this fantasy season is early. He may end up returning around the same time Durant returns, which allows plenty of time for these two to post those valuable numbers. In the meantime, take a look at Perry Jones if you can afford to drop a player on your roster. Jones responded very well in the game in which Westbrook went down, posting a career-high 32 points with seven rebounds, three assists and three three-pointers. In addition, he went 9-of-11 in free throws and 10-of-17 in field goals. Note: this writer grabbed Jones off the waiver wire following that outing and has no regrets.

Victor Oladipo  – Orlando Magic
Anyone with a heart has got to feel bad for Oladipo. Instead of embarking on a projected fantasy breakout second season, he’s at home recuperating from surgery to repair a facial fracture sustained in practice just a few days before the season started. This occurred on the heels of a sprained MCL suffered on the fourth day of training camp. The facial injury required insertion of a metal plate and screws just below his eye. Oladipo has significant swelling and can’t begin to think about any type of conditioning program until he’s off pain medication. As a result, his return date is undetermined yet some are predicting he could take the court by early December. Fantasy owners were expecting an improved Oladipo with his 20-pound weight loss and attention to mid-range jumpers in the offseason. He’s a player who can contribute meaningfully in multiple categories. Last season he averaged 13.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.6 steals while shooting 41.9 percent from the field. When he does return to the court, he’ll possibly be wearing a protective face mask and a knee brace.

Jodie Meeks- Detroit Pistons
Detroit was thrilled to have landed their main target, guard Jodie Meeks, in free agency in the offseason. Playing for the Lakers last year, Meeks averaged a career-high 15.7 points, with 2.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.4 steals and 2.1 in three-pointers. When a CT scan revealed a lower back stress reaction after experiencing spasms in the preseason, he was ruled out for the next eight weeks. Coach Stan Van Gundy is perplexed as to how the injury occurred since he suffered no discernable hit or fall. Now it appears Meeks will miss 22 games. Van Gundy had been singing his praises with his ability to score in bunches, come off screens and draw fouls. He was expected to play significant minutes, perhaps even a starting role. With rehabilitation and rest, Meeks is projected to make a full recovery.

Bradley Beal – Washington Wizards
Fantasy owners were pumped to see how Beal would perform this season, starting alongside of John Wall to comprise one of the league’s top starting backcourt duos. Unfortunately, Beal suffered a non-displaced wrist fracture during a preseason game. He had surgery and should return around Thanksgiving. He’s keeping a positive attitude, thankful the injury wasn’t ligament-related and noting the injury was to his non-shooting hand. Beal’s cast has been removed and he’s putting up one-handed free throws at practice. The 21-year-old shooting guard was expected to take a greater leap than the already-impressive one he made last season. He averaged 17.1 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.8 turnovers, 1.9 in three-pointers (40.2 percent) and 41.9 percent in field goal shooting. He’s a fantasy dream with his ability to contribute across the board.

Brook Lopez – Brooklyn Nets
When Lopez is healthy, he’s among the top offensive centers in this league. When he’s not – which has been the case of late – he’s frustrating to owners. He appeared in just 17 games last season as a starter, averaging 20.7 points, 1.8 blocks and 6.0 rebounds in 31.4 minutes. Right now, his return date is a mystery though he says he may try to play this week. Coach Lionel Hollins recently said he’s abandoned feeling optimistic about Lopez due to missed practices. This is certainly not music to any fantasy owner’s ears. Lopez, 7’0, has evidently suffered a setback (nagging pain) in his recovery from a soft tissue injury to his surgically-repaired right foot. Again, not the words we want to hear. Recall he played in only five games in 2011-12 because of a fractured right foot which required surgery. He then had corrective surgery in 2013, and he re-injured it last year which required two procedures during one surgery, followed by left ankle surgery. Big men and recurring foot problems? This is definitely worrisome.

Nick Young – Los Angeles Lakers
Young had to undergo surgery in early October after tearing a ligament in his right thumb in a training camp workout. The timetable for return is approximately eight weeks although coach Byron Scott estimated 5-7 weeks. His cast has been removed, so perhaps we’ll see him in late November. The Lakers can sure use his help; they’ve begun the season with a 0-4 record, which is the worst start since 1957 when the team was in Minneapolis. Young got a tremendous opportunity in his first season with the Lakers while Kobe Bryant was sidelined and was rewarded with a multi-year contract. He caught the attention of many in his role off the bench, logging career-highs and team-highs in points (17.9) and three-pointers (2.1) in 28.3 minutes. Young is poised for a breakout year in a sixth-man role.

George Hill – Indiana Pacers

Hill’s knee injury will keep him sidelined a minimum of two more weeks.

Jose Calderon – New York Knicks

Shane Larkin is stepping in for the injured Calderon (calf). He will miss at least another two weeks.

Michael Carter-Williams – Philadelphia 76ers

A shoulder injury has kept Carter-Williams off the floor. He’s expected to participate in a full practice later this week, so keep fingers crossed.

Patty Mills – San Antonio Spurs

After undergoing rotator cuff surgery in July, Mills is not expected back in action until January.

Anthony Morrow – Oklahoma City Thunder

Morrow won’t play with his new team for about five weeks due to a sprained MCL. His teammate, rookie Mitch McGary, is sidelined another six weeks with a foot fracture.

Vitor Faverani – Boston Celtics

Faverani (knee) won’t return until possibly early December.

Damien Inglis – Milwaukee Bucks

A foot fracture will keep Inglis from making his NBA debut for at least another five weeks.

We hope this information will be helpful to you as strategies are planned in your fantasy basketball league. Just keep on top of injury news and set your rosters accordingly.

Which injuries are you most concerned about so far? Tell us in the comments section below.

Susan Bible covers the Oklahoma City Thunder for Basketball Insiders and writes about all NBA teams. She is a Senior Newslines Editor and contributes to fantasy basketball coverage.

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