Fantasy Basketball: The Book on Player Injuries and the Fantasy Fallout

Jamal CollierAnalyst IIIDecember 18, 2012

Fantasy Basketball: The Book on Player Injuries and the Fantasy Fallout

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    ‘Tis the season for Dirk Nowitzki’s and Amar’e Stoudemire’s respective returns to the NBA hardwood and fantasy basketball lineups. Ricky Rubio is already back in the fold, almost notching a double-double with eight points and nine assists in just 18 minutes during his first game back.

    Steve Nash and Pau Gasol may return to the floor for the L.A. Lakers before the calendar year is over as well. The fantasy fallout of their respective reclamation projects of NBA minutes will be examined here. Derrick Rose and John Wall’s still-indefinite absences won’t be addressed.

    The top five most widely-owned absent players in ESPN.com fantasy leagues deserve some attention in terms of predicting how their teams’ rotations will change when they make their respective returns. Rubio doesn’t fit that description anymore, but another point guard does.

     

    All stats accurate prior to games played on Dec. 18, 2012

Pau Gasol

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    ESPN.com Ownership Percentage: 100.0

    The Los Angeles Lakers sorely need production from the power forward position. Antawn Jamison provided that for a short spurt, averaging 15.9 points over seven games between Nov. 23 and Dec. 5. In the seven games since, he hasn’t scored double-digit points. Jamison was also blanked in his last two games.

    His minutes have dipped, and the Lakers are missing Pau Gasol—but help is on the way.

    Gasol could play as early as Tuesday night against the Charlotte Bobcats and has already practiced with his team, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com. He’s been out for over two weeks with a knee issue.

    Gasol’s minutes may not immediately encroach upon his 34.8 per-game average, but his return doesn’t change the relevance among L.A.’s already-relevant fantasy options. Only their projected starting five (Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Gasol and Dwight Howard) are owned in more than 14.1 percent of ESPN.com leagues.

Kyle Lowry

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    ESPN.com Ownership Percentage: 100.0

    Kyle Lowry’s sizzling start cooled off considerably. He was fantasy basketball’s No. 1 point guard for a bit at the beginning of the season. Lowry shot 57.5 percent from the field and 94.4 percent from the line and topped 20 points, pulled down at least seven boards, snatched three or more steals and dished five or more dimes in each of his first three games.

    Since, he’s missed nine games and is currently on the mend from a torn triceps.

    His precipitous statistical decline in the interim has given him averages of 40.6 percent field-goal shooting, 81.8 percent free-throw shooting, 15.8 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 5.8 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.6 BPG and 2.6 TOPG. Lowry’s absence has enabled Jose Calderon to excel in the starting lineup once again.

    As long as Lowry is out, Calderon is a serious double-double threat. He even messed around and got a triple-double (18 pts, 10 reb, 14 ast) against the Houston Rockets on Dec. 16. Calderon is easily a top-10 fantasy PG when he’s a starter.

     His averages in that role (10 games): 45.3 FG%, 83.3 FT%, 13.2 PPG, 2.1 made threes, 4.1 RPG, 11.5 APG, 0.5 BPG, 2.4 TOPG and 0.9 SPG in 37.4 MPG. As a bench guy (15 games): 39.8 FG%, 95.7 FT%, 8.1 PPG, 1.4 made threes, 1.3 RPG, 4.2 APG, 0.1 BPG, 1.5 TOPG and 0.5 SPG in 22.0 MPG.

    Calderon’s fantasy owners should get to enjoy a few more days of his inclusion in the starting lineup. Lowry’s initial prognosis was that he’d miss 10 days—from Dec. 12.

Steve Nash

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    ESPN.com Ownership Percentage: 99.0

    Like his teammate Pau Gasol, Steve Nash was also present in Monday’s practice. He aims to get back in his game uniform on Saturday, according to Yahoo’s Marc J. Spears. Nash’s averages (4.5 PPG, 4.0 APG in 25.0 MPG) have been very disappointing to start the season—but he’s better than Chris Duhon.

    At the very least, Nash is likely a better shooter than Duhon is even while injured now that he’s healthy enough to go in practice. He’s still got the vision to make plays and get you assists—nothing is wrong with his eyes—and should allow coach Mike D’Antoni to push the pace with the L.A. Lakers.

    That should help almost everyone’s fantasy value. Kobe Bryant’s might suffer a bit, though, if his assists numbers drop due to Nash’s command of the basketball. Kobe’s field-goal percentage may improve with the presence of a world-class facilitator on the floor—but he’s already hitting an impressive 47.9 percent from the field.

Dirk Nowitzki

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    ESPN.com Ownership Percentage: 100.0

    We still don’t really know when Dirk Nowitzki is going to be back into the Dallas Mavericks lineup. Per Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News, Dirk doesn’t even know when he will be back, saying simply: “I’m not close.”

    That took place in a Dec. 15 three-word interview (if you can call it that), but the prevailing idea has been that Nowitzki makes it back in late December…or early January. By all accounts, Nowitzki isn’t going to return for duty until he’s truly 100 percent, so if he plays fewer than 30 minutes in his return, it would be a surprise.

    He’ll probably eat into Shawn Marion’s and Elton Brand’s minutes at power forward. Marion is averaging 29.9 minutes per game this season and playing efficiently enough to be recognizes in fantasy basketball with his current workload.

    On the season, he’s shooting 49.3 percent from the field and 88.5 percent from the line with 10.4 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 2.9 APG, 0.8 SPG and 0.6 BPG.

    Marion is owned in 35.3 percent of ESPN.com leagues.

    Brand’s numbers (21.9 MPG) have been less impressive across the board. He may be relegated to a deeper bench role when Nowitzki returns—unless he splits more time at center with Chris Kaman.

Amar'e Stoudemire

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    ESPN.com Ownership Percentage: 95.3

    Amar’e Stoudemire might be back from a knee injury as early as this week, according to the Associated Press (per the Boston Herald). His return may shake up a confident New York Knicks team, unless he comes off the bench—which he very well may do for at least his first few games back.

    Stoudemire’s presence would eventually eat into the minutes of almost everyone not named Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler. The reason, from a basketball perspective, is that Melo is playing at an MVP level while Chandler’s defense-first style blends well with Stoudemire’s offense-oriented game.

    The minutes distribution in New York will probably change gradually as the Knicks ease Amar’e into a prominent role within the rotation. It’s hard to tell what kind of lineups Knicks coach Mike Woodson will favor with Stoudemire at his disposal, but it bears watching as New York is currently home to more than a few fantasy options already.

     

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