In order to initiate newcomers into the maddeningly addictive world of fantasy basketball, I will be composing several columns over the next two weeks designed to educate rookies of this wonderful imaginary sport.
A variety of topics will be discussed at length, including: player tiers, position expectations, free throw percentage, etc.
Today the subject matter deals with red flags in the draft room.
Many high profile names will be missing significant time due to injury or suspension. For fantasy participants who do not have their fingers on the dribbling pulse of basketball, below is a list of names which come with some draft day baggage that prospective owners need to know about.
Rashard Lewis Orlando Magic
Over the past three seasons, Rashard's stats have declined across the board. Orlando's acquisition of Vince Carter does not figure to improve the trend either.
However, Lewis did lead the league in three-point field goals in 2008-09, draining 220 shots from behind the arc.
While Carter's presence will somewhat diminish Lewis' overall numbers, his three-point totals could actually increase. Defenses will be drawn to an offensive force such as Vince, leaving Lewis unguarded and poised downtown.
Unfortunately, for Rashard and fantasy owners alike, Lewis has been suspended by the NBA for the first 10 games of the season because he tested positive for an elevated level of testosterone.
In other words, for those in head to head formats, Rashard will be unavailable for the first three scoring periods. In rotisserie leagues the impact will not be as great. Please draft him accordingly with this in mind.
Francisco Garcia Sacramento Kings
For all of the raw basketball talent Garcia possesses, it hardly seems fair he has the durability of a cardboard box in a downpour.
In 2005-06, 'Cisco sat out a dozen match-ups due to various ankle sprains. Last season, he was held out of action for the first seventeen games, and subsequently hindered thereon, by a strained calf muscle.
Yet this year, the former Louisville standout took his propensity to injury to the next level.
While working out in the weight room, Garcia and his balsa wood frame succumbed to an inflatable exercise ball. Apparently the spherical piece of equipment popped and broke Francisco's forearm.
The unlucky Garcia, who was to be a regular fixture for the Sacramento starting five, will now be out for a minimum of four months. Therefore, he should considered in only the deepest of leagues.
Yao Ming Houston Rockets
At least we don't have to wait this year for the inevitable Yao injury. Last summer the towering Sino center underwent foot surgery which will prevent him from playing in the 2009-10 season altogether.
Consider this a friendly reminder to exclude Ming from your rankings if you plan on auto-picking for he is still listed in draft pools.
Eddy Curry New York Knicks
Even after losing 40 pounds, Knicks staff members feel Curry is still nowhere near gameday shape.
Better known as fantasy basketball's longest running joke, Eddy recently suffered a calf strain. The injury furthered head coach Mike D'Antoni's anti-Curry assertions, claiming Eddy was not even ready for practice.
Please do not draft Eddy Curry. Ever. Even if he is healthy, the center position is deeper this year than it has been in recent memory.
Consider his participation in this article as a comical palette cleanser.
But no matter how much fun I have at Curry's expense, the joke is still on me. The Harvey, IL native is slated to earn $10.5 million this year and I'm scraping by at an hourly wage job.
Tracy McGrady Houston Rockets
Although T-Mac insists he is healthy and well ahead of his rehabilitation schedule, it is hard to put stock in the word of someone so injury prone.
After all, McGrady has never played a full season of 82 games. In fact, he missed almost 50 contests last year because knee surgery.
The previously mentioned rehab from said surgery is expected to keep Tracy on the sidelines until the All-Star break.
But if you are both patient and a gambler, drafting T-Mac in the last rounds could reap some second half benefits.
J.R. Smith Denver Nuggets
Smith received not only a three-week jail sentence for a pleading guilty to reckless driving, but also a seven game suspension from the NBA.
The stint behind bars was served in June while the suspension will be carried out during the first two scoring periods of head to head fantasy action.
Last year's runner up for the Sixth Man Award has seen an increase in three pointers over the past three seasons. However, until he is promoted from coach George Karl's platoon off the bench to an everyday starter, Smith remains a long ball specialist at a deep position.
Draft J.R. in the middle to later rounds, anticipating the pure scorer (he averaged 15.2 points in roughly 28 minutes per game in 2008-09) will finally come into his own.
Mike Dunleavy Indiana Pacers
Some overly optimistic reports claim Dunleavy could return from knee surgery as early as December. Yet more realistic timetables put him back in action sometime in January or February.
The Hoosier alum exploded for 19.1 points per game (PPG) in 2007-08, but only played in 18 games the following season.
Therefore, temper your offensive expectations to somewhere around 15 PPG and draft Dunleavy as a low risk, midseason option.