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Philadelphia 76ers NBA basketball draft pick Ben Simmons speaks during a news conference in Philadelphia, Friday, June 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Fantasy Basketball

The fantasy impact of Ben Simmons’ foot fracture

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Note: This was updated on Oct. 4, as the Sixers announced Simmons suffered a Jones fracture and has undergone successful surgery.

Because Philadelphia 76ers fans apparently hadn’t suffered enough over the past three season, No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons fractured the fifth metatarsal in his right foot after rolling his ankle during practice Friday. Making matters worse for fantasy basketball owners, the team gave no timetable for his return, instead saying, “Further medical evaluation and treatment options are being considered at this time and additional updates will be provided when appropriate.”

While nothing is official, a source told ESPN’s Jeff Goodman that Simmons is expected to miss around three months, “which would peg his return in December or possibly even January.” ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reported Simmons and the Sixers are still working to “pursue a firm recovery timetable.”

On Tuesday, the Sixers confirmed Simmons “underwent successful surgery to repair an acute Jones fracture of the fifth metatarsal of his right foot.” They did not provide an official timetable for his return, instead saying, “Additional information regarding Simmons’ recovery and return to play timetable will be provided as available and when appropriate.” According to the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society, “Patients can expect to return to full activity three to four months after a typical [Jones] fracture,” including a return to sports. However, during an interview on 97.5 The Fanatic on Monday, Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News cited a source who believes there’s “no way” Simmons’ agent allows him to play at all this season as he recovers.

Until the Sixers announce a definitive timetable for Simmons, fantasy basketball owners are flying in the dark heading into their drafts. That’s especially true given how conservatively the team has managed injuries over recent years, from holding Nerlens Noel out his entire first season as he recovered from an ACL tear to Joel Embiid’s ongoing minutes restriction as he eases his way back into playing competitive basketball. Even if the typical timetable for recovery for Simmons’ injury is three months, there’s no guarantee the Sixers trot him back out onto the court by December or even January, given his importance to the franchise.

Prior to this injury, Simmons was the 75th-ranked player on my preseason Big Board, just behind Jabari Parker and Zach LaVine. Based on the projected timetable Goodman provided and Cooney’s report, he’s now ranked 168th, making him a late-round flier at best. Fantasy owners now must consider Simmons a risk-reward pick who may not make any contributions to your squad this year, although the chance of him coming back by January gives him notable upside among player in that range. Owners in head-to-head leagues should target him more aggressively than those in roto, but either way, he’s likely to tumble down draft boards after this injury.

The primary beneficiary of Simmons’ injury, at least for fantasy purposes, is Dario Saric, who looked like nothing more than a fringe late-round flier in 12-team leagues. He now figures to slot into the Sixers’ starting lineup at the 4 on opening night, and his playing time should shoot up from somewhere in the low-to-mid-20s to upwards of 30 minutes per night so long as Simmons is sidelined. While there’s no replicating the point-guard-esque passing that Simmons provides, Saric is a fine dime-dropper in his own right and is more than capable of grabbing a rebound and leading the team in transition. He jumped from 173rd on my original Big Board to 118th now.

Simmons’ injury could theoretically open more minutes for either Nerlens Noel or Jahlil Okafor to play some power forward, but given how poorly that experiment fared last season, Sixers head coach Brett Brown likely won’t tinker with that for more than a few minutes each night. Instead, expect Saric, Jerami Grant and Robert Covington to gobble most of the minutes at the 4, with Richaun Holmes lurking, too.

All average draft position (ADP) and expert consensus ranks (ECR) via FantasyPros.

The fantasy impact of Ben Simmons’ foot fracture

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