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Fantasy Basketball Injury Impact: Al Jefferson and Harrison Barnes

Sam Sharpe/USA TODAY Sports

Another week, another handful of NBA injuries shaking up the short-term fantasy basketball landscape.

On Monday, the Charlotte Hornets announced center Al Jefferson would be out for the next two to three weeks due to a strained left calf that he suffered early in Sunday’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks. As Rotowire’s Jeff Stotts noted, that projection is “in line” with a left groin strain that sidelined Jefferson for 20 days (nine games) last year.

Given the relatively short timetable, Jefferson owners have no choice but to hang onto him for now. He hasn’t delivered great return on his draft-day value — he’s just 95th on ESPN’s Player Rater — as he’s averaging his fewest points, rebounds and minutes per game in a decade. While his days of being a nightly 20-10 threat appear to be over, he’s still far too talented to be dropped outright, even if he won’t ultimately live up to his ADP of 50.3.

Until Jefferson returns, Cody Zeller, Spencer Hawes and Frank Kaminsky figure to pick up the slack at the center spot, likely in that order. After Jefferson went down against Milwaukee, Zeller played 16 minutes, finishing with two points on 1-of-3 shooting, while Hawes had five points and eight boards in 16 minutes and Kaminsky had four points (on 2-of-8 shooting), four boards, two assists, a steal and a block in 17 minutes. If you’re in a deep league, it’s worth taking a swing on Zeller or Hawes if you’re in need of some short-term help, but you shouldn’t drop anyone of considerable value for any of these three players.

If Marvin Williams is still on your league’s waiver wire, though — he’s currently owned in just 58.3 percent of ESPN.com leagues — he’s someone worth rushing to pick up, as he’ll have standalone value even once Jefferson returns. Against Milwaukee, Williams finished with 12 points (on 4-of-10 shooting), seven boards, three treys, two assists and a block in a whopping 37 minutes. On the year, he’s averaging 10.4 points on 46.0 percent shooting, 7.0 boards, a career-high 1.7 triples, 1.5 assists, 1.2 blocks and 0.6 steals, which has him just outside the top 50 on ESPN’s Player Rater. If that didn’t convince you to pick him up…well, what will? Nic Batum could also see an uptick in minutes with Jefferson sidelined, making him even more of a draft-day value than he already is.

Jefferson isn’t the only notable injured player fantasy owners must navigate over the next week or two. Golden State Warriors forward Harrison Barnes suffered a sprained ankle in Friday’s win over the Sacramento Kings and has missed the past two games as a result. According to Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle, Barnes is also set to miss Wednesday’s game against the Hornets, so the earliest he may return is Saturday against Toronto. Considering he was on crutches at Monday’s shootaround, per Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group, that return timeline may be a bit overly optimistic.

With Barnes sidelined, Brandon Rush has stepped into the starting lineup in his place, but he’s not worth picking up. In theory, Andre Iguodala could see a slight uptick in minutes if Barnes remains sidelined through the weekend, but he’s only a target for those in deeper leagues. Instead, Draymond Green’s owners are the ones with the biggest cause for celebration, as he’s played 36 and 38 minutes, respectively, in Barnes’s absence. Against Sacramento on Saturday, he posted his second straight triple-double (13 points, 12 assists, 11 rebounds), and he followed that up with a 20-point, nine-rebound, seven-assist outing against Utah on Monday.

What does that mean for Green’s owners? While he’s not a conventional sell-high — it’s not as though his value will plummet once Barnes returns — he might be worth shopping around this week to see if you can land a top-tier superstar in return. If your roster is in need of a point guard, perhaps reach out to John Wall’s owner and see if he’s willing to trade the Wizards floor general straight up for Green? Otherwise, enjoy the ride while you can.

All ADP  info via FantasyPros.com. All player rankings via ESPN’s Player Rater and are current through games played on Dec. 1.

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