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Fantasy Basketball Injury Impact: Rudy Gobert and the Clippers’ Backcourt

Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

The fantasy basketball community received a swift kick in the nuts Wednesday, as the Utah Jazz announced third-year center Rudy Gobert is out “indefinitely” with a Grade II sprain of the MCL in his left knee.

While the “indefinitely” timetable doesn’t shed much light on how long fantasy owners should expect to be without Gobert’s services, Jeff Stotts of In Street Clothes shared this nugget after the Jazz broke the news about Gobert’s injury: “The InStreetClothes.com injury database has 11 in-season examples of Grade II MCL sprains, including Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Nene. The average number of games missed for these players sits at 22 games or roughly six weeks.”

Nene missed the fewest games (13) with such an injury, while Zach Randolph missed the most (37), per Stotts. Randolph was the only one, however, to miss more than 27 games with a Grade II MCL sprain, giving Gobert owners at least a modicum of hope.

Using the six-week timetable as a rough estimate, that would put Gobert in line to return somewhere in mid-January. If he missed exactly six weeks, putting him on track to return Jan. 13 against the Portland Trail Blazers, he’d miss Utah’s next 21 games.

Though Gobert hasn’t lived up to preseason expectations — the consensus second-round pick is ranked 78th on ESPN’s Player Rater heading into Thursday’s action — owners can’t cut him while he’s sidelined. After all, despite playing spot minutes prior to the All-Star break last season, Gobert finished the year as the 25th-best player in eight-category leagues. You can’t dump that type of league-winning upside for the hot waiver-wire pickup of the week. That said, this marks a great time to attempt buying low on Gobert, particularly if your squad appears to be rolling toward the playoffs already.

While Gobert is sidelined, Trevor Booker, Trey Lyles and Jeff Withey all figure to see an uptick in minutes, in that order. Booker could be worth picking up until Gobert is back, as in his one start this season (in place of Derrick Favors on Saturday against Golden State), he erupted for 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting, 15 rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals. In his other 14 games, meanwhile, he averaged 3.5 points, 5.0 boards, 0.8 assists, 0.9 steals and 0.5 blocks in just 19.5 minutes per game. That production suggests he won’t be worth keeping on your roster once Gobert returns, but he could provide a nice short-term infusion of value. Lyles and Withey, meanwhile, are only speculative pickups in deeper leagues until we see how Utah’s frontcourt rotation shakes out.

Derrick Favors owners should expect a moderate uptick in production while Gobert is out. He figures to see a few more minutes per game, including some additional time at the 5, so his rebounds and blocks, in particular, figure to increase sans the Stifle Tower. The Jazz could rely more heavily upon Gordon Hayward, too, even tinkering with the idea of trotting him out at the 4 in small-ball lineups. Rodney Hood and Alec Burks likewise may experience slight boosts in fantasy value, as the Jazz will rely upon a team-wide effort to replace Gobert’s rebounding prowess.

The Los Angeles Clippers, meanwhile, are dealing with their own injury concerns, particularly in their backcourt. Point guard Chris Paul, a consensus first-round pick, will miss “at least two games” due to inflamed rib cartilage, per Dan Woike of the Orange County Register, while J.J. Redick rolled his right ankle early in Wednesday’s 103-91 loss to the Indiana Pacers and didn’t return to the game. The Clippers have yet to announce whether Redick is expected to miss any time due to his ankle, but in the interim, Jamal Crawford, Austin Rivers and Lance Stephenson will be forced to pick up the backcourt slack.

Crawford (owned in 35.2 percent of ESPN.com leagues) is the one who figures to have the most standalone value even once CP3 and Redick return, as he’s averaging 12.3 points, 2.2 dimes, 1.9 boards and 1.0 treys in 25.9 minutes per game this season. The fantasy value of Rivers and Stephenson is far more dependent on how long Paul and Redick are out, although Stephenson did break out for a season-best 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting in Redick’s absence against Indiana. Owners shouldn’t dump anything of value for either player, but Crawford could be worth scooping up as long as you’re not expecting him to be your team’s savior.

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