On Wednesday, Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski delivered a dagger to the heart of Denver Nuggets fans, reporting that forward Wilson Chandler is set to miss the entire 2015-16 season due to a torn labrum in his hip.
“For the Nuggets, it’s a devastating loss,” Woj wrote. “He is considered a vital part of coach Michael Malone and general manager Tim Connelly’s revitalization efforts with the franchise.”
Just a few days ago, I listed Chandler in my weekly Waiver Wire Watch, as owners had begun dropping him in droves since the beginning of the season. Obviously, that recommendation is now moot. Unless you’re in a keeper league with an IR spot, it’s time to send Chandler back to the waiver wire. Even if you do have an IR spot at your disposal, you’re better off using it on someone with the potential of helping you later this season—Donatas Motiejunas or Jusuf Nurkic, in particular, come to mind.
What does Chandler’s season-ending surgery mean for the rest of the Nuggets’ fantasy value? Well, luckily, we’ve already gotten to see new head coach Mike Malone’s rotations sans Chandler for the first two weeks of the season, so we have a sense of who might stand to benefit the most.
For starters, those who spent mid-round picks on Danilo Gallinari and Kenneth Faried stand to be rewarded with Chandler now out for the year. Gallo has been somewhat inconsistent since a scorching season opener—he erupted for 23 points, eight rebounds, three assists, three steals, three treys and a block against the Houston Rockets on Oct. 28—but he still averaged roughly 18 points, five boards, two assists, a steal and a triple over Denver’s first eight games. Most encouragingly for his owners: He’s played more than 34 minutes a night over that span, showing no ill effects from the torn ACL that sidelined him throughout the 2014-15 campaign.
Faried likewise stands to benefit from Chandler’s season-long absence, as Malone now has one fewer option to play at the 4 in small-ball lineups. Similar to Gallo, he’s been somewhat hit or miss in the early portion of the season, going off for 28 points and 15 rebounds against the Lakers one night, then playing just 21 minutes against the Warriors later in the week. Through eight games, he’s averaging 14.5 points (on 62.8 percent shooting), 9.9 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.1 blocks in just 28.4 minutes per game, but his playing time is likely to increase slightly now that Malone doesn’t have the Chandler card in his back pocket. Against Milwaukee on Wednesday, for instance, Faried exploded for 19 points (on 8-of-9 shooting), nine boards, three blocks, two steals and an assist in 33 minutes.
If, for whatever reason, either Faried or Gallinari’s owner has grown frustrated by their early-season inconsistency, this is your chance to steal them at 80 or 90 cents on the dollar before their value begins skyrocketing. Though Denver has been running at a somewhat league-average pace to date, the Nuggets figure to up the tempo as the season progresses and rookie point guard Emmanuel Mudiay grows more comfortable.
For those in deeper leagues, both Gary Harris and Will Barton now hold season-long intrigue, as Chandler’s injury will likely force the Nuggets to stick with conventional lineups more frequently. Harris, who beat out Randy Foye for the starting 2 job, is averaging 8.1 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.1 triples and 1.1 steals in 25.4 minutes per game through Wednesday, putting him 132nd on ESPN’s Player Rater. While he’s not necessarily a must-grab for those in shallow leagues, anyone in a 12-team league or deeper should take a flyer on him as an end-of-the-bench rotation player in case his role continues to expand with Chandler now out for the year.
Barton, meanwhile, has been pure fire in his role off the bench, averaging 12.3 points, 4.0 boards, 1.4 dimes, 1.1 steals and 0.8 treys in 24.4 minutes per game. According to Wojnarowski, the former Memphis Tiger is likely to maintain a significant role in Denver’s rotation in the wake of Chandler’s injury, likewise making him a worthwhile flyer for those who have an underachiever sitting at the end of their fantasy bench. Heading into Thursday, Barton ranked 89th on ESPN’s Player Rater, which, considering his scorching finish to the 2014-15 campaign, is likely no fluke.
Though Chandler’s injury is devastating for the Nuggets in real life, a number of his teammates will benefit from a fantasy standpoint. Take advantage now, either by trading for Gallinari or Faried or scooping up Harris or Barton off the waiver wire, before your leaguemates catch on.