The day after Christmas wasn’t kind to fantasy basketball owners, as two studs were lost to injuries expected to sideline them for multiple weeks.
Here, we’ll break down each of the big names who will be missing from fantasy lineups in the near future — and how owners can adjust until they return — before touching upon a few other injury-related odds and ends.
The Los Angeles Clippers dropped a bombshell on Saturday, announcing Blake Griffin would be out for at least the next two weeks with a partially torn quad tendon. He apparently suffered the injury early in the Clippers’ Christmas Day matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers, although he finished the game that night, putting up 13 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists in the win.
Per the team’s announcement, Griffin will be re-evaluated in two weeks, but there’s no guarantee he’ll come back right away after that. “Doc Rivers said sometimes those injuries take a week or two, and some[times] they can take a month or longer,” according to Rowan Kavner of the team’s website.
Josh Smith got the start in Griffin’s place on Saturday night against Utah, but he wound up playing just five minutes in the 109-104 win. Instead, Paul Pierce picked up a majority of the slack, putting up a season-high 20 points on 6-of-11 shooting, five rebounds and two assists in 27 minutes off the bench. He hadn’t played more than 24 minutes off the bench prior to Saturday — the only two times he cracked the 30-minute threshold were his two starts of the year — so if the Utah game is any indication, head coach Doc Rivers may begin relying upon his wily 38-year-old veteran a bit more heavily in Griffin’s absence.
With Griffin’s timetable so uncertain, owners have no choice but to hang onto him for the time being. There’s no sense in attempting to sell him for 80 cents on the dollar, as he could feasibly be back within a few weeks and had been playing sensationally prior to the injury. If you have a bench spot to burn on Pierce, it wouldn’t hurt picking him up in case Saturday’s performance against the Jazz wasn’t a fluke. If it does wind up being an anomaly, you can always kick Pierce right back to the waiver wire for the next hot free-agent pickup, after all.
This one just plain stinks. In the second quarter of the Phoenix Suns’ 111-104 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night, star combo guard Eric Bledsoe suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee and needs surgery that’ll likely keep him out at least until around the All-Star break.
Plain and simply, there’s no way to replace a player like Bledsoe, who ranked ninth on ESPN’s Player Rater heading into Sunday’s action. It’s a devastating blow to the Suns and to fantasy owners alike, as he’s one of the rare guards capable of contributing to just about every category on the stat sheet. Until the team officially announces his timetable, owners shouldn’t be in a rush to drop him — there’s a huge difference between “back around the All-Star break” and “season-ending injury,” after all — but owners should be preparing for life without the star guard for the next two months at the very least.
While Bledsoe is out, the Suns will likely turn to some combination of Devin Booker, Ronnie Price, Sonny Weems and Archie Goodwin to fill in the massive hole left in their starting lineup. Of those four, Booker should experience the largest uptick in fantasy value, as Phoenix may shift into player-development mode with its season slipping into disarray. The rookie 2-guard went off for a career-high 19 points against Philadelphia, including three triples, making him a potential free-agent source of three-point help for fantasy owners.
Brandon Knight owners, meanwhile, should likewise benefit from some additional production in the foreseeable future with Bledsoe on the shelf. Though his efficiency may plummet, he’s going to absorb far more of the team’s ball-handling duties, meaning his points and assists, in particular, will rise. There’s no way an owner will sell Knight for anything less than a premium, but you’d be wise to float some trade offers to his owner if they have any other major areas of need on their roster. Knight could well deliver top 10 fantasy value while Bledsoe is out.
Other injury-related odds and ends
Joakim Noah: I already touched upon the fantasy impact of the Chicago Bulls big man’s left shoulder injury in this week’s Stock Report and Waiver Wire Watch columns, but here’s the TL;DR version: Pick up Taj Gibson NOW. Bobby Portis, too, for those in deep leagues.
Deron Williams: Though the Dallas Mavericks point guard supposedly heard a “pop” when he strained his hamstring Tuesday, per Earl K. Sneed of the team’s website, fantasy owners may have dodged a bullet. Head coach Rick Carlisle said Williams’s injury isn’t believed to be serious, per Sneed, and he’s listed as day-to-day. In the meantime, J.J. Barea has become the human version of the fire emoji, making him worth a short-term pickup (or cheap DFS punt play) until Williams returns.
Alec Burks: The Utah Jazz guard suffered a fractured left fibula against the Clippers on Saturday. Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reported the injury is expected to sideline him for a “minimum of six weeks.” While he’s out, Rodney Hood (19.3% owned) becomes significantly more tantalizing, and Joe Inglis (0.1% owned) could get some additional run, too, making him a potential free-agent target for deep-league owners.
Ed Davis: The Portland Trail Blazers big man suffered a left ankle bone bruise Saturday against the Cleveland Cavaliers, but he hopes to be back after “a couple days off,” per Casey Holdahl of the team’s website. While he’s out, Mason Plumlee (66.0% owned) and Meyers Leonard (10.2% owned) should receive an uptick of playing time, making both worth a short-term pickup if either remains on your league’s waiver wire.
All Player Rater data and ownership percentages via ESPN.com and are current through Saturday, Dec. 26.