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Fantasy Basketball Injury Impact: Jonas Valanciunas and Marcus Smart

The injury bug has bitten a couple noteworthy contributors, leaving fantasy owners with implications to analyze.

Let’s start with the most notable injury, which is a fractured left hand to Raptors’ center Jonas Valanciunas. He’s expected to miss approximately six weeks.

This is a big blow to Valanciunas’ owners. He was off to a quality start as a regular double-double threat as well as a percentage stud. You’re not going to be able to find anybody of similar worth floating around the waiver wire.

While six weeks is a good chunk of time (and it could become more), you should still attempt to keep Valanciunas (especially if you have an IR spot) because of what he could provide in the season’s second half.

During his absence, it appears the most significant beneficiary will be Bismack Biyombo (10.2-percent owned in ESPN leagues). In Toronto’s first game without Valanciunas, Biyombo slid into the starting lineup and logged 31 minutes, tallying six points and 14 rebounds. It seems that the fifth-year big man could have some decent value for the upcoming month or two.

Biyombo has for years been a block-specialist who has never really earned the minutes to showcase much else. He could now have an opportunity to post double-figure rebounds consistently while also flirting with two blocks per game.

But don’t expect much else. He’s not a scorer, and his career free-throw percentage is 54.1-percent (although he’s shooting 74.2-percent from the line this season). Basically, I’d only recommend adding Biyombo if you’re looking for a short-term solution to your rebounding and shot-blocking struggles.

Luis Scola (13.2-percent owned) should also benefit from Valanciunas’ void in the lineup. The 35-year-old is averaging 23.4 MPG, and he saw that mark increase to 31 in Valanciunas’ first game away. He notched 20 points and eight rebounds in the contest. Scola is offensive-minded and should see an increase in opportunities amid Toronto’s interior. Negatively, Scola doesn’t provide much in terms of blocks, but he should still exhibit respectable worth, particularly in deep leagues, if he registers around 30 MPG.

Patrick Patterson (2.0-percent owned) could also see some extra run, but I doubt it will be anything consistent. He only received 14 minutes in their lone game without Valanciunas. If his minutes were to ascend, he’s an interesting option because of his three-point ability, but this shouldn’t be anticipated. Biyombo and Scola are the main players to target.

November 4, 2015: Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley (0) defends Indiana Pacers guard George Hill (3) during a NBA game between the Indiana Pacers and Boston Celtics at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, IN. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire)

November 4, 2015: Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley (0) defends Indiana Pacers guard George Hill (3) during a NBA game between the Indiana Pacers and Boston Celtics at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, IN. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire)

Switching gears to Marcus Smart, the second-year guard is expected to miss at least two weeks with a leg injury. Smart is much more replaceable than Valanciunas, and he should be out for much less time. Smart’s currently averaging 9.8 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 3.2 APG, and 1.8 SPG, and his percentages are quite subpar: 33.3 % FG and 68.8 % FT.

The biggest thing to note about Smart’s absence is his MPG: 29.1. This is actually more than Valanciunas (27.3), so Smart’s injury presents a big opportunity for guards in Boston’s rotation.

In one game without Smart, we’ve already witnessed one player who has gained value: Avery Bradley. Bradley (52.4-percent owned) is averaging 28.5 MPG on the season, but he jumped into the starting lineup sans Smart and poured in 27 points including seven threes while playing a hefty 40 minutes. He also chipped in a couple steals.

Bradley is averaging 15.0 PPG, 2.3 3PM, and 1.5 SPG on the year. These numbers should climb upward even further while Smart is sidelined. If he’s still available on your waiver wire, grab him immediately.

Evan Turner (28.5-percent owned) should also see an uptick in minutes (averaging 25.1 MPG on the season). He played 32 minutes in their recent game without Smart, and he should function as a Nicolas Batum-lite for the next couple weeks with his ability to contribute in multiple categories.

It’s also worth mentioning that Isaiah Thomas’ value could be boosted even further with Smart on the shelf. Thomas is having a splendid season, and his usage could increase while Smart is not in the mix.

Neither Valanciunas nor Smart are elite fantasy assets, but they were generating enough minutes that their vacancy creates clear opportunities for others. If you’re looking for some short-term help, Biyombo, Scola, Bradley, and Turner are weapons worth snagging.

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