In case you haven’t noticed, NBA players have been dropping like flies this season. And not just any players, really good ones. Somewhat overshadowed by the LeBron and Kobe show this NBA season has become have been an incredible amount of faulty labrums and ligaments. Not that the NBA players have been injury-prone this year, but at this pace everyone in the NBA Finals rematch between the Lakers and Celtics will be playing in wheelchairs (not just Paul Pierce).
For some fantasy basketball owners, injuries to star players can mean absolute disaster or provide a window of opportunity. We all know Andrew Bynum’s out and Lamar Odom is suddenly more valuable, but there have been so many recent catastrophic injuries there are some solid replacements available in all but the most astute of fantasy leagues. You have to be quick if your league is full of guys who pay attention, but at least a few of the players I’m going to mention should be available in all but the deepest leagues.
Al Jefferson, Timberwolves (Torn ACL — out rest of season)
If Kevin Love is still available in your league, stop reading this immediately and go add him. I’ll wait. OK, you’re back? Now if your team is pretty poor and you’re wondering whether or not to replace Trevor Ariza with Michael Beasley, you might want to see if Ryan Gomes is still around. He’ll give you some three’s, a 30-point game every now and then and probably grab all the rebounds Love doesn’t inhale. If you need some scoring you may want to see if you can trade for Randy Foye, a shoot-first PG who’s going to be gunning for a real bad T-Wolves team the rest of the season.
Jason Terry, Mavericks (Broken hand — out three weeks)
Obviously Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd aren’t available, and Josh Howard is probably employed by a fantasy team in your league as well. If you need a little short-term help however in points and assists, you might want to look at Jose Juan Barea. I know, who? Barea’s a third-year PG who’s gotten a bit more run for the Mavs this season, averaging 14.6 ppg and 5.4 apg over the first seven games of December, including six straight starts. In the Mavs’ last game (when Terry broke his hand), Barea scored 20 points and dished 6 assists along with 3 steals, a block and a couple threes. Don’t expect that every night, but in head-to-head leagues Barea could be extremely helpful for a couple weeks after the All-Star Break.
Elton Brand, 76ers (Torn labrum — out rest of season)
Like Kevin Love, the Thaddeus Young ship has probably sailed in your league. If you’re one of those desperate teams still waiting for Greg Oden or Spencer Hawes to give you something worthwhile, you might want to at least keep an eye on Sixers rookie Marreese Speights. Speights (owned in 10% of Yahoo leagues) went for 24 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks in 24 minutes yesterday, and check out his “Per 36 Minutes” stats: 18.8 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 2.0 bpg. The guy can shoot, too (53% FG/79% FT).
Jameer Nelson, Magic (Torn labrum — out rest of season)
The Magic immediately traded for Tyronn Lue after Nelson went down, but Anthony Johnson has been surprisingly effective in three starts, with 25 points in his first start…aw, forget it. Anthony Johnson sucks, he’s 34 and the Magic will probably just rely more on Hedo Turkoglu to run the offense. You’re almost better off taking a flier on Javaris Crittenton.