Last season, Chicago point guard Derrick Rose burned any fantasy owners hoping on his return and with numerous star players slated to miss the start of the season, choosing injured players is a huge risk.
Fantasy owners need to determine if waiting on a superstar player to return in months is worth selecting over a lesser player available to contribute immediately and here is a guide to help those selections.
Russell Westbrook– Oklahoma City Thunder
Average selection in Yahoo! fantasy drafts: 14.1
The 4-to-6 week projection originally set for Westbrook’s return for a second knee surgery hasn’t changed. The 24-year-old guard will have his five-year streak of playing in every regular season game snapped and his absence is expected to last anywhere from 13 to 21 games. Once he returns, Westbrook is one of the most potent players in fantasy basketball, able to compile elite scoring, assist and steal numbers while ranking as one of the best rebounding point guards in the league. Westbrook is still worth an early second round selection.
Kobe Bryant– Los Angeles Lakers
Average selection in Yahoo! fantasy drafts: 32.7
The Lakers are more than 6,000 miles away from the Staples Center, but if today marked a playoff contest, the fifth leading scorer in league history would be out on the floor. Just over sixth months after tearing his Achilles tendon, the 35-year-old guard set a target date of opening night to return, but that may be a bit too optimistic. Bryant is a worthwhile gamble starting in the second round.
Rajon Rondo– Boston Celtics
Average selection in Yahoo! fantasy drafts: 59
Uncertainty not only surrounds Rondo’s return date from a torn ACL, but his future with the Celtics. Boston removed all traces from the Big-3 era roster, aside from its assist leader each of the past six seasons, and with a preliminary return date of early December expected for Rondo, the team may deal him away if it slips to far in the standings. The four-time All-Star would like to remain with the team, but as the Celtics embrace rebuilding mode, his play may keep them out of contention for the top pick next season, but his is a good value after the fifth round in fantasy drafts.
Andrew Bynum– Cleveland Cavaliers
Average selection in Yahoo! fantasy drafts: 56.5
The Cavaliers were serious about no longer wanting to be in the draft lottery. Cleveland signed Bynum to a two-year deal worth up to $25 million if certain incentives are reached, but after missing all of last season, the team has yet to set a timetable for his return from knee surgery. The 25-year-old center was close to returning last year, but a setback suffered while bowling has kept him off the floor since May 21, 2012. Teams in need of a big man after the sixth round should take a flier on Bynum.
Danilo Gallinari- Denver Nuggets
Average selection in Yahoo! fantasy drafts: 130.9
The early drafts have Gallinari pegged as a 10th round pick, a justifiable spot for an explosive scorer that is expected to miss anywhere from a quarter to half of the fantasy basketball season. Gallinari, the leading scorer on the league’s most explosive offense last season, is optimistic about an early return, hoping to be on the floor before Thanksgiving after tearing his ACL on April 4.
Brandon Jennings– Detroit Pistons
Average selection in Yahoo! fantasy drafts: 44.6
The most bizarre injury of the off season, an impacted tooth, is expected to keep Jennings sidelined for three weeks. The limited amount of time shouldn’t have a negative effect on his draft stock, as Jennings averaged 17.5 points, 6.5 assists and 1.6 steals during his final game in Milwaukee, but fantasy owners may want to pair Jennings with another point guard early in the draft.
Amar’e Stoudemire – New York Knicks
Average selection in Yahoo! fantasy drafts: 104.5
The 30-year-old forward has yet to participate in any running drills since undergoing another knee surgery this summer, but the Knicks may give him a stint Thursday night against Washington. New York is holding out hopes of the possibility Stoudemire is ready for the season opener, but fantasy owners may not want to select him prior to the 10th round, especially if the team again imposes a minutes limitation.
Eric Gordon– New Orleans Pelicans
Average selection in Yahoo! fantasy drafts: 83.9
Fantasy owners and Pelican fans can both breathe a sigh of relief. Gordon has appeared in just 51 out of a possible 148 games since being dealt to New Orleans two years ago, but his bothersome ankle has healed enough for him to be back on the court. After missing every practice and pre-season game since training camp opened two weeks ago, Gordon is hoping to make his first appearance in a game Thursday night against Oklahoma City and is a valuable addition in the sixth round or later for fantasy owners.
Ersan Ilyasova– Milwaukee Bucks
Average selection in Yahoo! fantasy drafts: 49.1
A sprained ankle suffered a week ago has sidelined Ilyasova indefinitely. Fantasy owners have been selecting 6-foot-9 forward early in the fourth round, hoping to get solid rebounding (7.1 rebounds per game last year) and 3-point shooting (95 makes, 37.1 percent shooting) but with John Henson waiting to take his minutes, fantasy owners may want to wait until the sixth or seventh round before taking a risk on Ilyasova.
Trey Burke– Utah Jazz
Average selection in Yahoo! fantasy drafts: 102.2
Utah’s point guard of the future will miss the first 8-to-12 weeks of the season as he recovers from surgery to repair his broken right index finger. If fantasy owners can afford to stash him on the bench, as he is expected to miss between 19 and 34 games, then Burke is a worthwhile selection in the final round of any draft.