Three weeks into the season and the NBA is already beginning to resemble a M*A*S*H unit. David Lee, Caron Butler, Jeff Green, Aaron Brooks and Yao Ming are just a few of the players who missed games over the weekend due to injury.
Injuries can be a difficult and, yes, painful thing for fantasy owners to deal with. They are an inevitable part of the game and yet they are impossible to plan for because they seem to happen randomly throughout the season. But rather than throw up your hands and surrender to the fantasy gods, there are ways for fantasy owners to lessen the impact of injures on their teams. Here are five steps any fantasy owner can use to protect a team from injuries.
Avoid owning players with a history of injuries: Is it a surprise that Baron Davis and Brandon Roy are having knee problems, or Yao Ming is out with an injured leg? The easiest and most effective way to keep a fantasy team healthy is to avoid drafting or trading for players who always seem to be injured. Leave chronically injured players to be someone else's problem.
Backups are important: Handcuffing is a concept usually associated with fantasy football. It is where a team drafts both a running back as well as his primary backup just in case the starter gets injured. The same concept can be applied to the NBA. If you own a player with a history of injuries, try to also own his backup if one clearly exists and you have an available bench spot. For example, if you own Yao Ming, think about handcuffing Brad Miller to use when Ming misses games.
Check on your fantasy team daily: Even in a league that only allows lineup changes to be made once a week, it's important to check on your team everyday for status updates and possible injuries. If one of your players gets injured, don't miss out on adding his backup because you only check your team once a week.
Stay on top of injury news: Most fantasy leagues provide player injury reports that are updated on a daily basis. Use these reports to quickly find out if any players have recently been hurt. Take the opportunity to add players who stand to benefit from increased playing time in the wake of an injury. In addition, you can check individual team pages for detailed updates on injuries and some fantasy sites provide RSS feeds that combine all player status updates and information about injuries into a single feed.
Assume the worst: The phrase day-to-day is one of the most commonly used terms when it comes to injuries. It means that teams just don't know when a player will return to the court. Keep in mind that players rarely come back from an injury ahead of schedule, and, in fact, many injuries end up lingering much longer than originally expected. For example, Baron Davis' knee injury was originally diagnosed as day-to-day. Two weeks later and Davis is now expected to be out until after Thanksgiving. Many Baron Davis owners probably missed out on picking up Eric Bledsoe because they thought Davis was only going to miss one or two games.
Here is the latest player injury news for the upcoming week of fantasy games.
• Brandon Roy is questionable for Portland's next game on Tuesday. He left during the third quarter of Saturday's game after tweaking his left knee. It's an injury that has been bothering him all year and it has had a noticeable effect on his athleticism and aggressiveness during games. Roy is opting to play through the pain and swelling because there is no meniscus remaining in his knees to actually operate on. However, the Blazers are already limiting Roy's minutes, and chances are he will eventually need to take some time off to give his knee a rest. If Roy were to miss time, both Wesley Matthews and Rudy Fernandez would be in line for more minutes, with Matthews most likely becoming the starter.
• With Aaron Brooks out for the next few weeks recovering from a sprained ankle, Kyle Lowry got his first start at point guard on Sunday for Houston and responded with 7 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals and 5 turnovers in 36 minutes. Lowry is shooting a brutal 29 percent from the field so far this season, but he will have the potential to fill up the box score while Brooks is out.
Meanwhile, after three starts in a row, rookie Ishmael Smith was limited to 12 minutes off the bench for the Rockets. He is not worth owning as long as Lowry is healthy and starting.
• Speaking of Rockets and injuries, Yao Ming is expected to miss at least a week after straining a tendon in his left leg last Wednesday. That means he could be back as early as Tuesday or Wednesday, although given his injury history, the Rockets are not going to be rushing him back to the court. In his place, Brad Miller started his second straight game at center against the Knicks on Sunday night. He played only 13 minutes because he could not keep up with Amar'e Stoudemire. Still, Miller is a nice safety net for all Ming owners this season.
• John Wall left the locker room with a walking boot on his foot after Saturday night's game against the Bulls. According to the Washington Post, the team is going to take a wait and see approach with the sprained foot. If Wall were to miss any games this week, Kirk Hinrich would likely get the start and makes a decent short-term play.
• Carlos Delfino has missed three straight games for the Bucks with "concussion symptoms" according to a message he tweeted on Friday. The team is calling it a neck strain. Either way, he is currently day-to-day with dizziness and could miss more time this week. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is starting in his place and has been putting up underwhelming offensive numbers.
• Both Lamar Odom and Robin Lopez will have precautionary MRIs taken Monday. Odom has a bone bruise on his right foot that is causing soreness, while Lopez left Sunday night's game against the Lakers with a knee sprain. Hakim Warrick and Channing Frye would see increased minutes if Lopez misses any time.
• Baron Davis is on the shelf until after Thanksgiving and is quickly working his way toward a lost season. Eric Bledsoe -- who is still owned in less than 50 percent of leagues -- has averaged 12.7 points and 7 assists per game in Davis' absence. Bledsoe should be owned in all league formats going forward.
• David Lee is the frontrunner for the strangest injury so far this year. He's expected to miss the rest of the week after a collision with Wilson Chandler left a piece of Chandler's tooth in Lee's left elbow. The area got inflected and required surgery a couple days later to clean up. Dan Gadzuric started in place of Lee on Saturday and scored 2 points with 3 rebounds in 12 minutes. Vladimir Radmanovic also got some extra playing time as he came off the bench for 26 minutes, scoring 8 points and hitting 2 threes. Given the alternatives, both Warriors' fans and Lee owners cannot wait to get him back on the court.