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Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Replacing injured stars

By Tom Carpenter
ESPN.com

Every so often in life you have to do something you know you aren't supposed to do in order to remind yourself to not do it again -- at least until the next time you forget and do it once again. This can be something as simple as accidentally burning yourself on your oven as a painful reminder that you might want to be a little more careful around your 450-degree appliance. Yes, this happened to me a couple of months ago and the scar on my thumb remains an excellent reminder.

Another painful reminder that has left me burned right now is from Derrick Rose. I have a great aversion to players with any history of injury and I do everything possible to keep them off of my fantasy teams. If I draft one because he is an unavoidable value, I aim to trade him as quickly as possible. The same goes for players who come up with even a hint of a nagging or worsening injury during the season; I deal them away.

And yet, I went all in on Rose and believed that he would immediately ascend back to his rightful spot near the top of the fantasy hoops world, despite the fact that he had missed an entire season with a torn ACL and a large chunk of the season prior with toe, back, groin and ankle injuries.

I had pretty good reasoning behind my opinion: it had been a year and half since his ACL injury, he is young, he looked great in the preseason, etc. In the end, though, it's November, and Rose's season is over, which only reaffirms my skepticism of players who have sustained significant injuries or who are prone to being sidelined for long stretches. Rose will serve as a painful reminder to me for years to come that I need to avoid injury-risk players at all costs.

Lesson learned. I'm sure I'll never do it again -- at least until the next time.

Of course, Rose isn't the only big-time player who is going to be out for an extended stretch. Marc Gasol, Andre Iguodala, Deron Williams and Brook Lopez are on the shelf, which means that there are players on their respective teams who will benefit statistically from their absences. A number of them currently are available on your league's waiver wire.

Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls

Jimmy Butler
Jimmy Butler is currently out with a toe injury but appears poised to gain the most, stat-wise, with Derrick Rose done for the season.

Jimmy Butler (49.8 percent ownership in ESPN leagues): It may be another two or three weeks before Butler returns from his toe injury and rewards you with stats, but he is in position to truly bust loose with Rose out for the season. I pushed him during the preseason as a breakout candidate, even with Rose in the mix. Keep in mind that in 20 starts last season, Butler averaged 14.5 points, 1.1 3s, 7.1 boards, 2.7 assists and 1.8 steals, while shooting 45.7 percent from the field and 77.6 percent from the stripe. He did all that on just 10.5 FGA and 4.9 FTA per game. If coach Tom Thibodeau gives Butler enough shots and Butler boosts his free throw attempts, he could easily score in the upper teens. Sometimes it is tough to wait for a player to show up, but it's worth carving out a spot on your bench for Butler to pay off later.

Kirk Hinrich (24.1 percent): After a decade in the league, we know what Hinrich can and cannot do. He can score a bit and dish out a max of 5-6 assists per game and chip in the occasional 3-pointer and steal. He cannot maintain a reliable FG% or do anything else all that well. Still, he should be locked in as the starting point for the Bulls, so he will do what he does (and doesn't do) for the foreseeable future.

Mike Dunleavy (6.1 percent): Just like Hinrich, we know all about the 33-year-old Dunleavy at this stage of his career. If you need a little scoring and some 3s with a decent FG%, Dunleavy can help you in a pinch. He certainly should see a larger role on offense with Rose out of the mix.

Marquis Teague (0.2 percent), Tony Snell (0.0 percent): I don't really expect Teague or Snell to make any noise, but the opportunity to step up is there for the taking. Snell got a start on Monday and mustered nine points. At this point, just keep an eye on this pair to see if either of them can find a groove.

Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies

Kosta Koufos
Kosta Koufos gets his chance at the spotlight with Marc Gasol out.

Kosta Koufos (2.2 percent): Koufos will replace Gasol as the Grizzlies' starting center. Hypothetically, he has the potential to average a double-double and maybe 1.5 blocks per game and shoot about 50 percent from the field. We don't know for sure, because he hasn't had the opportunity to average 30-plus minutes per game as a pro before now. Even as a starter with the Denver Nuggets last season, he averaged only 22.4 MPG. Now he should have the chance to prove he can do it, which makes him worth adding in most leagues.

Ed Davis (0.1 percent): Davis has more potential than Koufos, but he is really a power forward, so starting Koufos next to Zach Randolph makes more sense. However, if Davis gets a significant bump in minutes as a reserve, he could make an impact for deep-leaguers. Keep an eye on Davis to see if he can get upward of 30 minutes per game.

Tayshaun Prince (0.6 percent): Yes, Prince is one of those classic guys who is a better player for NBA teams than he is for fantasy teams. On the other hand, he should see more shots with Gasol sidelined, so if you need a wee bit of scoring and basically nothing else, Prince could lend a hand.

Andre Iguodala, Golden State Warriors

Harrison Barnes (81.3 percent): I honestly believed that an injury to a Warrior would open up a starting role for Barnes sooner than later, but I thought it would be Andrew Bogut, not Iguodala, who would end up being sidelined. Regardless of the cause, Barnes is locked in as a starter and may not give that role up. In the fast-paced Warriors offense, there is plenty of opportunity for Barnes to pick up where he left off in the playoffs. He should be owned in all leagues.

Unfortunately, Barnes probably is the only waiver-wire option who will benefit significantly from Iguodala's extended absence. Teams in deep leagues can keep an eye on Draymond Green and Kent Bazemore to see if they get enough of a bump in minutes to help, but there isn't much upside there.

Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets

Shaun Livingston (2.2 percent): He looks spry for the first time since his knee gave out years ago, but he continues to struggle with consistency. Just look at his last handful of games. Assists: 7, 0, 5, 2, 5. FGA-FGM: 2-6, 0-7, 1-5, 8-14, 4-14, 7-12. That makes Livingston a tough sell in standard leagues, but he offers some quality overall numbers for deep-leaguers. Plus, it seems that D-Will's ankle issues are a long-term issue, so Livingston should maintain a significant role in the Nets offense all season long.

Andray Blatche (9.3 percent): Lopez can't stay healthy and Kevin Garnett flat out looks old. That means that Blatche, like Livingston, should maintain relevant minutes for the long haul, which makes him an excellent addition in most leagues. In his short-term starting role, Blatche is capable of scoring in the mid-to-upper teens while shooting 50 percent from the field and chipping in quality rebounds and steals.

Alan Anderson (0.1 percent): If you can slog your way through his awful FG%, Anderson can contribute scoring and 3s for teams in deep leagues. His role as a reserve limits his consistency, but if the Nets' season goes off the proverbial rails entirely, his role could increase to the point where he could be helpful in all leagues.