This is exactly why NBA coaches and owners hate international play. Big-name players put added stress on their bodies and potentially compromise their health for the NBA season. Well, in Manu Ginobili's case, he has moved past potential. The Associated Press is reporting he will undergo surgery next week to repair ligament damage in his left ankle. To be fair, this injury was originally incurred during the playoffs in the spring, and Ginobili had an injection to reduce the swelling once the Spurs' season was over. A recent MRI revealed that the ligament is no better now than it was when it was first scanned two months ago. He will miss 6-8 weeks, meaning he could be back to start the season, though he would likely miss all of training camp and the preseason.
What are Ginobili's prospects once he comes back from surgery? Assuming he comes back at 100 percent, they are good but not great for fantasy owners. Even if Manu had come out of the Olympics with a clean bill of health, I would not be recommending him too highly. I love his efficiency, and his per-minute production has the PER-following set drooling. Last season, Manu had a PER (player efficiency rating) of 24.34, good for seventh-best in the NBA. The problem I have with Ginobili is that, despite his per-minute numbers, he doesn't multiply them with enough minutes. Last season was the first in which he averaged more than 30 per game (31.1). Following surgery and noting the fact that Manu was injured during the playoffs last season, I cannot see Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich allowing Ginobili to reach those minutes again.
Bump Ginobili down your cheat sheets a bit and let others think he will repeat last season's production with a healthy ankle. He won't, even if he comes back 100 percent. The Spurs won't give him the run he needs, and while it hurts the fantasy owner, it helps the team.
So who, if anyone, benefits from the injury? First and foremost, one has to look at Tony Parker. Just as Ginobili stepped up when Parker was down, Parker will do the same if Ginobili opens the season on the bench or playing less effectively. In 30 games played without Manu in the lineup over the past three seasons, Parker has averaged 34.9 minutes, 20.3 points, 6.5 assists, 4.0 rebounds, 1.2 steals on 53.6 percent from the field and 70.7 percent from the line. All of which represents a modest increase from his season averages. Tim Duncan will also see a modest boost in scoring to compensate, but I expect Parker, as the initiator of the offense, to benefit the most.
I do not expect a big increase in production for Michael Finley, even if Ginobili misses a good chunk of time to start the season. I dislike Finley for the same reason I like Ginobili: per-minute production. Manu's is sparkling; Finley's is not. When Ginobili is out, Finley averages 30.2 minutes per game (up from 25.1 per game overall), yet only 12.8 points, 1.5 3-pointers, 1.4 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 0.5 steals. The 3-pointers are nice, but everything else is weak. These numbers are end-of-the-bench contributions for teams in standard leagues and barely startable for deep-leaguers. Unless you really need the 3-pointers, look elsewhere for waiver help. Deep-leaguers should also keep an eye on Roger Mason for help in 3-pointers. His playing time should increase with Ginobili out.
Guy Lake is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Guy.Fantasy@gmail.com.