Considering the NBA essentially skipped the preseason (each team had just two games) and tossed in an extra game or two each week, forcing teams to play a lot of back-to-back and even back-to-back-to-back games, it's no surprise that the biggest story early in this season is on the injury front. Practically every NBA team has at least one or two players of note who are battling injuries, and that means practically every fantasy hoops squad is in the same boat. In this condensed season, we are going to have to make deft decisions about which players to deal when hurt and which players to acquire on the cheap. Here's an overview of the most relevant injured ballers out there and my recommendations on what to do with them:
Kirk Hinrich, Atlanta Hawks
The veteran guard had a cyst removed from his shoulder and hasn't played this season. We probably won't see him until early February and may not see him in a Hawks uniform again; he's trade bait while in the last year of his contract. What role he has or whether he sticks with the Hawks may come down to whether Jeff Teague proves reliable running the point. Recommendation: He's waiver-wire fodder until he gets close to playing.
Corey Maggette, Charlotte Bobcats
When you're 32 and have been prone to injury throughout your 12-season career, no one is surprised when you pop a hamstring and miss an extended period. This NBA season is just 66 games; Maggette has reached that number only seven times in 12 82-game seasons. Still, the reason he keeps getting new NBA contracts is because he's a baller who can rack up numbers when he's not in the infirmary. Recommendation: He'll be nice to have for the last 4-6 weeks of the season, so snag him on the cheap if you have a deep bench.
Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
There are few words or phrases as ominous to fantasy junkies as "plantar fasciitis" or "turf toe." A sore foot or a sore toe really doesn't sound that bad, but both of these injuries can quickly sap explosiveness from the injured player. Even worse, the only real way to fully heal is to rest it for an extended period. Rose is doing his best to battle through his turf toe injury. Recommendation: The condensed season is going to offer no time to rest up, so the next time Rose plays and has a big game, I'll be offering him up in trades.
Richard Hamilton, Bulls
A groin injury has limited Rip to just one game since December, though he might be back later this week. But he'll be 33 on Valentine's Day and has not been able to stay healthy for years. Recommendation: Look to deal him once he gets back on the court for a few games.
Rudy Fernandez, Denver Nuggets
He strained his Achilles' tendon Sunday and probably will miss some action. The timing is bad because he was starting to heat up, scoring in double-digits in five of his previous six games before getting hurt. Recommendation: If it's a short-term malady, I would try to acquire him on the cheap for his 3-pointers (nine in four games before Sunday).
Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
CP3 missed Monday's game due to his strained hamstring and is considered to be day-to-day. Recommendation: Paul is so good that I would seize the opportunity to give his owner a barrage of trade offers while he's out of action. You won't be able to get him at a discount, but you may actually be able to pry him away from his owner since he's hurt.
Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies
A torn MCL will keep Z-Bo out of the mix until at least late February. Recommendation: If you have a deep bench and can afford to stash him away for his boards and scoring, he makes for a nice buy-low option. In leagues with short benches, you may have to drop him.
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
After several years of watching Curry turn his ankles every other game, the Warriors finally forced him to rest the joints and get healthy. He could be back in the mix at some point this week. I'm one of Curry's biggest fantasy supporters, but I grew concerned about his ankles becoming an ongoing issue last season. And the condensed season made me pass on him in the first round of drafts this season. Recommendation: I remain concerned and won't overpay to acquire him … but I will try to acquire him. I have to; just look at those stats!
Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
D-Wade can't get a break. First a sore foot, then a bad ankle sprain. All things considered, maybe he's fortunate he hasn't had a break yet. Wade's often been hurt in the past, so it's no surprise he's already down hard in a condensed season with no preseason. Recommendation: Like CP3 above, we should seize the opportunity to pry Wade away from his owner if he's getting tired of looking at the injury reports every day.
Michael Beasley, Minnesota Timberwolves
A mid-foot sprain has kept Beasley on the pine the past six games, and there's no timetable for his return. He really does nothing but score, and he didn't do much of that before getting hurt (12.9 ppg). Recommendation: If he's on your roster and you can deal him away, do it.
Andrew Bogut, Milwaukee Bucks
After missing a stretch to deal with a personal matter and another game due to concussion symptoms, the big guy was back on the court Monday night, and he had a solid game (20 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks). That said, Bogut has had trouble staying healthy, so his absences early this season should give you a taste of what it will be like to own him later in the season. Recommendation: Trade him before he gets hurt again and misses an even bigger stretch of games.
Brook Lopez, New Jersey Nets
He's recovering from surgery that repaired a stress fracture in his foot, and he could be back by mid-February. Recommendation: If you have space on your bench, Lopez is an excellent guy to get tossed into a bigger trade. Even if he's a little late in his return, he should get in a solid 6-8 weeks of action this season, which is plenty enough time to make an impact for your fantasy team.
Eric Gordon, New Orleans Hornets
Hopefully, Gordon will return from his sore knee next week. Gordon is becoming similar to Curry (above), another player who has elite upside but can't stay out of the infirmary. He has played just 62 and 56 games, respectively, the past two seasons. Recommendation: The best time to get a guy with this kind of upside is when he's hurt, and who wouldn't want those points, dimes and treys?
Baron Davis, New York Knicks
The oft-injured 32-year-old point guard could return from his back surgery in a couple of weeks. Recommendation: I can't in good conscience recommend acquiring him in a trade, but I have to admit that the door is wide open for him to perform well in fantasy terms for the Knicks, who remain desperate for someone to handle the point. He'll kill your field-goal percentage but probably is worth trading for on the cheap for the scoring, assists and steals he'll produce until he gets hurt again.
Jason Richardson, Orlando Magic
A sore knee is supposed to keep the sharpshooter out for a few games. Recommendation: He was just starting to heat up before being felled, so I like him as a buy-low option if you need triples.
Marcus Camby, Portland Trail Blazers
Camby is out because of an ankle injury. It's not clear when he'll return. Recommendation: Seriously? You're wondering if you should trade for a 37-year-old Marcus Camby? I'm not even going to dignify that with a response.
Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs
He probably won't return from surgery that fixed a broken hand for another 4-5 weeks. I don't know Ginobili personally, but it almost seemed like he was mocking me with his renaissance 80-game campaign last season, as I spent the whole season predicting he'd get hurt. Well, here we are now. Recommendation: Typically, I recommend acquiring injured studs on the cheap, but I'm more concerned than usual because of his lengthy injury history and the fact that he broke his shooting hand. Acquire him at your own risk.
Andrea Bargnani, Toronto Raptors
He has missed a few games and may miss a couple more because of a sore calf. He was a workhorse in the three seasons before taking on a lead role last season, which led to him missing 16 games. In this condensed season, I expect the wear and tear to lead to the same result: more missed action. Recommendation: I'm steering clear of Bargnani, unless I get him extremely cheap.