In last week's NBA Fantasy Forecaster, I made note of the staggering amount of injuries this season and wondered which fantasy hoops owners have had the worst luck. I guess the kids call this trolling for page views, but darned if your tales of woe weren't impressive. I'll quickly share a sense of the responses, but I encourage you to dive into the comments.
One thing I hadn't considered with last week's column is owners who've traded for players who quickly ended up getting hurt. For instance, commenter Keshav says he dealt for Chris Paul the day before went he down, and got Nikola Vucevic in the same blockbuster. On top of that, one of the players he gave up was the blistering hot Lance Stephenson -- because he refused to part with Eric Bledsoe.
A few of you pointed out (correctly) that injuries aren't the end of the world. Commenter Jeff, whose roster has included Paul, Rose, Vucevic, DeMarcus Cousins and Kawhi Leonard, says he has still managed a 10-3 start in his head-to-head league. Jeff modestly points out that his schedule has been favorable, but dude, I think you're due some good fortune.
And Neil has a roster with Anthony Davis, Bledsoe, Jrue Holiday, Leonard and J.J. Redick. He reports that this league is an auction format, so these are players he really valued for this season. And the kicker is that, since the league is 14 teams with 18-man rosters, stashing Tobias Harris at the end of the auction seemed like a perfectly good idea. Of course he ended up missing about a month, as well.
Wait ... Neil? Oh, yeah. That's one of my teams. You had to know I'd make this about me eventually.
One final shoutout to commenter Jeffrey (not to be confused with the aforementioned Jeff). His round-by-round draft went like this: Rose, Gasol, Davis, Bledsoe, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Bradley Beal, Vucevic, Jose Calderon and Jimmy Butler. What were the odds last fall that Calderon would be the only guy in that group not to miss a significant amount of time?
Thanks to everyone who chimed in.
As far as injuries go, this has actually been an encouraging week for fantasy owners, considering that Rudy Gay quickly returned from his Achilles injury and Kemba Walker, James Harden, DeMar DeRozan and Cousins could all play this weekend. Not that we don't have any injury news. Just as one Nikola (Vucevic) returns, Nikola Pekovic is sidelined with a bad ankle. While Pek should only miss around 10 days, it's ironic that not two weeks ago, the Minnesota Timberwolves' massive Montenegrin was lauding the team's new strength coach, Koichi Sato, for helping keep him healthy this season.
On the bright side, there are some available bigs in free agency, and the schedule is breaking at least slightly in their favor. More on that in a bit.
Week 15 at a Glance
Post-Super Bowl, the NBA schedule kicks into overdrive. Twenty of the 30 teams play four times in Week 15, which is about as game-packed as the schedule gets. Only the Charlotte Bobcats and Houston Rockets are limited to two games.
Speaking of welcome returns, I'm pleased to note that after a two-week absence due to technical difficulties, our "Past 10 Games" statistics are again a part of this feature (see below). Thanks go out to spreadsheet guru Tristan Cockcroft for making the needed calculations.
"R" matchup ratings are based upon a scale from 1 (poor matchup) to 10 (excellent matchup), and are calculated using a formula that evaluates the team's year-to-date and past 10 games' statistics, their opponents' numbers in those categories, and their performance in home/road games depending on where the game is to be played. The column to the right lists the team's total number of games scheduled ("G") as well as home games ("H"), and lists the overall rating from 1-10 for that team's weekly schedule ("R").
Players to Watch
Avery Bradley, PG/SG, Boston Celtics (@PHI, SAC, DAL): After missing the past five games with a bum ankle, Bradley is expected to play Sunday against the Orlando Magic. In the 10 games prior to his injury, Bradley averaged 18.3 points and 1.3 3-pointers. He's worth rostering in leagues of at least 12 teams, and even with this three-game set, Bradley could hit the ground running. Of course there's the matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers, but also note that both Sacramento Kings and Dallas Mavericks opponents rank in the top five in shooting. Bradley is available in about 75 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
Taj Gibson, PF, Chicago Bulls (@SAC, @PHX, @GS, @LAL): While the periodic absences of Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah have provided extra opportunity, even as a reserve, Gibson is averaging a healthy 27 minutes per game this season. While Kings opponents rank sixth in blocks, this schedule seems better for rebounds than rejections. Los Angeles Lakers opponents are tops in total rebounds, while Phoenix Suns opponents are sixth in this regard. Though he's become a popular add during his run of six straight games of double-digit scoring, Gibson can still be had in nearly half of ESPN.com leagues.
Ryan Kelly, SF/PF, Los Angeles Lakers (@MIN, @CLE, @PHI, CHI): Following a five-game stretch where he averaged 14.4 points and 1.4 3s per game and replaced Jordan Hill in the starting lineup, Kelly was drawing interest in deep leagues. However, the buzz quickly fizzled as foul trouble limited Kelly to only 21 minutes and 19 minutes in his most recent outings. But as a deep-leaguer myself, I wouldn't be so quick to give up on the former Blue Devil, at least not with this schedule. Sixers and Cleveland Cavaliers opponents rank Nos. 1-2 in treys, respectively, while Wolves opponents are tops in shooting percentage.
Timofey Mozgov, C, Denver Nuggets (LAC, MIL, @NY, @DET): In a piece cited on ESPN.com's True Hoop blog, Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post called Mozgov the Nuggets' most improved player and relayed coach Brian Shaw's intent to give the 7-footer more playing time. In the three games since that article appeared, Mozgov has averaged 14.7 points, 7.7 boards and 1.3 blocks per contest. Despite his limited minutes, anyone looking for a fill-in for Pekovic should be intrigued. This schedule doesn't give us a lot to go on, though Milwaukee Bucks opponents are second in rebound differential. Movgoz, incidentally, is available in nearly 95 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
Ronny Turiaf, PF/C, Minnesota Timberwolves (LAL, @OKC, @NO, POR): Turiaf can be expected to start in place of Pekovic at least through Week 15. Though the veteran obviously shouldn't be counted on for meaningful offense, it's worth noting that Lakers opponents are tops in rebound differential while New Orleans Pelicans opponents are fourth in blocks.
Opponent Performance, Past 10 games
All statistics are for teams' past 10 games played, and are defensive numbers. PPGA: Points per game allowed. FG%A: Field goal percentage allowed. 3PT%A: Three-point percentage allowed. RPG diff.: Rebounds per game differential. SPGA: Steals per game allowed. BPGA: Blocks per game allowed.