Joakim Noah an injured player to target
If you set weekly lineups in your league, you know teams are playing scaled-back schedules around the holidays. Thirteen teams lace up for just two games this week, and the Toronto Raptors get only one run. NBA teams often take advantage of this little stretch to rest players who are nursing nagging injuries. It's a chance to get them healthy without losing too many games played. Of course, a number of other players were felled by injuries this week that will keep them out of action for a month or more.
It's never fun to see one of your players injured, not just because of the loss of stat production, but because of the uncertainty about when that player will return and what he'll do when he hits the court again. On the other hand, you can take advantage of that same reaction another owner will have when his player goes down. Maybe you can get the player at a reduced price that works for you. Or maybe it'll be the only time an owner will be willing to trade one of his top studs. Let's take a look at some guys who are sidelined right now to determine whether they're worth acquiring in trades.
Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee Bucks, PG: Jennings is expected to miss four to six weeks due to a broken foot that required surgery. That means we might not see him on the hardwood again until February, but that leaves plenty of time for the young point guard to make an impact for your fantasy team. That impact might come at the expense of your field goal percentage, since he can't seem to get on the right side of 40 percent, but if you can stomach the hit in that category, Jennings can give you a good bump in scoring, dimes, 3s and even steals. For keeper leagues, I'm not that concerned about his long-term prognosis, because he never missed a game before this injury. However, it's important to keep in mind that the physical stress of playing in the NBA can take a big toll on little guys like Jennings, who is 6-foot-1 and a scrawny 170 lbs. Let's hope this is a fluke injury and not a sign of nagging ailments to come.
Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls, PF/C: Noah had surgery to repair a damaged tendon in his right thumb, and the Bulls expect him to miss the next eight to 10 weeks. Even if rumors are true that he might be back in action within six to eight weeks, that's a large chunk of the season. The upside of a hand injury is that Noah will be able to keep his conditioning up, so once the digit is healed, he should quickly return to full speed on the court. In one of my roto leagues, I'm in second place overall but dead last in rebounds. I'm aiming to acquire Noah on the cheap right now from the owner who has the most rebounds. We're working on a multiplayer deal, and predictably, that owner is willing (maybe even trying) to get Noah off his roster. Worst case for me, Noah is out until after the All-Star break. I still get a double-double for the final six to eight weeks of the season and pay next to nothing for the stats. It could be the difference between winning and losing.
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors, PG/SG: Sometimes it's nice to be vindicated. I was derided by some readers and even some fellow fantasy experts for ranking and picking Stephen Curry and Amare Stoudemire fourth and fifth overall this fall. We're about a third of the way through the season now, and Stoudemire is second and Curry is fifth on the Player Rater by averages. Unfortunately, while "STAT" has been cranking out 30-point games for a couple of weeks, Curry has been in the infirmary with a bum ankle. While it's no fun to have your stud guard out of commission, it's probably a good thing for his long-term health to let it heal up close to full strength, especially since he's turned it several times this season already. We might see him on the court Christmas evening, so the window to acquire him is closing rapidly. Odds are that you'll have to pay full price for Curry, but any owner is going to be more apt to deal him now than after his next 30-point, 3-steal, 3 3-pointer game. This might be your only chance to get him this season.
John Wall, Washington Wizards, PG: There really aren't any surprises here with the rookie. We knew his upside could be huge, like the 16.7 points, 8.9 assists and 2.3 steals he's averaged in his first 15 games as a pro. We also knew the downside for a young player who would have the ball in his hands all the time: too many turnovers (3.5 per game), a terrible field goal percentage (.407) and injuries. At this point, the nagging knee and ankle injuries have been the worst of it. Wall has missed 11 games already and isn't expected back anytime soon due to what has been diagnosed as a bone bruise in his knee. I have him in five leagues and have differing views on his value depending on the league. I'm looking to move him in a league in which my team has several other injured players, because I want to minimize the injury risks on my squad going forward, and he carries the most value. In another league, my roster is very deep, so I can afford to wait to see whether he can get healthy. In a third league, my only weak category is assists and my field goal percentage is good, so I'll keep him and enjoy the dimes when he starts dishing them again. Overall, I think his upside is so high, especially with Gilbert Arenas out of the picture for the Wiz, I wouldn't hesitate to acquire him if the fit is right for your team. It's worth the risk.
Yao Ming, Houston Rockets, C: Out for the season with another stress fracture (this one in his ankle), Yao shouldn't be on any redraft rosters. I think at this point, even his heartiest keeper-league supporter would have to realize that he can't be trusted as a fantasy option. I learned my lesson the hard way during the 2007-08 campaign when I acquired him in a trade exactly one day before the Rockets announced a foot injury would end that season. It's really too bad his feet can't seem to handle his massive body weight, because in his prime, he was one of the best fantasy centers you could hope for.
Brandon Roy, Portland Trail Blazers, SG/SF: I fell in love with Roy's game primarily because of his terrific percentages. Anytime you can plug in a guard who can shoot as high as 48 percent from the field, it makes everything else easier in your roto leagues. Of course, averaging 22 points, 5 dimes and 1.1 3-pointers per game, and shooting 80 percent from the line didn't hurt, either. What does hurt is having no cartilage in either knee, especially when you're just 26 years old. You don't have to be a basketball expert to see it affecting him on the hardwood. Roy clearly has no lift or explosion -- the very things that made him an exceptional baller. I wouldn't recommend putting any hope in him turning it around this season, and it's a tough investment for keeper leagues. I have him at a decent price in an auction keeper and am trying like hell to deal him for anything worthwhile. I think that, best case, Roy has successful microfracture surgery, which would basically make him a fantasy nonfactor for at least a year after the procedure. It's not worth the hassle.
Tom Carpenter is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.