- Tom Carpenter, Fantasy and Insider
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The All-Star break is next weekend, which means that no team plays more than two games next week. With the stretch run right around the corner, NBA squads will take advantage of the limited schedule to get some extra rest for their injured players. Fantasy owners can take advantage of the lull, too. We can acquire some of those dinged-up ballers on the cheap and they won't miss as many games for us because of the limited schedule. Here's a comprehensive look at injured players around the NBA to help you determine which players are worth acquiring, ignoring or adding off waivers:
Al Horford, C/PF, Atlanta Hawks: He missed Saturday's game with a bruised back but was expected to return to action Tuesday. This sounds like a minor injury that shouldn't stop you from acquiring the big man for his rebounding, scoring and impressively high assist totals.
Tyrus Thomas, PF, Charlotte Bobcats: The knee surgery Thomas underwent late last month will keep him out of action until the end of March, so he's arguably not even worth keeping on rosters, much less worth trading for. Don't forget Thomas next fall, though, in what could be a make-or-break season for the talented forward. If the then-25-year-old can find starter's minutes, it could be his breakout run. If he continues to lack focus and the trust of his coaches, he could end up like J.R. Smith -- hot for short stretches but never secure as a quality fantasy option.
Joakim Noah, C/PF, Chicago Bulls: Noah hasn't been on the court with his teammates since Dec. 15, but his recovery from thumb surgery has gone well and all signs point to him returning to action right after the All-Star break. That means any owner will expect full price if you want to get him in a swap. It would have been better to grab him on the cheap a month ago, but if you want his massive double-double production, it's safe to pay up now and get the job done.
Mo Williams, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers: A strained hip has kept Williams out of action since Jan. 15, and it's unclear when he'll be ready to play again. Considering the epic losing streak the Cavs have been on and the chance he could be dealt to a decent team, Williams has little reason to rush back before the trade deadline. He'll need to be dealt to max out his value, but you should be able to get Williams cheaply enough to make it worth the gamble.
Rodrigue Beaubois, PG/SG, Dallas Mavericks: The guard hasn't played a game this season because of a fractured foot. There's no need to trade for Beaubois, because he's probably not on anyone's roster. However, he's worth keeping an eye on if he's able to return to action this month. The Mavs continue to battle injuries, and Beaubois has the skills to score and rack up 3s down the stretch, if he can get healthy and carve out a place in the rotation.
Rodney Stuckey, PG/SG, Detroit Pistons: Stuckey has been out of the mix with a bruised right shoulder, but he should return from his five-game absence this week, maybe even Tuesday night. His upside isn't terrific, but it would improve if the Pistons finally deal away Richard Hamilton before the deadline. If you need dimes and steals, you could do worse than acquiring Stuckey on the cheap.
Jonas Jerebko, SF/PF, Pistons: The Swede popped his Achilles just before the season, so he's surely sitting on your waiver wire. There haven't been any recent updates by the Pistons on his status, but it's possible he could return for the final 6-7 weeks of the season. Keep an eye on him if you need boards and steals this season and next. Remember that he averaged about seven rebounds and 1.7 steals in his final 23 games as a rookie. That included a 12-point, 13-rebound, three-steal performance in the season finale.
Eric Gordon, SG, Los Angeles Clippers: Gordon hasn't progressed ahead of schedule and reportedly is seeking another opinion on his injured wrist Tuesday. Because we're talking about a bone chip and sprain in his shooting wrist, there's no doubt this injury is concerning. On the other hand, his upside is ridiculous, so I'd trade for him if you can get a discount for his sketchy health. He was originally projected to return soon after the All-Star break, but we'll have to hear the second opinion before we know.
Chris Kaman, C, Clippers: Kaman has battled long-term injuries throughout his career, so it's no surprise that the sprained left ankle that was supposed to keep him out until early January still has him sidelined in early February. It sounds like Kaman is getting close to a return, but his upside is limited by more athletic teammates in the Clippers' frontcourt. There's a decent chance he could be traded by the Clippers, so he's worth consideration if you can get him as a throw-in.
Udonis Haslem, PF, Miami Heat: Haslem was slated to have his walking boot removed Tuesday. Unfortunately, it likely will be at least another month before he'll return from his foot surgery. If you're desperate for boards down the stretch, keep an eye on his return.
Troy Murphy, PF/C, New Jersey Nets: Murphy isn't injured, but he might as well be; he's not playing any games while the Nets try to trade him. With the trade deadline just around the corner, Murphy would be worth adding off waivers if you need boards and 3s, just in case he gets dealt to the right place. He could even be a decent toss-in via a bigger trade if someone actually has him on his/her roster.
Trevor Ariza, SF/SG, New Orleans Hornets: The swingman's troublesome ankle remains in a walking boot, and he won't practice anytime soon. It's safe to assume that he won't be back in action until after the All-Star break. If you need steals and can stand his sub-40 percent shooting, make a low-ball offer on him or toss him into a bigger trade. You should get your money's worth down the stretch.
Emeka Okafor, C, Hornets: The big man is nursing a strained left oblique. It doesn't appear to be serious, so there's a chance he could get back on the hardwood before the All-Star break. Regardless, he should be back soon after the break, at the latest, so you shouldn't hesitate to acquire him for his boards, blocks and field goal percentage.
Brandon Roy, SG/SF, Portland Trail Blazers: Roy had both knees scoped three weeks ago and appears poised to return to action this week. Roy's aiming to play Friday or Sunday and wants to come off the bench. Keep in mind that he hasn't actually played since Dec. 15 and reportedly has no cartilage in either knee. So while the scopes helped relieve some of the pain, it's going to take some time to get his legs under him, and his upside remains a mystery. The good news is that despite his .399 field goal percentage, he still maintained some fantasy value before the surgeries, despite his ailing joints. If you're desperate in your league, roll the dice on acquiring Roy now and hope you get lucky.
Marcus Camby, C/PF, Trail Blazers: Camby was aiming to return to practice Tuesday, which means he could return from his knee surgery later this week. There's not much to rap about when it comes to Camby. You know his age, you know his propensity for injury, you know he can dominate the glass, and you know he can't score. Acquire him at your own risk.
Tom Carpenter is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
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