For the vast majority of people, fantasy drafts will be in full swing this weekend and extend all the way up to tip-off on Oct. 16. Last year was a nightmare in terms of injuries and we’re already off to a rocky start this time around, so I’ll do my best to provide a quick snap-shot of some injury news for the fantasy-relevant players to get you ready for your draft. For questions of any kind, you can find me on Twitter here!
John Collins- One of Rotoworld’s favorite sleepers heading into the season, people quickly jumped onto his hype train and it wasn’t long before they started drafting him inside the top-50. He looked like the real deal early on in the preseason with an 18-point debut in 20 minutes, only to tweak his left ankle shortly after. The Hawks initially diagnosed it as soreness, but he didn’t progress like expected and an MRI on Oct. 2 revealed mild inflammation. The Hawks announced on Friday that he underwent a non-surgical procedure on October 8th and that he will be re-evaluated on Oct. 22. That means he will miss at least the first three games of the season, but it’s too early to tell if he’ll be ready in time for Atlanta’s home opener on Oct. 24. The Hawks are planning another tank this season and may choose to be overly cautious, so what was once considered a rock-solid target in Round 4 is now a risky top-75 investment. I’m still planning to roll the dice, especially if he falls a couple rounds, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous.
Dewayne Dedmon- He suffered an avulsion fracture in late August and didn’t make an appearance in the preseason. Dedmon is considered a "long shot” to play in the season opener, but the Hawks haven’t ruled him out yet. Dedmon was the starting center for the Hawks last season and was a sneaky late-round value, but with ankle concerns and some fresh competition in Alex Len and Omari Spellman, I’m not going near him in standard drafts. I don’t think there’s a no-brainer pickup up here, but if I had to choose a flier between Len and Spellman I’d go with the former. Len’s a slow-moving center with stone hands, an average free throw percentage (70.7% for his career) and a low block rate for a 7’1” center, but sometimes fantasy is more about opportunity than talent. In 13 starts last season, he put up 10.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and 1.4 assists on 60% from the field in just under 26 minutes.
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Allen Crabbe- Since rolling his ankle on Oct. 8, we haven’t heard anything regarding a timetable for Crabbe. X-rays were negative, but he appears to be dealing with a significant sprain and was seen on crutches on Oct. 10. At this point, it would be a surprise to see him on the floor for the season opener and I don’t like him as a target anyways. Caris LeVert has been all the rage this preseason and looks poised for a breakout third season. In three appearances, he put up 15.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 2.3 steals and 1.0 triples, but he will have to cut down his turnovers (4.7) as he adjusts to his new role as a primary ball-handler for the first unit. Joe Harris could also be sneaky with Crabbe out if you’re on the prowl for some triples — he hit 1.9 treys on a 41.9% clip in 2017.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson- Not exactly known for his durability, RHJ (left adductor strain) scrimmaged on Oct. 11 for the first time since getting injured in early August. Nets coach Kenny Atkinson was non-committal about RHJ’s status for the opener, but did say the scrimmage was "a step in the right direction.” Even if he’s not cleared in time, RHJ has to be owned in standard leagues and projects to be Brooklyn’s starting small-ball power forward. He can facilitate from the forward position with 2.5 dimes per game last season, and he’s also a solid source of points (13.9), rebounds (6.8), steals (1.0) and blocks (0.7) with good shooting percentages.
Kevin Love- He has missed a pair of preseason games with left foot soreness. According to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com, a team spokesperson said Love sitting is more of a precaution and that he would play if this was the regular season. Rodney Hood (ankle) and Cedi Osman (ankle) also a little banged up, but similar to Love, the Cavaliers are just playing it safe.
Larry Nance- He appears to be the only Cavalier with a decent chance of missing the opener. Nance suffered a sprained right ankle in practice on Thursday and will be re-evaluated over the next several days. We probably won’t get an update until the weekend, but I still like Nance as a late-round flier. We already know he’s going to be in and out of the starting lineup depending on matchups (Nance will start against smaller teams and Tristan Thompson will get the nod against bigger teams), and he has a fantasy-friendly game with per-36 averages of 14.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 2.2 steals and 1.0 blocks.
Denzel Valentine- He tweaked his ankle back on September 28th and has been sidelined since. It doesn’t sound like he’s close either, as he’s been limited to “1-on-0 work”. Valentine had some good moments last season, but his opportunity for reliable fantasy value is pretty much non-existent with a healthy Zach LaVine around. Jabari Parker has been a disaster at small forward, so Valentine could see backup minutes as a SG and SF.
Lauri Markkanen- Chicago’s starting power forward Lauri Markkanen was diagnosed with a right elbow sprain on September 28th and was given a timetable of roughly 6-8 weeks. According to injury guru Jeff Stotts, the average number of missed games for a moderate UCL sprain in the NBA is about 19 games which translates to 6-7 weeks, and while this is the opposite part of the elbow, it gives us a general idea. Based off this timetable we wouldn’t see Markkanen until mid-November at the earliest, but keep in mind that the Bulls aren’t going to take any chances. Bobby Portis has a shot at top-75 value for as long as Markkanen is out and has been a stud in the preseason with 18.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.3 triples on 56.3% shooting.
Harrison Barnes- Dallas’ starting forward Harrison Barnes just recently started running and shooting after injuring his hamstring back on Sept. 27. He is is "coming along well" and "making progress every day,” and his goal is still to be ready in time for the opener. Players are generally more optimistic and it’s not always up to them, so I’d still be hesitant to draft him inside the top-100. If he’s out, I think Maxi Kleber will be a sneaky deep-league add because he’s been a first-round value in the preseason according to basketballmonster.com with 13.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.3 dimes, 2.0 blocks, 2.0 triples and 0.7 steals. Fluke or not, it’s hard to ignore these numbers.
Dirk Nowitzki- The Mavericks predictably ruled out Dirk (ankle) for the season opener and beyond, with coach Rick Carlisle saying on Oct. 12 that the legend would be sidelined for at least a couple more weeks. This is even more reason to take a deep-league flier on Kleber, and maybe this means we could see more of Dwight Powell as well. Nowitzki will see limited minutes off the bench once he’s cleared and has very little stash appeal in what should be his farewell tour.
Isaiah Thomas- The latest update on Denver’s biggest (or littlest in this case) offseason addition is not very encouraging. Nuggets beat writer T.J. McBride said Thomas (offseason hip surgery) is still "not close" and remains without an official timetable. We obviously won’t see him for the season opener, and at this point it’s probably not a stretch to say we won’t see him until after Christmas. That’s pure speculation of course, but we saw what happened last year when the Cavaliers rushed him back.
Michael Porter Jr.- Similar to Thomas, MPJ doesn’t have a timetable. With two back surgeries to his name and a team willing to wait on the rookie, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he sits out the entire year.
Goran Dragic- Trade candidate Goran Dragic suffered a knee-to-knee injury on Oct. 9 and has been sidelined since. This is his second injury of the preseason with an ankle tweak the week before, but there’s been no indication that his status is in doubt for opening night. He showed signs of regression last season, but he’s still a reliable PG2 in fantasy.
Wayne Ellington- After missing the preseason with a sore left ankle, Wayne Ellington returned to full practice this week. He’s being overlooked as a reliable 3-point specialist late in drafts, especially with Dion Waiters (ankle) out of shape and without a timetable. There could be a lot of moving pieces if the Heat trades for Jimmy Butler as well. Last season, Ellington set Miami's single-season record for 3-pointers made (227) and tied for sixth most in the NBA.
James Johnson- He still hasn’t been cleared for full-contact work and didn’t make an appearance in the preseason. Johnson played through this injury last season, but it obviously came back to bite him. My guess is that he spends the start of the season on the shelf, increasing Kelly Olynyk’s fantasy appeal in the process. In 2017-18, Olynyk averaged career-highs in points (11.5), rebounds (5.7), assists (2.7) and 3-pointers (1.4) .
Russell Westbrook- Westbrook (knee) has progressed to "controlled contact,” hopefully one of his final steps since undergoing arthroscopic surgery on Sept. 12. The Thunder have said all along that they won’t rush him back, but I think it’s a great sign that coach Billy Donovan hasn’t ruled him out for the opener yet. I’m still not expecting to see him until November, but if you’re able to get him for a discount of a full round or two, I’d be cool with that. Just make sure you don’t leave your draft without Dennis Schroder if you’re on Team Westy this season.
Andre Roberson and Terrance Ferguson- Roberson (knee) is out indefinitely after another setback, and Ferguson is still in the concussion protocol. You’re obviously not going to draft these guys anyways, but this means you should be keeping an eye on preseason standout Hamidou Diallo. The rookie was phenomenal across 40 minutes of Tuesday’s preseason action, dropping 19 points with five rebounds, four assists, one steal and one block.
Terrence Ross- A number of players on the Magic are slightly banged up, but Ross has been battling a foot contusion and sore toe for over a week. Maybe he’s cleared in time for the opener, but there’s not much opportunity for fantasy value on a wing rotation that includes Jonathan Isaac, Jonathon Simmons and Evan Fournier. To Ross’ credit, he does seem to have his explosion back after an encouraging offseason.
Devin Booker- A week after saying his hand felt “great,” Booker reiterated on Friday that he still hopes to play in the season opener. “I don’t all-the-way-trust it yet, but I’m out there competing...it feels pretty good right now,” he said. "Want it to feel better before I step out there (on the court for a game).” Booker made it through a full-contact practice on Friday with tape around his fingers as opposed to a small splint, so all signs point to him returning sooner rather than later.
Derrick White- The second-year guard was fully expected to move into the starting lineup in place of Dejounte Murray (ACL, out for season), but a left plantar fascia tear could sideline him for 6-8 weeks. Coach Gregg Popovich later walked back that timetable and said it could be closer to 2-4 weeks, but it’s hard to trust anything Pop says. I’m still stashing White if I have an I.R. slot, and I can’t say I’m excited about the idea of rostering Patty Mils. My guess is that the Spurs explore the trade or free agent market for a veteran point. Think along the lines of Patrick Beverley or a cheaper option in Milos Teodosic.
Rudy Gay- Out of nowhere, we learned on Friday that Rudy Gay (heel) could miss the season opener due to an inflamed bursa in his heel. With an Achilles tear to his name just two years ago, this is a glaring concern. He’s been phenomenal in the preseason, so I’m still OK with people taking a chance on him in the final rounds. Expect to see more of Davis Bertans and Marco Belinelli if Gay misses time, but there isn’t a clear pickup here.
Bogdan Bogdanovic- Bogdanovic (left knee surgery) is getting better but is still a few weeks away from returning according to James Ham of NBC Sports. He’s yet to resume contact work since undergoing surgery in late September, and coach Dave Joerger is on record saying that he’s not going to rush him back before he’s 100 percent. Similar to Derrick White, I’d stash him wherever possible. Buddy Hield has a ton of opportunity to produce top-75 value, but trusting anyone on the Kings isn’t going to be easy.
Dwight Howard- The Wizards said his back issue was “minor,” but that was three weeks ago. Head coach Scott Brooks wasn’t ready to commit to Howard being ready for the season opener, so you’re just asking for trouble if you take him inside the top-100 of category leagues. Ian Mahinmi will start if Howard isn’t cleared, but we’ve seen what he can do as a starter and it’s not pretty.
DeMarcus Cousins- Boogie doesn’t have a timetable yet, but there’s been plenty of positive signs. He’s been going through lots of non-contact drills, and coach Kerr doesn’t think it will be much longer before he’s practicing at full speed. If you draft him in the top-100 and he’s back around January, that could be an insane value even if he’s 75% of what he was last season.
Kristaps Porzingis- He’s been out since he had knee surgery back in February and the fact that the Knicks won’t commit to him playing at all this season is a major red flag. He just recently started running and we’ve heard murmurs about a possible return around Christmas, but it’s really anybody’s guess at this point.