The recent spate of injuries in the NBA has cast a dark cloud over teams and fans of the game — and maybe even more so for those diehards who are into fantasy basketball.
Less than a month into the 2019-20 season, fantasy managers are already in a bind, pondering how to handle a player like Eric Gordon — or worse, a superstar like Stephen Curry — who recently got hurt and will miss a considerable amount of time.
Making a decision on whether to let them go or stay isn't simply a matter of boxscores and interviews with coaches (We're looking at you, Doc Rivers). SPIN Life makes a case for dropping or keeping the following injured players:
Drop: Zach Collins (Portland Trail Blazers)
Out for: at least four months after surgery to repair his left labrum
When asked if he hopes to play again this season, Zach replied, "Yeah, for sure, it's very realistic. If you look at it, March is four months, that's very realistic. They've said guys come back in four months. I can't promise anything obviously, you never know how it's going to be, but that's my goal, for sure."
The Blazers big man is understandably optimistic about his recovery, but his fantasy owners should think otherwise. Even before he dislocated his shoulder, Collins has been averaging a modest nine points, four rebounds, two assists, and a three-pointer in three games as Portland's starting power forward. He's scheduled for re-evaluation in March, which will be too late for him to make a significant impact, at least fantasy-wise.
Keep: Zion Williamson (New Orleans Pelicans)
Out for: six to eight weeks after surgery to repair his right lateral meniscus
The No. 1 overall draft pick has yet to suit up for the flightless Pelicans (2-8, 14th in West) after undergoing arthroscopic procedure for his torn meniscus before the season began. But he said in a recent interview that his knee is "getting stronger day by day. The trainers are telling me it's getting stronger, and I can tell a difference."
While it was also reported that Zion won't play this month, fantasy managers who've stashed him since the draft have to be perfectly fine with a December comeback. New Orleans sorely needs its 19-year-old rookie to replicate his preseason numbers — 23.2 points on 71 percent shooting over four games — to turn around a rough start, so waiting a little longer for him will pay off eventually.
Keep: Gordon Hayward (Boston Celtics)
Out for: six weeks after surgery to repair a fourth metacarpal in his left hand
The man just can't get the right kind of break.
Just when it looked like Gordon and the Celtics (leading the East at 8-1) finally hit their stride for the first time since he recovered from a gruesome leg injury, he fractures his hand. The star forward is norming close to 19 points, seven rebounds (career-high), four assists, and two threes per game in his first seven outings this season.
Fantasy owners may want to be more patient with Hayward, especially with Boston coach Brad Stevens giving the assurance that "this isn't like last time." Unless he's the third man down in your bench, there's no need to worry for those who don't have an IR spot. And unlike Collins, he will have enough time to regain his form once he comes back during Christmastime.
Drop: Eric Gordon (Houston Rockets)
Out for: six weeks after surgery to repair his right knee
The same cannot be said about this Gordon, who was coming off his best game of the season — 17 points, 54.5 percent shooting, four threes vs. Pels — when news came out that "a piece of debris was found on an MRI." This will require an arthroscopic procedure to clean up, according to coach Mike D'Antoni.
The 2017 Sixth Man of the Year has struggled with his shots so far, averaging 10.9 points and 2.3 threes per game on career-lows in field goal (30.9) and three-point (28.4) percentages in two starts and seven as a reserve. Prior to the injury, Eric only offered decent value in deeper leagues, and that will drop even further due to lingering questions about his health.
Drop: Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)
Out for: at least three months after surgery to repair a second metacarpal in his left hand
Amid talk of him being shut down for the season, Steph made it clear in a recent press conference: "I definitely expect to be ready to play. I don't know when — at some point in early spring. Just a matter of the rehab process. I've never obviously broken anything and dealt with a hand injury like this... [But] I'm excited about the potential that the rest of the season isn't lost."
The problem is, the two-time Most Valuable Player also revealed that a follow-up procedure is required to remove pins that were inserted in his non-shooting hand during the initial operation. With how the mighty Warriors have fallen (2-9, bottom of the conference) and are in danger of missing the playoffs, it would make zero sense for both Golden State and fantasy managers to rush Curry back.