Between Russell Westbrook’s knee in Oklahoma City and Kobe Bryant’s Achilles logging impressive travel miles between Los Angeles and Germany, Fantasy basketball drafts will also provide an indication of how several early round performers also returning from injury will fare.
Beyond Westbrook and Bryant, no one will make or break a draft like Bulls PG Derrick Rose, whose Battle of Wounded Knee extended through the entire 2012-13 season, during which the former surefire first-round pick remained sidelined. He is slowly working his way back onto the court and expects to be ready for Chicago’s October 29 season opener against Miami.
Even at about 80-90 percent, Rose provides immediate impact to a Bulls team that finished 29th in scoring last season. A career 21.0/3.8/6.8 line screams across the board improvement for a Chicago team that was way too reliant on its defense. Rose won’t help your FG percentage much, especially if he looks to hoist 3-pointers at the same 4.4 clip he delivered in 2011-12, as Rose’s .312 mark from beyond the arc will easily burn off a couple of percentage points.
The depth at PG makes it easy not to gamble on Rose, who has established himself as a solid early-to-mid second round pick. The Bulls will be patient in bringing Rose along, but even if he hits his career line, the foundation of your backcourt will be solid. Those leery of a possible setback or concerned about Rose’s numbers taking a hit would be wise to follow up and grab a second-tier PG like the Suns’ Goran Dragic or Jeremy Lin of the Rockets.
While Rose appears to be slated for what should be a smooth return to Fantasy dominance, a host of other players returning from the ER will make for intriguing tracking once exhibition games begin in full next week:
Diagnosis: Torn ACL
Expectations: The league’s leader in assists (11.1) has participated in offensive drills, yet has not been able to take part in physical contact. Rondo — who sustained the injury in April — isn’t likely to return until sometime in late December and probably won’t be near his All-Star level until near the break. Thus far, he has been an average mid-to-late sixth round pick, which is kind of high for someone who will likely give you barely half a season of production.
How to Draft Rondo: If he’s there in the sixth or seventh round, it would be hard to pass him up, more so if you used an early pick on a top-flight PG. A healthy Rondo — combined with, say, the Timberwolves’ Ricky Rubio — would be a heck of a guard pairing come Fantasy playoff time. In roto leagues, Rondo makes for a great stash and save, as he would give your rebounding, steals and (definitely) assist totals an immediate jolt.
Andrew Bynum, C, Cavaliers
Expectations: Whenever the words “nowhere near ready” are involved in asking when a player is going to return, either head for the hills or downgrade the hell out of said player. That would be you, Mr. Bynum, as a source told Fox Sports Ohio that while he has started basketball activities, don’t count on him being available during the early portion of the season. Somehow, that news didn’t reach a host of early drafts I either participated in or observed, as Bynum has gone as early as the fifth round en route to settling into a late seventh round selection overall.
How to Draft Bynum: Well, he did say he was “definitely” going to play at some point this season. Encouraging, I know. The center position is surprisingly deep, which means reaching for Bynum would be foolish. Instead of wasting a fifth rounder on him, one can wait another round or two and take a flier on the Nuggets’ Javale McGee, Marcin Gortat of the Suns or even Omar Asik of the Rockets, who should still put up respectable Fantasy numbers, even with the presence of Dwight Howard. A healthy Bynum won’t give you much scoring in Cleveland, but his dunk or be damned style of shooting makes him a valuable chip in FG percentage, while his rebounds and blocked shots will amplify numbers once he returns.
Danilo Gallinari, F, Nuggets
Diagnosis: Torn ACL
Expectations: Both Gallinari and new coach Brian Shaw have hinted at a late November return for the long-range threat. His absence all but sealed the Nuggets’ first round fate at the hands of the Warriors, as Denver sorely missed his shooting and his ability to spark plays off transition. Gallinari averaged 16.2 points last season, and while he’ll help your numbers in FT percentage (.822), he only provides minimal help on the glass (5.2 rpg) and doesn’t give much in steals and blocked shots. If he was healthy, Gallinari might have been a solid 7th-8th round pick, but his injury and underwhelming defensive numbers push him more toward the 9th and 10th rounds, where he becomes a nice flier upon his return.
How to Draft Gallinari: Simple. You don’t. If he’s there and you’re interested in stashing off instant offense, then he’s worth a look. On the other hand, there are a host of players (Jeff Green of the Celtics or Tyreke Evans of the Pelicans, for example) that will give just as much offensive production while also delivering slightly better numbers defensively.
The RotoExperts on SiriusXM won the Fantasy Sports Writers Association Award for Radio Show of the Year. Read more about the honor here.