At this point, it’s best to read official injury reports with the same skepticism you’d reserve for a story in The National Enquirer.
Or the New York Post.
I submit as Exhibit A the headlines out of Salt Lake concerning Mo Williams’ thumb injury. Initial reports listed Williams as "day to day," which quickly turned into "out indefinitely." Then came the dreaded "seeking a second opinion," finally leading to "surgery needed, out 6-8 weeks."
That progression is eerily similar to what we got from the Knicks after Raymond Felton hurt his hand.
New York was similarly vague when discussing Amar’e Stoudemire’s season debut. The rumor mill was abuzz that STAT would rejoin the team at the Staples Center on Christmas Day … before Stoudemire himself stepped up to say that wasn’t happening. He finally did return a week later, but he has said that he’s only about 80 percent healthy. Stoudemire may have pushed for an early return to help compensate for the losses of Felton and Rasheed Wallace (foot).
What’s a fantasy owner to do?
Getting an understanding of common basketball injuries and the associated recovery times is a great first step – Jeff Stotts’ weekly column here at RotoWire is required reading. Jeff’s explanations will enable you to look at some of the press releases with a more critical eye. Of course, that assumes that the information in said press release has some basis in reality, and that isn’t always the case.
You’ll also want to keep an eye on the waiver wire – just to see what sort of players might be available should the need arise. That will be a big factor when dealing with injuries; in a shallow league, it makes little sense to hang on to a Williams or Felton through a two-month absence when a Jamaal Tinsley or Jason Kidd is there for the taking. In a deeper league, it might make more sense to try and get by with your bench until those starters are available again.
The Knicks have scheduled a workout with Jimmer Fredette. But do they have a realistic shot of drafting the BYU guard?
Fredette’s credentials as a scorer are unquestioned. As a senior at BYU, he averaged a staggering 28.9 points per game, while shooting .452 from the floor and .396 from three. And he managed to do so despite the fact that he was the Cougars’ primary ball-handler most of the time and, more importantly, everyone knew he was their first option (and possibly second and third) option on offense. But NBA teams are a lot less confident about his ability to run the point at the NBA level. Some seem to think he’s a classic ‘tweener – a shooting guard in a point guard’s body that’s too slow to defend the one and to small to defend the two.
And that perception may play into the Knicks’ hands; Fredette doesn’t seem to be a great pick for most of the teams with picks in the top half of the first round.
Besides New York, the teams that most experts see as Fredette’s suitors are Utah and Phoenix. For the Jazz, drafting Fredette might be a very savvy business decision. “The Jimmer” was such a big star at BYU, the university actually asked him to finish his degree online; he’d become too much of a distraction on the campus. Throw in his membership in the Church of Latter-Day Saints, and The Jimmer is a natural for Salt Lake City.
Utah has two first-round picks: the third overall, acquired from New Jersey in the Deron Williams trade, and their own #12 pick. The general consensus at this point has them taking a point guard – possibly Kentucky’s Brandon Knight – at three. If they add a guard with their first pick, a forward might make a lot more sense with their second, especially with Andrei Kirilenko set to hit free agency this summer.
In my full mock draft on About.com, I have Utah passing up Fredette in favor of Tennessee forward Tobias Harris.
Odds Utah selects Fredette: I’ll say 25%. It might not make basketball sense… but a boost in fan interest might be too much to pass up for a team looking to rebuild for the first time in a generation.
Phoenix goes on the clock after Utah, and Fredette would make a lot of sense for the Suns as well. Fredette’s defensive deficiency probably wouldn’t be an issue for the Suns – they are, after all, built around Steve Nash.
Does Fredette fit on the Suns’ roster? Very hard to say – right now they’ve got Nash, Josh Childress, Marcin Gortat, Channing Frye, Hakim Warrick, Jared Dudley, Robin Lopez, Gani Lawal and Garret Siler on the books for next season. Mickael Pietrus has a player option he seems likely to exercise, and Aaron Brooks will likely be a restricted free agent.
Fredette would also make a lot of sense as a player they could potentially groom to take over for Nash some day. But that would mean they believe The Jimmer can run the point at the next level, and opinions on that vary wildly, and they could be planning for Brooks – last year’s most improved player – to be that guy. In my About.com mock draft, I have the Suns selecting Kansas forward/center Marcus Morris, who projects as the sort of outside-shooting big man that thrives in their system. (Think Channing Frye.)
The Suns could also make a trade that would change their needs significantly. (One scenario that makes a fair amount of sense: dealing Robin Lopez to the Knicks.)
Odds Phoenix selects Fredette: 35%. Phoenix has so many needs, their best option is almost certainly “best talent available”. I don’t see Fredette being the top player on the board at 13.
And no, smart-ass, that’s not a racially-charged observation.
Bird and the Pacers have an organizational philosophy that favors players who have played well for big-time Division I programs – performance over “potential.” That sort of thinking led them to draft Tyler Hansbrough (North Carolina), and make draft-day trades to acquire Brandon Rush (Kansas) and Roy Hibbert (Georgetown).
With Mike Dunleavy Jr. about to hit free agency, a backcourt shooter like Fredette could make a lot of sense for Indiana.
A couple of problems with this scenario: Bird made a pretty major departure from his “draft established players from big-time schools” when he selected Paul George out of Fresno State last year. Don’t know if that means he’s re-thinking that strategy, or if George was simply an exception to it. Also – we don’t know who will be coaching the Pacers next season. Frank Vogel might like to have Fredette in his backcourt, but Mike Brown might want a stronger defender at the two.
Odds Indiana selects Fredette: 60%. I have the Pacers drafting Fredette in my mock on About.com – but I’m not 100% sold. And like the Suns, the Pacers could be considering trades that would shake up their roster in a big way.
If Jimmer gets past the Jazz, Suns and Pacers, he’ll be a Knick.
The latest version of my About.com mock draft – updated to reflect the results of the NBA Draft Lottery. This is my first attempt to match players to teams and their needs, styles and draft philosophies.
Cleveland (from LA Clippers): Kyrie Irving
PG – Duke Fr.
Huge break for the Cavs, who move up to the top spot with the pick the acquired from the Clippers. They’re a near-lock to take Irving here, and rightfully so; he’s the consensus top talent in this draft.
Minnesota: Derrick Williams
PF – Arizona So.
Tough break for Minnesota. The obvious pick here is Williams, but the T-Wolves are already three-deep at forward Kevin Love, Michael Beasley, Anthony Randolph. David Kahn is reportedly courting trade offers.
Utah (from New Jersey): Brandon Knight
PG – Kentucky Fr.
Utah reportedly loves Jan Vesely, but this is too soon. Rumor is they prefer Knight to Kemba Walker.
Cleveland: Bismack Biyombo
C – Congo Intl.
A reach? Perhaps. But teams love the raw-but-athletic center prospect, and the Cavs – with low expectations – could bring him along slowly.
Toronto: Kemba Walker
PG – Connecticut Jr.
NCAA champion floor-general would be a nice fit, and allow Raptors to move Jose Calderon. Anyone else flashing back to Damon Stoudemire? Or am I just old?