Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Chin Up.

As we pointed out last week, we are getting into injury season in the NBA. Everyone’s got players hurt on their roster, and as Maryland head coach Gary Williams says, "I'm not going to get cards from other coaches in the league saying I hope your players [get better]." So what’s an owner to do? Injuries can be VERY tricky, and playing them right or wrong can be the key to your season. So today, we’re going to go over some of the best strategies for handling an injury-riddled team.

1. Temporarily Picking Up the Benefactor.
Most of the time, when a fantasy-quality player goes down, someone else on his team has to step up and becomes a quality player. As we like to preach here as much as possible, it all comes down to minutes in fantasy basketball. A great example right now is going on in Atlanta, where Al Harrington landed on the IL, and suddenly Josh Childress got a career-high 41 minutes in a game. Of course, one Harrington comes back, Childress should return to his 25 mpg and be useless again.

In order to use this strategy effectively, you’ve got to have some strong roster management. Often with a temporary pickup, the injured player isn’t banged up enough to be sent to the IL, meaning you’ve got to have an extra spot on your roster in order to pick up the backup. This can often be enough of a hindrance that playing the ‘temporary pickup’ card just isn’t feasible.

2. Permanently Picking Up the Benefactor.
There are some guys that you just know are going to get hurt. I like to call it the "Marshall Faulk Strategy." For the last few years, whenever you took Marshall Faulk in a fantasy football draft, you HAD to take his backup – Trung Canidate, Lamar Gordon, Stephen Jackson, whoever – because you knew Marshall would miss some games during the year. The perfect example in fantasy basketball recently has been Baron Davis. After only 50 games in 2003, and 67 last year, he’s on pace for maybe 30 or 40 games this year. Maybe. And whenever he isn’t playing, his backup – at one point Darrell Armstrong, now Dan Dickau – has been pretty serviceable. Again, though, the ability to have an extra man on your roster at all times could become a problem.

3. The Rainy Day Fund Strategy
This strategy can work pretty well at this point in the season. Basically, you’ve got a guy who’s been stuck on the IL. Say, a guy like Harrington. He’s probably not going to miss more than 5 games. Your first instinct is to stick him on your injured list, pick up someone marginal at best (Sprewell? Nailon?) and just pray they don’t screw up too badly – which they will. But why stick yourself with such a bad player for 5 games? Just because you’ve got 5 games to make up by the end of the year doesn’t mean you have to make them up right now.

Instead, just leave your starting lineup open, and wait until you find a player on waivers who can really help your team. This strategy is particularly effective if you can make the opening in your starting lineup be in your utility spot. That way, you can even tailor your pickup based on what you need help in – blocks, steals, whatever – regardless of position.

4. The Sell-Fake-Low Strategy
We talked yesterday about the buy-fake-high strategy, a favorite of ours here at fantasy basketblog. Well it works the other way, too. A good example of this would be Emeka Okafor. While it sounds like his ankle shouldn’t bother him much upon his return, you’ve got to remember just how much basketball he’s played over the past year. After going all the way through the end of the Final Four in March/April last year, he then went and took part in the Olympics. Then, he came back to play 36 mpg in the middle for a struggling expansion team, with defenses keying on him whenever he’s on the court. Also, he’s got a bad back.

All I’m saying is, his odds for being injured a little more – especially with the Bobcats fighting for draft position – are pretty good. So it might be time to sell on Okafor, and while it seems like you’re selling low, really, you can expect him to struggle over the course of the season. This is a nice way to turn a negative into a positive for your team.

5. The Cut Bait Strategy
There are some guys – Tim Thomas, or Kwame Brown for example – that just aren’t worth your time or your roster spot. Even when healthy, they’re pretty marginal fantasy players and you can find a replacement for them pretty easily on the waiver wires. The more you keep them on your roster, the more they’ll just make you angry – there’s no sense in holding on to them.

6. The Pre-Emptive Strike Strategy
Chris Webber. Shaq. Baron Davis. Allen Iverson. None of them are expected to play more than 75 games in a year, and most of them won’t make it past 65. It’s around this time of year – after you’ve played a few months, but before the run for the playoffs – that you can expect them all to miss some time. If you get rid of them before the "big" injury hits, you did well for yourself.

So there it is. Obviously with injuries, your roster can really only handle so many at a time. But keep in mind that every team is going to deal with them. An injury is not the end of the world, and if you play your cards right, it could do pretty minimal damage to your team.


Blogger Biggs said...

Nice article. And all very true. I'm also a big fan of the buy-fake-high strategy, which seems to work surpringly well.

10:34 PM  

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