Can LeBron James and company complete the trifecta? Can the New Orleans Pelicans play tougher than their name suggests? All intriguing storylines heading into the 2013 NBA season, but none come close to what fantasy owners (and real life fans) are talking about most.
Last season, we saw a handful of superstar players suffer significant injuries, plummeting their draft stock in the process. However, they will be back at some point this year, some sooner than others. Make sure you don’t pay too much for them on draft day, and make sure you know what they’re dealing with.
Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls: Finally, The Rose has come back… home. Okay, all kidding aside, Rose is clearly the most talked about player in the NBA this season. After suffering a torn ACL all the way back in April of 2012, basketball fans have anxiously awaited his return. He went under the knife a month later, and spent all of last season rehabbing, getting back to 100 percent. It’s been a while, to say the least. Heck, if Brett Favre did come back and sign with the Rams, even he would have returned before Rose. Still, if the preseason is any indication, Rose will surely be in the MVP discussion at season’s end. In seven games this preseason, Rose 40 of 84 field goals (47.6%), has 35 assists, nine steals and 23 rebounds. He’s also shooting 44.4% from beyond the arc. He’s been stellar, and if he falls past the second round of your fantasy draft, it’s stealing. Rose does play very aggressive when on the court, so hopefully he doesn’t aggravate any of his previous injuries.
Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers: He tried to fight through it. He tried to stay in the game. But at the end of the day, a torn Achilles was eventually too much for even the likes of The Black Mamba. Kobe suffered the injury last April, and it was difficult to see him forced to walk off the floor like that, especially after the collapse the Lakers went through last season. It’s very difficult to put a timetable on Bryant’s return, and as a result, no one has. Not only does he need to get to the level of being able to participate in basketball activities, but he has to get into playing shape for regular season games. Licensed physical therapist for ESPN, Stephania Bell states that a typical recovery time after surgery in this situation is around six months, but another four to six weeks to return to 100 percent status. Not many would be wise to count Kobe out, and when he comes back (yes, I said when), he’ll still be one of the better fantasy shooting guards out there. A guy who can score at will, Kobe could average close to 30 points per game when he returns to action. Not many guys in the league today can do that.
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder: An untimely knee injury ended Westbrook playoff run last season with the Thunder, and has fantasy owners unsure of where to draft him this fall. In April, Westbrook tore his right meniscus, and is expected to miss the first first four-to-six weeks of the season. However, luckily for the Thunder and fantasy owners, his progression has been impressive, as Westbrook has been participating in limited practice this week. A guy who had previously failed to miss a single game during the first five years of his career, Westbrook is now slated to be sidelined for upwards to 20 in 2013, but he’s still a wise investment at the right price. Here’s a guy who finished seventh on ESPN’s Player Rater last season, averaging 23.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.2 three-pointers. Barring a regular season setback, he’ll be one of the more versatile fantasy point guards you can find, and will continue to be a stud playing alongside arguably the top fantasy player in Kevin Durant.
Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics: On January 25th, Rondo tore his ACL, crushing the hearts of Celtics fans everywhere. Rondo stated that he will return to action this year, but fantasy owners should be a bit wary. This is the same injury Rose suffered, the same injury that kept him out of action for over a year. However, everyone’s body and recovery period is different, and all signs are pointing towards a return around December. Rondo recently said that he is at about 87 percent right now, an interesting, precise number. He also said when he does return, he does not want to be eased back into the rotation. When speaking to the media, Rondo addressed how he feels. “I’m feeling great,” he said. “I’m able to do more as far as compound workouts versus me just doing one workout a day. The Celtics roster has imploded, and my main concern is that if Boston is out of the playoff hunt early this season, what is the point to hurry Rondo back into the lineup? Perhaps they just play it safe with the future of their franchise. He is still draftable, but proceed with caution this year.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.