If you are still alive in the fantasy basketball playoffs then the following week may be maddening. Players that are perfectly healthy will occasionally get scratched to insure their health heading into the playoffs while teams no longer in contention will begin resting or shutting down players and begin focusing on next season.
Teams with title aspirations should take the next week to pay close attention to the inactive list and not hesitate to drop a marquee name if they are slated to be shut down or rested. An inactive individual doesn't garner statistics and could derail your shot a title. Be opportunistic with the waiver wire and put yourself in a position to go out on top.
Teams locked into the playoff position and likely to rest players down the stretch include San Antonio, Boston, Dallas, Atlanta, and the LA Lakers.
For teams not in the playoff hunt but participating in a keeper league now is the time to target guys for next year. Several big names saw their seasons end prematurely due to injury and could see a carryover effect into next season.
Memphis' Rudy Gay entered the upper echelon of fantasy contributors this season but underwent season-ending shoulder surgery on March 25. Gay suffered a partial dislocation of his left shoulder and underwent the surgery to repair a torn portion of the shoulder capsule. Famed orthopedic Dr. James Andrews performed the procedure, in which sutures are utilized to repair the tear and anchor the damaged tissue back in place. Gay will be immobilized up to two months before beginning rehabilitation and extended treatment. The rehab will first focus on range of motion before shifting to strength and concluding with basketball-specific functional exercises. Gay will likely need between four and six months to completely recover but the surgery should minimize the likelihood of a subsequent dislocation. His estimated timeline should allow him to be ready for the start of the 2011-2012 season. He is worth keeping on your roster in keeper leagues and should be a valuable commodity next year.
The Nets announced early Friday morning that recently acquired point guard Deron Williams will undergo surgery on his injured right wrist and miss the remainder of the season. Williams has been plagued by wrist problems since late January while still a member of the Jazz. He then aggravated the injury in March and has been in-and-out of the lineup ever since. A recent MRI revealed on the All-Star's wrist revealed several bony loose bodies and a buildup of scar tissue that will be excised in an arthroscopic surgery. Williams' first complete season in New Jersey should not be in jeopardy unless the surgeon discovers any serious ligament damage. That doesn't seem to be the case and Williams should be the one of the first point guards off the board in next year's drafts.
While Williams and Gay are expected to be ready for the start of the season, the same cannot be said for New Orleans power forward David West. West suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee and is slated to undergo reconstructive surgery in the near future. A repaired ACL generally requires six to eight months making West's future extremely uncertain. West has a player option for the final year of his contract but may have to reconsider opting out with an injury of this magnitude. His fantasy value takes a significant hit as well. He will be limited at the start the year and has an increased risk of chronic knee problems like tendinitis. Oklahoma City center Kendrick Perkins underwent a similar procedure last July and returned to the court six months later. West has been an underrated fantasy weapon the past few seasons but this injury is poised to knock him from the top 50 for next year.
Another big man with a cloudy future is Houston's Yao Ming. Ming will be a free agent this offseason but is optimistic about returning to the team that drafted him. However it will be interesting to see if the Rockets are willing to take a gamble on the oft-injured center, especially after adding Hasheem Thabeet at the year's trade deadline. Ming underwent surgery in January to repair a stress fracture in his problematic left ankle. His latest fracture occurred in the tibia at the medial malleolus and is expected to sideline him between seven and 10 months. A fractured navicular bone in the same foot cost Ming all of the 2009-2010 season. With multiple injuries to his lower extremities Ming has become a risky option for NBA teams and fantasy owners would be wise to cut him go and save the roster spot. The same approach should be taken for owners considering keeping Portland center Greg Oden.
Dallas' Caron Butler is another free agent-to-be attempting to come back from a major injury. Butler was playing his basketball since joining the Mavericks before suffering a ruptured patellar tendon in his right knee against Milwaukee on New Year's Day. Butler underwent surgery several days later and has aggressively rehabbed in hopes of making a return at some point in the postseason. However coach Rick Carlisle recently revealed the chances of Butler playing in the first round are slim as the swingman has yet to be cleared for running and jumping. Butler's injury is particularly troublesome for basketball players to overcome. Former Knicks guard Kelenna Azubuike has played in just nine games since rupturing the same tendon in 2009 and needed a second surgery following his release from New York. Butler's value for next year is dependent on his ability to recover and what uniform he wears. Tuff Juice could return to Dallas next season but should receive attention from a contender looking to bolster their bench. If he ends up with a team willing to give him an expanded role, his well-rounded style of play could make him a solid late round addition in fantasy circles.
Jeff Stotts is a Certified Athletic Trainer, MAT, PES and the Injury Analyst for Rotowire.com. You can follow him on twitter @RotoWireATC.