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NBA Draft Kit: Offseason Injury Analysis

Jeff Stotts

Jeff Stotts

Jeff Stotts works as a Certified Athletic Trainer (MAT, ATC, PES, CES). He won the 2011 Best Fantasy Football Article in Print from the Fantasy Sports Trade Association.

Injuries happen. It's an inevitable part of sports and playing fantasy hoops. However, by familiarizing yourself with basic terminology and an understanding of how a player spent their offseason, you can avoid players with higher inherent injury risk. You donít want to spend a high draft pick on a guy that will spend more games in a suit than on the court. Hereís a look at how several marquee names are feeling entering training camp.

Kobe Bryant

Bryant underwent one of the most publicized rehabs in recent memory, working his way back from a torn Achilles tendon suffered in the final days of the regular season.

A ruptured Achilles is a devastating injury that can forever alter a player's abilities. Looking at the data from six recent Achilles tears in the NBA, suggests Kobe is facing an uphill battle. The players, including Chauncey Billups, Darrell Arthur and others, averaged over 10 months of required recovery time and missed an average of 71 games.

However, in typical Black Mamba fashion, Bryant has attacked his recovery process, vowing to be ready as soon as possible. Throughout the summer, he supplied his fans with updates using social media to show pictures of his scars and various progressions in what is normally a grueling rehab.

His most recent post to Instagram showed Bryant running on an anti-gravity treadmill (AGTM). The AGTM is specially designed to reduce the amount of body weight put through the lower extremities by utilizing air. The injured athlete is placed into a harness that is attached to a pressure-controlled chamber that lifts the individual. Doing so enables the athlete to run while reducing the amount of ground reaction forces placed on the legs. The athlete can then continue their gradual return to activity and improve conditioning.

Bryant running at any capacity is impressive when you consider he was just 18 weeks removed from surgery at the time of the video. However, it's too early to predict where precisely he stands in his rehab because it was not revealed how much body weight the AGTM is allowing Kobe to put on his legs. If he is running with less than 70 percent body weight then he could potentially be behind schedule. However, if the total is 85 percent or higher, he could begin running on solid ground almost immediately. A recent study suggested 85 percent would be a sufficient benchmark to allow an individual to return to normal running.

Nevertheless, Bryant has not begun jumping or performing basketball-related activity, and his availability for the start of the regular season remains in doubt. Though he has stated he is well ahead of the normal recovery timeline, the former MVP recently admitted he's unsure if he can physically be ready for the team's October 29 season-opening game against the Clippers. An upcoming visit with his medical team should help provide a better insight into when Bryant will be able to return to the court.

While fantasy owners may be able to draft Bryant at a discounted rate, they will do so with the understanding that he could miss time. They will also be gambling that Bryant will be able to return with the explosiveness so many players lose following a surgery of this magnitude. Tread lightly here, and closely monitor Kobe's progress through the remainder of the offseason.

Pau Gasol

Bryant wasn't the only Laker rehabbing this offseason. Gasol underwent a FAST Technique procedure designed to alleviate the lingering pain he has been enduring due to tendinosis.

In the FAST (Fasciotomy and Surgical Tenotomy) procedure, a small surgical tool is inserted directly into scar tissue that has developed in the effected area. The instrument then delivers ultrasonic energy into the area, breaking up and then removing the unhealthy tissue. The procedure is minimally invasive and does not disrupt the surrounding healthy tissue.

The procedure was deemed a success, and Gasol has begun non-basketball activities and is preparing to be ready for training camp. He might be asked to carry the offense in the early stages of the season as Bryant works his way back. The departure of Dwight Howard should also lend itself to an increase in productivity, and Gasol could be in line for a bounce back season.

Derrick Rose

Rose is poised to make his return after sitting out the entire season recovering from surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee. While players have returned from this surgery in quicker fashion, Rose was wise to return when he was ready. Even when medically cleared, an injured athlete has one final hurdle to clear: the mental one. Playing scared or hesitant can open the individual to other injuries, especially if the recovering athlete alters their normal approach to the game. Allowing Rose to return on his terms improves the odds that we will see the same confident player that became the league's youngest MVP.

Another reason that waiting was in Rose's best interest is a phenomenon known as ligamentization. Reconstructed ligaments undergo the process as the surgical graft becomes incorporated into the knee. When ligamentization is complete, the graft will display the same biomechanical properties of the athlete's original ligament. The process is believed to occur approximately one year following surgery, suggesting that when Rose returns his "bad" knee will be just as strong as his good one. Additional focus on the musculature of the leg can fortify the area and reduce the chances of another significant knee sprain.

Rose is expected to play meaningful minutes in the preseason and will provide fantasy owners a chance to see him on the floor before they invest an early-round pick on him. Look for Rose to return to a high level of play and put his lost season behind him.

Rajon Rondo

Another All-Star point guard is looking to return from ACL surgery but in an accelerated manner. Rondo underwent surgery to repair his injured knee in early February and may be better served following the template created by Minnesota's Ricky Rubio. In March of 2012 Rubio underwent surgery to fix a torn ACL and lateral collateral ligament (LCL). The Spaniard returned to action nine months later, suiting up in mid-December. If Rondo follows a similar path, the Celtics can anticipate a November return for their young star. However, it's important to remember Rubio needed several months before he was back performing at a high level, and it would be smart to anticipate a similar adjustment period for Rondo. All bets are off if the Celtics elect to treat Rondo conservatively, but by all indications, they want him back when he is physically cleared.

Dwyane Wade

The Heat will look to defend their title, but their success could rest entirely on the health of Wade. For a second straight year, Wade has spent the offseason rehabbing his troublesome knees. After Miami's title run in 2012, Wade underwent a debridement on his left knee. Following this year's championship, the All-Star guard elected to undergo OssaTron shockwave treatment on both of his ailing knees. In the procedure, sound waves are sent into the injured area with the intent of increasing blood flow to the area, thus creating a more suitable environment for healing. The success rate for the surgery is reportedly high, and one Wade is familiar with having undergone the same technique in 2008 on his left knee. The recovery timeframe is usually four weeks, allowing Wade plenty of time to prepare for the upcoming season. Additionally, the Heat guard enlisted the help of renowned trainer Tim Grover to help improve his conditioning. Fantasy owners should feel comfortable drafting Wade somewhere in the second or third rounds.

Carmelo Anthony

While the majority of his peers spent the summer recovering from various surgeries, Anthony did everything he could to avoid going under the knife. After suffering a torn labrum early in New York's postseason run, Melo opted not to surgically repair the area and instead let it heal with rest and rehab.

Shoulders consist of multiple joints and articulations; however, the joint normally associated with the shoulder is the glenohumeral joint. It is classified as a ball-and-socket joint and is fortified by the labrum, a ring of cartilage that deepens the cavity of the shoulder. Tears can develop in the rim following a collision or excessive, repetitive motion. Surgery is often an option, but if the tear is small and the instability is minimal, rehab can improve the area. Anthony likely focused on improving the musculature surrounding the joint and should be fine entering the year. However, Anthony could also be at risk for re-injury, and if the shoulder is once again violently jarred, the tear could expand and put surgery back on the table.

Rudy Gay

Gay's potential has always been limited by his often-erratic shooting percentage. However, there appears to have been a plausible reason for his shooting woes: poor eyesight. Gay's vision in his left eye was reportedly so poor that he struggled to pass an eye exam at the DMV. However, the Toronto forward underwent extensive eye surgery to improve his poor eyesight and spent the offseason working to improve his outside shooting. The procedure was more demanding than the normal LASIK technique but has been deemed a success. If the improved vision can increase Gay's percentages, he could be worth a top-25 fantasy selection.

FAST BREAKS

Andrew Bynum: Bynum never suited up for Philadelphia last season but managed to secure a multi-year deal with the Cavaliers in the offseason. While he has vowed to return to his pre-injury levels, skepticism should remain. Bynum's knee issues are with the cartilage, a substance that doesn't heal well - if at all - on its own. Even if he does return at the start of the season, he'll likely be placed on a minutes restriction. Sadly, it appears to be a case where the reward is unlikely to justify the risk.

Dwight Howard: Howard spent his offseason packing his things for Houston and rehabbing his back and shoulder. He's reportedly healthy and was seen working with legend Hakeem Olajuwon. Despite the clean bill of health, Howard's abysmal free-throw percentage limits his fantasy impact.

Kevin Love: Love is looking to make up for a lost season after he missed time with hand and knee injuries. The power forward has shed weight and will enter the season poised to bounce back. The hand fractures he suffered were unlucky, and the loss of weight should help with his knee issues. Don't sleep on Love on draft day.

Russell Westbrook: A postseason injury prematurely ended Westbrook's 2013 campaign. The three-time All-Star suffered a meniscus tear in his right knee, and the Thunder medical staff wisely shut the explosive guard down for the remainder of the season. The knee should not be an issue entering training camp though it seems likely that OKC will limit his minutes throughout the preseason.