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Hoops Lab: Tearing the Band-Aid Off

Andre' Snellings

Andre' Snellings is a Neural Engineer by day, and RotoWire's senior basketball columnist by night. He's a two-time winner of the Fantasy Basketball Writer of the Year award from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

Broken Dreams are Better than Lingering Agony

As I was browsing the free agents in one of my leagues, the top name on the list came up … it was Derrick Rose. Even though I obviously knew why he was there, it was jarring to see a superstar on the wire. Just like Julio Jones and Arian Foster in fantasy football, Rose will be there as the top free agent for the rest of the season now that his year is over. For the second year in a row, a catastrophic knee injury is robbing the former MVP of the chance to help his team (and yours).

For fantasy owners, this year's Rose injury is both more and less painful than last year's was. It's more painful because last year everyone knew coming in that Rose was hurt, so he went later in drafts, while this year, Rose was a consensus first round pick with an ADP of 10.1 in Yahoo! leagues. To put that in perspective, Rose was taken three picks before current roto master Anthony Davis on average . So, his injury doesn't just hurt, it ACHES.

But with that said, Rose's injury is less painful to fantasy owners in a lot of ways because ... it's over. The band aid has been ripped off. Last year, Rose's owners had to hold onto him all season long, which wasted a roster spot, time and hopes on a player that never contributed to their team. And while losing your first-round pick burns, I'd argue that it's not as bad as having the waste of space that lingered last season.

For example, going back to that football analogy, would you rather have had Doug Martin or Trent Richardson this year? Sure Martin's injury sucked, but once he was on injured reserve you could drop him and pick up one of the hot free agent backs this year, which ranged from Knowshon Moreno to Zac Stacy to Bobby Rainey. With Richardson, on the other hand, you're stuck with a terrible back that you spent a high pick on and don't want to cut outright, but who's doing absolutely NOTHING for your squad.

Bringing it back to basketball, I think that Rose's owners may be in a better spot than those owners who picked Larry Sanders (ADP 28). Sanders was playing awful to start the season, then once he got hurt and was expected to be out until 2014 many asked whether Sanders was worth holding on to.

Some have advocated cutting bait, but I personally would have trouble dropping my 2nd or 3rd round draft pick this early, which leaves Sanders owners in fantasy purgatory.

Even players like Al Jefferson (average draft position 15), Deron Williams (ADP 15.2) and Kobe Bryant (ADP 36.9) are in my crosshairs right now. Jefferson and Williams have been battling repetitive ankle issues that could be chronic. Jefferson has been better of late, while Williams has been missing time, but it would not surprise me if either of them ended up on the same in-and-out (mostly out) carousel that Stephen Curry dealt with a few years ago. And as for Kobe, no one knows how a mid-30s player with 17 years of wear-and-tear on the odometer will recover from a torn Achilles tendon. Yet, he was drafted (on average) to be the third or fourth best player on roto rosters, which carried lots of risk (more on Kobe below).

The point is, if you're a Rose owner, your season isn't over. It sucks to lose your first-round pick, but at least it happened early enough for you to try another path. And you may still be better off than some of your competitors.

Around the League

Paul's Hamstring strain: Chris Paul is a game-time decision Sunday as he recovers from a hamstring strain that he suffered Wednesday. The injury kept him out of action Friday night, but it doesn't sound serious, and he should be back in the next game or two.

Kobe watch – impending return and new money: Kobe Bryant gets his own space in the Lab for weekly updates, and this week, he's had a lot of those. Previous reports had suggested that Kobe could be back before the end of November, but earlier this week, that estimate was revised when Kobe said that he was “probably weeks" away from making his debut.

This came right after Kobe signed a contract extension that would make him the highest paid player in the NBA over the next two seasons. Depending on how you read the tea leaves, this could possibly be a sign that the Lakers are extremely confident in Kobe's health moving forward and thus this should be great news for those that took a chance on drafting him this season. On the other hand, on a recent radio show that I did for CLNS, my co-hosts (starting at the 40:28 mark) took the more cynical view that the contract extension was a by-product of Kobe's extreme power base at a time when the new Lakers shot-caller Jim Buss was afraid to have another bad public relations storm (after Phil Jackson, the Dwight Howard fiasco, Steve Nash, etc.).

We may get to start evaluating Kobe's health ourselves in less than a week, as in the latest update Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said that Kobe could return to the Lakers as soon as Friday. Stay tuned.

Rockets news: The Rockets had several players in the headlines this week. Starting at the top, James Harden had a foot injury that caused him to miss three games before returning Friday (with a rusty game) and then looking like his normal self on Saturday. His absence coincided with backcourt mate Jeremy Lin spraining his knee, an injury that is expected to keep Lin out of action until at least the middle of December. Their joint absence opened a brief window for Aaron Brooks to experience a short renaissance (averaging 16.0 points, 3.5 treys and 4.3 asts in the four games Harden missed/struggled in), but Harden's return seems to have knocked Brooks back to the end of the bench (three points, zero treys in 16 minutes Saturday). Finally, the forgotten Omer Asik continues to languish on the Rockets bench in a limited role since his trade request a few weeks ago. Kent Berger of CBS said that Asik is likely to continue to linger on the Rockets because, according to one rival general manager, the Rockets' asking price for Asik is “delusional".

Gasol and Randolph injured: Marc Gasol has a sprained MCL that is expected to keep him on crutches for the next 3-4 weeks, but Gasol expects to push the envelope for a speedy recovery. I like his quote, “'I don't care what number they say, I told them as soon as I can put my foot down on the floor and I can walk, I'm going to rush it and speed the process.'' That said, Gasol's owners should be more conservative and expect to be without their giant for the next month, just in case.
Gasol's battery mate Zach Randolph also missed Saturday night's game due to an ingrown toenail, but this is a much more minor injury, so Randolph should be back in the next game or two.

Iguodala's injury: In my Sirius-XM Experts league, my team is shaping up exactly like I expected after the draft…very strong on the perimeter, very weak in the paint. I had the perfect trade set up this week with Matt Deutsch (whose team is the exact opposite of mine): Andre Iguodala for Roy Hibbert. I was excited when I sent the offer, only to get this reply from Matt: “Iguodala injured. Otherwise we'd have a deal." Argh! As always, timing is everything, and for my sake, Iguodala could have timed his hamstring strain a bit better. That said, it doesn't sound like the injury is very serious. Hamstring injuries are always worth watching because they could linger, but for now, it sounds like Iguodala could return as soon as this week or in the immediate aftermath. His return can't come quick enough for me, and hopefully Matt will still interested in dealing by the time he gets back.

Martin the real deal: During my latest interview on the RotoWire Fantasy Sports Today show, host Chris Liss asked me about players that had moved up significantly on my radar since the season began. At one point he prompted me as to whether Kevin Martin was one of the players that had leaped for me, which caused me to promptly throw my friend Kyle Mckeown (who is editing this article and likely cussing me out as he does so) under the bus for toning down my Martin projection this pre-season. [Editor's Note: I believe that I, Kyle, was a believer in Martin as well and that I left the projection very high, but it was my brother Shannon who actually tempered the projections.] I've been very high on Martin's return to Rick Adelman's system, because the last time he played for Adelman in Houston (2010-11) led to one of the best seasons of Martin's career. As such, I don't think Martin's play this year is at all a fluke. He should be a high-scoring, high-volume shooter from deep with great free-throw influence (5.9 FT made/game on 94 percent) for as long as he's healthy this season. (And in the long run, I may owe Kyle [Editor's Note: Shannon] an apology because he actually agreed that Martin would put up big per-game numbers in Minnesota but didn't believe Martin would stay healthy, and the jury is still out on that one.)

Granger sightings: Danny Granger (calf) made some news this week when he traveled with the team on Wednesday for their game in Charlotte. Then, later, he was seen running on the sidelines during practice. But Pacers coach Frank Vogel put the clamps on any thoughts that Granger's return is impending, stating that he's still a “long ways away" from coming back. With the way the Pacers are running through the league right now, there's no impetus to bring Granger back at anything less than full 100 percent health, and even then, Granger's fit and minutes on the currently 15–1 juggernaut is under some doubt.

New Additions

Jordan Crawford (47% owned in Yahoo! leagues): Crawford has stepped in as the starting point guard for the Celtics in Rajon Rondo's absence, taking over the slot several weeks ago from a struggling Avery Bradley. He has responded by averaging 13.6 points, 6.1 assists, 1.4 treys and 0.9 steals over the last two weeks. Crawford has three double-doubles (including one triple-double) this season, and is worth owning in every league for as long as Rondo is out.

Channing Frye (38% owned): Frye has finally settled into the offense after his long absence last season and terrible start this year, averaging 15.3 points with 5.6 rebounds, 2.9 treys, 1.1 blocks and 1.0 steals in almost 30 minutes per game over the last two weeks.

Nate Robinson (23% owned): I've been keeping an eye on Robinson all season, as I thought the Nuggets would need his scoring punch off the bench. He hasn't done much this season, but in the last week, he's averaged 16.0 points and 2.0 treys per game and seems to be more settled into his role in Denver.

Derrick Williams (15% owned): Williams has been a lightening rod player over the last few seasons, as he was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 draft but has been underwhelming during his tenure in Minnesota. He was recently traded to the Kings and may be worth taking a flyer on, as the Kings have a need at the small forward and power forward slots. Williams got the start in his Sacramento debut, scoring 12 points with six boards and four assists in 32 minutes. Of note, though he didn't convert any of his three-point attempts, and if he makes the long-ball a part of his arsenal, that will add to his value.

Jordan Farmar (10% owned) and Wes Johnson (10% owned): If Kobe Bryant really does return this week then consider this note moot, as Bryant likely will send both of them farther down the bench. But in his absence, Farmar and Johnson have both proven themselves to be capable of providing rosterable contributions and could be productive roto role players in the short term.

Keeping up with the Professor
If you're interested in my takes throughout the week, you can follow me on Twitter @ProfessorDrz. Also, don't forget that you can catch me on the radio on RotoWire Fantasy Sports Today with Chris Liss and Jeff Erickson on XM 87, Sirius 210.