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When do you cut an injured player loose?

I am the commissioner of a league in which I allow owners to substitute players from the bench if they have a starter that misses at least half of their games in a given week. This week I got bombarded with sub requests, with most of the teams in the league asking me to do an injury substitution. Getting all of those requests really brought home something that I knew but hadn't really paid attention to: there are a lot of big names missing time these days. Some of them are huge, long-term injuries (i.e. Elton Brand, Gilbert Arenas, Mike Bibby) while some are/have-been more of a day-to-day/week-to-week thing (i.e. LeBron James, Tim Duncan). But either way, having an impact player out hurt (obviously) puts a big damper on fantasy teams. And it's worse now than it was a few years ago, since the NBA got rid of the injured list and now most fantasy owners can't even pick up an injury replacement without dropping their injured star.

That raises a question: when should you drop a player? For instance, I am not in any league where Elton Brand, Mike Bibby, or Gilbert Arenas are available despite the fact that they are expected to be out until at least February (and could potentially miss the season). On the other hand, I picked up Randy Foye (out at least another month, knee) from the free agent wire in a league today and myself dropped Antonio Daniels (out 2 – 4 weeks, knee) in a different league despite the fact that they in theory should be back sooner. So who should get dropped, and why?

For me, it all comes down to risk/reward and whether your team can afford to let them sit on the bench. Daniels was an adequate starter as an injury replacement, but even when healthy he isn't going to win many leagues for you. And that particular team of mine is struggling, so I couldn't afford to wait. That is why I let him go, despite the fact that he could be back in just a couple weeks. Foye, on the other hand, is more of an unknown, and I believe he's more worth taking a chance on as his upside is to be an impact player. Makes the risk worthwhile.

If you've got one of the big boys like Brand or Arenas you likely can't cut them. Let me rephrase, because I've actually seen it done…you probably SHOULDN'T cut them. They are just too good, and if/when they come back they most certainly can win a league for you. Of course, if your team is struggling and you just need some production…still don't cut them. Instead, find someone in your league to trade you 75 cents on the dollar for them. 75% of Gilbert Arenas is still likely better than anyone that you can get on the FA wire, and the person that you're dealing with could be getting a first-round pick in just a couple of months in exchange for someone they may- or may-not have been starting.

In closing: injuries can really put a hurt on a team. But the difference between a good playoff fantasy team and a lottery one is an owner that can roll with the punches, do the most that they can with their bad luck and still come out on their feet. And honestly…overcoming these stumbling blocks is what makes the game fun!