Adam Levitan

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Significant Damage

Friday, May 11, 2012

Injuries were a difference-making, ravaging, powerful factor in 2011-12 fantasy leagues. They’re going to impact the 2012-13 season as well.

Forget about the hundreds of mild sprains, tweaks and rest days that we tracked for five straight months. When we’re talking about major surgeries involving some of the body’s most important joints, we have to think about long-term expectation. What is the recovery timetable? Will this player ever get back to 100 percent? If so, when? What are the chances of re-injury?

Here are 13 major names that will have some kind of injury flag when we sit down to draft in October. The 2012-13 season will start on October 30.

1. Derrick Rose, PG, Bulls
Injury: Torn ACL on April 28
Outlook: So far, there have been no reports of damage to any other ligament besides the ACL in Rose‘s left knee. That said, the reigning MVP still hasn’t gone under the knife. The Bulls have set a loose timetable of 6-9 months, a clock that will start ticking following surgery.

Let’s conservatively say Rose has his surgery on May 30. That means he’ll be just five months removed from the procedure on opening night. The Bulls figure to play it safe with their franchise player, meaning Rose could conceivably miss the first four months of the season completely.

Additionally, players often report that it takes a full year to really get back to 100 percent after an ACL tear. And some players never even regain their full athleticism, explosion and leaping ability. Rose isn’t a great shooter, so his freakish athletic abilities are a must. I can safely say now that Rose will be on none of my teams next season.

UPDATE: Rose had his surgery on May 12. His recovery timetable has been set at 8-12 months, meaning the earliest he'll be back is around the All-Star break of next season.

2. Dwight Howard, C, Magic
Injury: Back surgery to repair a herniated disc in mid-April
Outlook: We don’t know where Howard will be playing on October 30, but we do know that he’s tentatively expected to be active. The Magic and Howard’s doctors are saying that he’ll need 3-4 months off before he can resume basketball activities. That puts him on a reasonable timeline to be active in training camp and ramp up his preparation to peak on Opening Night.

The bigger concern here is the lingering effects of back injuries. Guys such as Larry Bird, Amare Stoudemire and Baron Davis have had their effectiveness sapped by back issues. Howard is a once-in-a-generation athlete, but the back is much trickier than a broken bone and sometimes even severed ligaments. Considering Howard’s fantasy-crushing free-throw woes, there will likely be too much risk here for me.

3. Stephen Curry, PG, Warriors
Injury: Ankle surgery on April 25
Outlook: At this point, everyone is well aware of Curry’s mind-boggling aggravations. He’s had two surgeries on his right ankle in less than a year, and dozens of sprains/tweaks in between there.

On April 25, doctors went into Curry’s ankle knowing that it might need to be reconstructed. But once inside, they found that only an arthroscopic “cleanout” to remove loose debris and scar tissue was needed. Curry is hoping to practice with the Warriors’ Summer League team in July, meaning he fully expects to be ready for camp.

But can owners really trust Curry? No. And that’s going to set up a plummeting average draft position next year for those of us that like to gamble on high-risk, high-rewards. Since I believe Curry has the third-most fantasy friendly game in the league (behind only Kevin Durant and LeBron James), I may be inclined to roll the dice here depending on how the preseason goes.

4. LaMarcus Aldridge, PF, Blazers
Injury: Hip surgery on May 10
Outlook: When it comes to the Blazers and injuries, we have to be skeptical. Maybe it’s just bad luck, but they could be accused of bungling injuries to stars Brandon Roy and Greg Oden. So when Aldridge had to seek out an outside opinion before his slight labral tear was found, eyebrows had to be raised.

Aldridge’s recovery timetable has been set at 2-4 months and it sounds like he’s going to skip the Olympics. There’s a yellow flag here thanks to the Blazers’ history, but labral tears are unlikely to limit effectiveness once they are repaired. With a solid preseason, Aldridge projects as a relatively safe play.

5. Kyle Lowry, PG, Rockets
Injury: Sports hernia surgery on May 1
Outlook: Early word from the Rockets is that Lowry will be able to resume offseason workouts in 6-8 weeks. That makes it sound like a relatively minor procedure.

The real test will come in July, when Goran Dragic becomes an unrestricted free agent. If the Rockets just let him walk without a fight, we’ll know they’re confident in Lowry’s health. Remember that Lowry was one of fantasy’s best players before the All-Star break, averaging 15.6 points, 7.6 assists, 5.3 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 1.8 3-pointers.

6. Ricky Rubio, PG, Timberwolves
Injury: Torn ACL on March 10
Outlook: Rubio had his ACL repaired on March 21, giving him a little more than seven months before the start of the season. He’s already admitted that he might not be ready for training camp. “I want to make sure I’m 100 percent,” Rubio said.

Still, Rubio’s overall outlook is more positive than Derrick Rose’s. Rubio’s injury occurred seven weeks earlier and the Spaniard never relied on his athletic/leaping ability. Rubio’s 2.4 steals and 8.3 assists per game as a starter last season were a result of his impressive length/vision. Point guards also thrive in Rick Adelman’s system, as we saw with J.J. Barea down the stretch. All hope is not lost for Rubio next season.

7. Iman Shumpert, torn ACL on April 28: Shumpert’s calling card was that he was the best athlete in the 2011 draft and that quickly translated onto the court. This injury threatens to sap that.

8. Andrew Bogut, ankle surgery on April 27: Similar to Stephen Curry’s procedure, Bogut needed some loose bodies cleaned out. Anyone investing needs to realize he’s missed an average of 25.0 games per year over the last six seasons.

9. Brook Lopez, ankle/foot: Lopez didn’t miss a game in his first three NBA seasons, but broke his foot in the preseason and then picked up an “unrelated” hairline fracture after returning for five games. Big men and foot injuries often don’t mix.

10. Jeremy Lin, arthroscopic knee surgery on April 2: There were whispers that Lin could have returned from his sprained MCL in the playoffs, but didn’t want to risk it as he heads into restricted free agency. The good news is that unless Lin is hiding something, MCL injuries are relatively easy to move past.

11. Luol Deng, torn ligaments in left wrist: Deng gutted out the whole season with basically one hand. The surprising part is that he says he’ll continue to delay surgery so that he can play for England in the London Olympics. That could mess with his availability for the start of the NBA season.

12. Anderson Varejao, broken wrist on Feb. 10: The Cavs still never said why Varejao was unable to return to action. They slapped him with a 4-6 week timetable initially, but he ended up missing more than three months. Getting a look at Varejao in the Olympics would help.

13. Wilson Chandler, hip surgery on April 30: Chandler’s labral tear sounds more serious than LaMarcus Aldridge’s as he’s facing a 4-5 month timetable. Considering the depth on Denver’s wings, we’ll have to make Chandler prove he’s both healthy and effective next season before giving him fantasy consideration.

Adam Levitan is in his seventh season covering football and basketball for Rotoworld. He won the Fantasy Sports Writers Association award for Best Series in 2011 and 2009, and ESPN's overall fantasy football title in 2000. Find him on Twitter.
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