Kevin Love – Love’s broken hand is a real buzzkill, especially if you’ve already drafted him. The good news is that he should be back in late-November, or early-December. And unlike some other injured stars, his numbers are so good that missing the first 14 or so games won’t destroy his fantasy value. I don’t think you can still draft Love in Round 1, but my guess is he’ll go in Round 2 in most drafts. If you’re going to take the plunge, make sure you have room on your bench for him. In daily leagues without games limits, carrying injured players can be a painful experience. In weekly leagues, the hit isn’t as severe, while some leagues still have an injured reserve spot, allowing you to keep him and pick up another guy. I bumped Love from the No. 2 PF behind LeBron James to the No. 5 PF, now behind Josh Smith, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol and Serge Ibaka.
Andrew Bynum – Bynum has a bone bruise and is also getting a Synvisc injection, which will hopefully help him make it through the season. I heard rumblings that Bynum wasn’t exactly a model of health over the offseason and all this sitting around is going to make his conditioning a potential problem once he is ready to take the court again. I haven’t dropped his games played numbers yet, but may have to if we don’t see him soon. If healthy, he should be the No. 1 fantasy center this season. But we’re not off to a good start, and he’s gone from being a no-brainer first-round pick, to being taken in the second or third round. He’s a true risk vs. reward player this year, as are all of these guys. I’m not opposed taking a flier on him in Round 2 or 3, but have generally been avoiding him, while targeting guys like Marcin Gortat and Nikola Pekovic, among others.
Dwight Howard – Most of the concerns I had about his surgically-repaired back have gone away, as reports from our friends in Los Angeles have been glowing. His back no longer hurts and he’s apparently just waiting to get his conditioning close to 100 percent before he takes the court. It would now be surprising if he doesn’t play before Bynum, which didn’t seem possible a month ago. As for where to draft him, just know that regardless of format, he will cause you to lose free throw percentage every week, as well as finish last there in Roto leagues. He simply shoots and misses too many of them to avoid it. And again, if your league uses free throws made instead, he might be worth the No. 1 pick. As for his back, I could see him missing 10 games this season, but it sounds like once he’s ready to go, he isn’t going to be too much of an injury risk.
Dirk Nowitzki – I dropped Dirk substantially in our rankings based on his latest knee problems. It continues to swell and he continues to have it drained, and now he’s working it out aggressively to see how it reacts. If the swelling comes back, there’s a very good chance he’s going to have surgery. And what they find when they get in there will be the key. Either way, even if he doesn’t go under the knife, it means the knee will likely be a problem throughout the season. Draft him if you want, but my guess is he’s either going to have surgery, or become a gamble to put in weekly lineups for most of the year. I’m not drafting him in any leagues as of now.
And on a side note, if Dirk’s knee continues to be an issue, Elton Brand will end up being a super value pick. If you draft Nowitzki, Brand looks like a required late handcuff.
Eric Gordon – Gordon’s story is very similar to Dirk’s, except with the added caveat that he played in just nine games last year, and had offseason surgery to “fix” the problem. Like Dirk, he’s aggressively working his knee right now to see how it reacts. Surgery hasn’t been mentioned, but you have to think if it’s still a problem two weeks from now, he might end up going under the knife. We’ve dropped him ridiculously low in our rankings, simply because the risk associated with him outweighs the potential reward. As my friend Kelin told me tonight, “I don’t draft guys with one leg.”
John Wall – Wall is supposed to miss about the same number of games as Love, which means you can look for him around Dec. 1. He’s been a little injury prone throughout his career and didn’t live up to the hype last year. He also doesn’t hit 3-pointers, but is one of the league’s best pure scorers when clicking on all cylinders. I’m not opposed to drafting Wall, but I wouldn’t touch him before Round 5, and you have to be a little worried about his conditioning once he’s back. But if all goes well and you have room on your bench, Wall could be a second-half beast after Christmas.
Danny Granger – Granger has yet to play in the preseason as he is dealing with a left knee problem of his own. The good news is that he’s scheduled to play in the next two preseason games for the Pacers and has been able to avoid surgery on the knee. The bad news is that this is not a new injury, and was even a fairly serious issue when he played at New Mexico. You can see the details in this column. Granger is no longer an up-and-coming stud to target in Round 2, but instead a risky gamble in the middle rounds of your draft. Paul George is getting ready to take over as the man for the Pacers, but Granger’s still going to put up some gaudy numbers if healthy. A lot of the risk is removed if you can get him in Round 6, but I seriously doubt this will be the last time you read about his left knee this season.