Dwyane Wade – Wade is on the court and playing after offseason knee surgery kept him out of the Olympics over the summer, but I don’t know of an owner who drafted him who isn’t holding their breath. When healthy, Wade’s blocks and stellar production put him in the elite category, but he’s going to make owners in weekly leagues think twice every time they set a lineup, and his four-game weeks could easily turn into 2- or 3-gamers. I have owned Wade several times in the last couple years and have determined that he’s really not worth the headache. He’s still a first-round pick, but there’s enough risk there that I’m going to let someone else deal with the headaches he causes.
Stephen Curry – The yearly joke around the virtual Rotoworld water cooler is that Curry’s right ankle is made of Doritos, and I’m a little surprised we haven’t just nicknamed him ‘Cool Ranch’ by now. He is coming off surgery and my guess is those of you have owned him will let someone else take the risk this year. However, he’s on the court and looks fantastic, and will easily return first-round value if he can stay healthy. He won’t hurt you anywhere statistically and is getting better every week. The problem is the ankle. When you pull up the Rotoworld headlines, or see that Tweet that reads “Steph Curry sprains right ankle, helped to locker room,” your heart will sink. The only question is, will this be the year that doesn’t happen? He’s generally going in Round 2 or 3, and while I haven’t taken the plunge yet, I might do it before drafting season is over. Just because the payoff will be big if he can somehow stay in one piece.
Kyle Lowry – Lowry is back from his groin injury that kept him out of training camp, and appears to be related to the injury he had last season. That one led to an infection and Lowry’s fantastic season was ruined far too early. Now he’s in Toronto, where he’s been named the starter, but between the injuries and the fact that Jose Calderon is still lingering in the background, I’m not ready to go all in on him. The later you can get Lowry the better, but even if he stays healthy, I don’t see Calderon spending as much time on the bench as many other folks do. Treat Lowry like a low-end No. 1 fantasy point guard and pray that his groin injury doesn’t rear its head again this season.
Andrew Bogut – Bogut’s devastating ankle injury from last season is still keeping him very limited in training camp. He just started doing 1-of-1 training and doesn’t sound all that close to 5-of-5 scrimmaging yet. When healthy he should be an excellent source of scoring, boards and blocks, but his free throw shooting is in the Dwight Howard category of poor. I took Bogut for $3 in an auction league and I would take him in a regular draft in the late rounds just to be able to stash him on my bench.
Ricky Rubio – Rubio is coming off major knee surgery and won’t be ready until December or January. Assuming he returns on January 17, he’d miss the season’s first 35 games, available for 47 games. Do you really want to sit on an assist specialist who isn’t a good shooter until a month before the All-Star Break? I love watching Rubio and his injury saddens me, but I have no interest in drafting him this year. Would I pick him up off waivers around Christmas or New Years? Probably.
Amare Stoudemire – Stoudemire is coming off a terrible season and has already been bothered with a sore knee. Don’t forget he had microfracture surgery a few years ago, but was able to bounce back from it as quickly and effectively as any player in history. But you have to wonder when he’s going to need some maintenance done on his knees again. Maybe he’ll stay healthy, play nice with Raymond Felton and Carmelo Anthony, and put the things he learned from Hakeem Olajuwon this summer to good use. But there are enough red flags here that I’m going to let someone else take the plunge on Stoudemire this season. I actually have him ranked behind Glen Davis in Tiers, if that tells you anything.
Jeremy Lin – Linsanity is sidelined again for precautionary reasons, as he’s still not recovered from offseason knee surgery. He’s playing for a new team and coach (Houston/Kevin McHale) and learning a new system. Sure, he’s got talent and I’m fine with owning him if he’s there late enough, but given the knee concerns and the fact that much of what happened last year still feels a little bit like a fluke, I’m not targeting him anywhere.
Derrick Rose – Rose “might” play at some point this year as he recovers from knee surgery. Then again, he might not. Yes, it’s possible he could make a late run and help your team in the playoffs (at least Chicago has a fantasy-friendly playoff schedule), but I don’t think it’s likely. He’s realistically not expected back before the All-Star Break (February) and my guess is more than 50 percent of the owners who draft Rose will drop him by Thanksgiving. In other words, I simply see no reason to draft him this season unless you play in a keeper league. And where you take him in a keeper format depends on how badly you want to try to win this year.
J.R. Smith – Smith is in a walking boot, but that may not be his biggest problem. He’s ticked off about coming off the bench (so am I) and it’s not like he’s been the most stable guy throughout the years even when he’s really happy. I still love Smith this year and am targeting him late in my drafts, as I don’t suspect his foot injury is serious. And even if he’s coming off the bench, he’ll be doing it with a chip on his shoulder and should hit a ton of threes, as long as he doesn’t land in Mike Woodson’s doghouse. But at least you don’t have to spend a high pick on him now that it doesn’t sound like he has a real chance at starting while the Knicks wait for Iman Shumpert’s return.
Andrea Bargnani – Bargnani went down on Wednesday with a calf injury. If it were any other player this might not be a big deal, but if Curry’s ankles are made of Doritos, Bargnani’s calf appears to be held together by spaghetti. I used to be one of Bargnani’s biggest supporters, but once he stopped hitting as many threes and blocking as many shots as he was supposed to, and then started getting hurt every year, I really only think of him as a guy I’ll take if he falls farther than he should. And now that his calf injury is back, memories of him lasting just 31 games last season are refreshed. It could be something minor, but if there are questions about Bargnani’s calf on draft night, let someone else deal with him.
Brandon Roy – Roy’s knee appears to be in much better shape than it was when it forced him to retire prematurely and he’s slated to start at shooting guard for the Timberwolves. And with Love out for the first month, Roy could see an even bigger role than originally expected. Do I trust him to still be playing by Thanksgiving? Not really. Do I believe he’ll be able to play in back-to-back games for most of the season? No way. But am I willing to draft him late in case he happens to become one of the greatest comeback stories ever? Yes, yes I am. Roy’s another risky guy, but you can get him late enough that you can simply cut him if it doesn’t work out.