Big Picture: Injuries
By Matt Buser
September 21, 2007
We're less than two weeks away from the opening of NBA training camps – fantasy NBA message boards are becoming more and more active, Excel spreadsheets filled with stats and positional rankings are coming to life, and the junkies are already turning their attention away from fantasy baseball and/or football teams and registering their fantasy hoops teams. What a great time of year to be a sports fan and a fantasy sports player! First things first – it's time to get caught up on what went down this offseason and how it will affect the upcoming season. Last year will forever be known as the year of the injury and, unfortunately, we've already lost Elton Brand and Greg Oden for most or all of the 2007-08 season. Let's touch on their, and many other players', injury status as we prepare for a new season.
Joe Johnson (G – Atlanta)
Johnson missed the final 21 games of the season with a right calf contusion, an injury that occurred when he was accidentally kicked by teammate Estaban Batista during a game. Johnson declared himself "fully healthy" in Hawks pre-camp workouts and is ready for what he calls a "big season" for the Hawks. Johnson is good to go, and it's worth noting that he played in all 82 games for four straight seasons before dealing with last season's freak injury.
Speedy Claxton (PG – Atlanta)
Claxton's 2006-07 season started bad and ended worse – a broken hand caused him to miss most of the preseason, and then knee and back problems plagued him throughout the regular season until he had season-ending arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on June 20. He was cleared for full-court activities in mid-August, and he'll figure heavily into the Hawks' plans at PG if he can stay on the court.
Ray Allen (SG – Boston)
Allen managed 55 hard-fought games last season before undergoing surgery to remove bone spurs from both of his ankles on April 7. The ankles shouldn't be an issue entering camp, as he's had nearly six months to recuperate, but it's fair to consider the 32-year-old Allen a slight injury concern at this point of his career, in general. The bigger question mark with Allen remains how his game will mesh with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in Boston, and how his role with the team will affect his production.
Sean May (PF – Charlotte)
Even though knee injuries/surgeries have limited May to 58 games total during his first two seasons, he's developed a bit of a cult following among fantasy owners. That's likely due to his per-35 minute averages of 17.4 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.0 block when he does play. The latest update is a good one – Bobcats coach Sam Vincent said last week that May has performed so well in recent workouts that he may not be limited at all in training camp. Before you let your enthusiasm get the best of you, note that May has only missed three games in November over the past two seasons, so the beginning of the season is not when May's health is usually in question. He's worth monitoring, but won't be worth drafting.
Andres Nocioni (F – Chicago)
The fact that the Bulls signed Nocioni to a five-year contract extension in the offseason speaks volumes as to how well they feel he's recovered from the plantar fasciitis that limited him to 53 games last season. Nocioni's summer activities included skipping the FIBA Americas tournament to rest and recuperate – another good sign. What is working against Nocioni's fantasy value this season is that the Bulls signed Joe Smith to help fill the massive void the team has in the offensive post and drafted Joakim Noah, a player who could also cut into Nocioni's playing time. Both his initial level of activity and how he fits in on the crowded roster are worth watching in camp.
Larry Hughes (G – Cleveland)
Hughes was limited by plantar fasciitis in the playoffs, averaging 4.6 points over a seven-game stretch before eventually sitting out the last two games of the finals. With that said, his 70 games played in 2006-07 was the most he had played in five seasons, so he's dealt with his share of injuries over the years. Even if the summer gave Hughes enough time to deal with his foot issue, he's one player who warrants the injury-prone label. If anything, downgrade him due to the fact that his career-best 2004-05 season was the exception, not the norm.
Nene Hilario (FC – Denver)
Nene came on very strong during the second half of the 2006-07 season – he did not miss a game to injury after January 5, a span of 53 games which included 40 starts, and he averaged 14.2 points on 59 percent shooting, 8.2 boards, 1.1 steals, and 1.1 blocks as a starter. Unfortunately, he suffered a right calf strain playing for Brazil in the FIBA Americas tournament on September 1, and he's likely to enter camp at less than 100 percent. Don't drop him too far down your draft list for now, but set realistic expectations and monitor initial camp updates.
Kenyon Martin (PF – Denver)
Martin appeared in just two games last season before his right knee started acting up – he didn't appear in another game, and underwent microfracture surgery on November 15. He had the same procedure on his left knee in May of 2005, and was on the court for the season opener roughly seven months later, although he played in just 56 games, appearing in more than seven consecutive just once. According to The Denver Post, Martin admits that he came back from that procedure too early. He's had 10 months to rehab this time around, and Nuggets strength and conditioning coach Steve Hess said last month that he's "confident" that Martin will be able to play on opening night. Martin himself has said, "I expect to play." Nene's injury clouds the PF spot for the Nuggets, but Eduardo Najera or newly-acquired Steven Hunter are better bets as an injury replacement than Martin, if one is necessary. Take what Martin and Hess have said as lip service and know that it's unlikely that Martin will ever recuperate much of the explosive athleticism that made his game what it was at its best.
Stephen Jackson (GF – Golden State)
There's no injury to update here – just a reminder that Jackson will not suit up for the season's first seven games due to a suspension that resulted from his part in a shooting incident outside of an Indianapolis strip club.
Elton Brand (FC – LA Clippers)
Brand's keeper league owners let out a collective yelp when it was reported that he had ruptured his left Achilles tendon during a routine workout on August 3. He had surgery on August 7, and with it came an indefinite timetable for a return, although it's fairly safe to assume that the least amount of recovery time would be around six months (early February). Brand had his cast replaced with a walking boot on Tuesday, and he's expected to wear the boot for six weeks, at which time he will be re-evaluated. Brand himself has said that he'll be back this season "for sure", but you've got to weigh what you think he could do during the last month or six weeks against carrying an inactive player for most of the season. It's worth taking a chance on him in the later rounds at this point, as you can hold on to him at least until the boot comes off a few weeks into the season and doctors re-assess the situation.
Shaun Livingston (PG – LA Clippers)
Livingston suffered as extensive of an injury on February 26 as you'll see on the basketball court, tearing the ACL, PCL, and MCL in his left knee, while also dislocating it and causing cartilage damage. He was given an 8-12 month timeframe at the time of the injury, but it can't be much more than guesswork when you are projecting a return from injuries that extensive. Assume Livingston won't make an impact, and probably won't return at all, this coming season.
Lamar Odom (F – LA Lakers)
Odom played the last month of the season and in the playoffs with a torn labrum in his left shoulder before undergoing surgery on May 15 – he had a similar procedure in 2005, and needed five months to recover. Even if Odom isn't completely healthy at the start of camp – something that is likely – he should be at or near 100 percent by the start of the season.
Dwyane Wade (G – Miami)
Wade underwent two surgical procedures on May 15 – one for his dislocated left shoulder and the other to deal with tendinitis in his left knee. The projected six-month timetable for his rehab means he can return sometime in mid-November, and there hasn't been any news to this point to suggest that timeframe has changed for the better or worse. If you are drafting soon, assume he'll miss the first few weeks of the season completely, and that he'll take some time to get all the way back to 100 percent once he does return to the court. Obviously, updates on Wade's progress will be among the most anticipated this preseason.
Charlie Villanueva (F – Milwaukee)
Charlie V was healthy for roughly the first two weeks of the 2006-07 season – then he struggled with a variety of ailments before undergoing season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder on March 27. He'll have had six months of recovery time, so the injury shouldn't be limiting him once camp opens. Regardless of his health, Villanueva will face stiff competition for playing time from Yi Jianlian.
Bobby Simmons (GF – Milwaukee)
Simmons missed the entire 2006-07 season and underwent two surgeries on his right foot, one to remove bone spurs from his ankle and the other to remove a symptomatic cyst on his heel – the latter took place on January 12. He's had nine-plus months to rehab and, according to the USA Today, appears to be all the way back, as he's even been a participant in full-contact 5-on-5 games in his hometown of Chicago. Even if he's completely healthy, he'll have to compete for playing time at SF with newly-signed Desmond Mason.
Nenad Krstic (FC – New Jersey)
Krstic played just 26 games in the 2006-07 season before tearing the ACL in his left knee – he had surgery on January 10 and given a timeframe that had him ready for training camp. He worked out and practiced with the Nets' summer league team, but isn't going to be at full strength when camps open. "It's not my goal to be 100 percent the first day of training camp," said Krstic. "That's what I want for opening night." Give him a slight downgrade at this point and monitor the situation. Also of note: Krstic could wind up playing PF this season with Jamaal Magloire now on the Nets roster.
Chris Paul (PG – New Orleans)
Paul labored through much of the latter stages of the 2006-07 season with a stress fracture in his left foot. He had surgery on April 23, as doctors inserted a screw into his foot to help aid the healing process. The recovery time was estimated at around two months, and recent reports have been positive – according to the Times-Picayune, it was obvious "after the first few minutes" of a pickup game with teammates that Paul was moving as quickly as ever. He has been participating in volunteer workouts since last week, and should be 100 percent at the start of the season.
Peja Stojakovic (GF – New Orleans)
Peja's season ended on November 24 in 2006-07, just 13 games into the schedule, and he underwent back surgery on December 17. There was talk of an attempted return late last season, but he and the team wisely decided against it, and he's spent the summer rehabbing and working on his core strength. Hornets general manager Jeff Bower said "Peja is as motivated as anyone to get back on the floor and help this team. His summer has been good and he's made a lot of progress." Pay close attention to the early reports on Stojakovic – if he is or gets back to 100 percent, he could pay massive dividends as a mid-to-late round pick.
Quentin Richardson (GF – New York)
Richardson missed a total of 60 games over the past two seasons, mostly attributed to chronic back problems – he had a microdiskectomy on March 30 to remove fragments from a herniated disk and alleviate the pain. The recovery time for the procedure was estimated at three months, and all indications are that Richardson has fully recovered at this point. He is a good bet to be the Knicks' starting SF on opening night.
Jamal Crawford (SG – New York)
Crawford missed most of the last two months of the 2006-07 season with a broken right ankle. According to the USA Today, he has reported no issues with the ankle this offseason and should come into camp in good shape. Crawford could be one of the better late-round fantasy assets if he starts for the Knicks at SG this season.
J.J. Redick (SG – Orlando)
The Magic announced on September 14 that Redick has a broken bone in his right hand, but it will not require surgery and the team expects him to be ready when the team opens camp, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Redick figures to have a more prominent role with the Magic due to the departure of Grant Hill.
Samuel Dalembert (C – Philadelphia)
Dalembert has a stress fracture in his left foot, an injury sustained while playing in the FIBA Americas tournament. He will be in a hard cast until camp opens (a total of three weeks) and he'll be re-evaluated at that time, but the 76ers have already said that they don't anticipate him missing any time. Keep him at the same spot on your draft sheet until the cast comes off and doctors get another look at the injury.
LaMarcus Aldridge (FC – Portland)
Aldridge was limited in summer league action and did practice with Team USA in advance of the FIBA Americas tournament because of pain in his left heel. The Blazers stressed that the injury was not serious and his limitations were simply precautionary measures, so it's not something that is expected to affect him this upcoming season.
Greg Oden (C – Portland)
Oden underwent the dreaded microfracture surgery on his right knee on September 13, and he's expected to miss the entire 2007-08 season. And that's all that really needs to be said about that.
Ron Artest (SF – Sacramento)
No injury here – just a note that Artest has been suspended for the first seven games of the season due to his arrest on domestic violence charges last spring.
Brad Miller (C – Sacramento)
Miller appeared in 63 games last season but was in and out of the lineup, missing games on six different occasions. He was a shell of his normal self, as he reported to camp out of shape and suffered a partially torn tendon in his left foot in the season's third game, an injury that led to a season-long battle with plantar fasciitis. Miller made it a priority to treat his foot (by staying off of it), and, according to the USA Today, has lost weight and added some muscle this offseason. Don't count on 82 games, but if Miller is able to come back strong, he could be among the biggest steals on draft day this season.
Robert Swift (C – Seattle)
Swift was going to start at center for the Sonics in 2006-07, but he tore his ACL in the preseason and his season was lost. He underwent surgery on November 24 and has been a man possessed in his rehab. Sonics coach P.J. Carlesimo said in an interview for Supersonics.com that he's worked diligently with assistant coaches all offseason, has put on 30-40 pounds of muscle in the weight room, and has also worked very hard on conditioning. Most players who suffer the same injury require a full year or more before their knees are once again physically sound – Swift may come in on the short end of that timeframe, so keep an eye on him as a potential final-round pick with upside.
Chris Bosh (FC – Toronto)
Bosh dealt with plantar fasciitis in his left foot for much of the 2006-07 season, and there's a chance that this coming season won't be any different. He withdrew from participating in the FIBA Americas tournament in mid-August because of his foot – while non-participation from the get-go would have been ideal, at least he eventually realized that rest was the best option. Bosh averaged career highs in points (22.6) and boards (10.7) last season, so he didn't let the injury slow him down on the court. Don't downgrade Bosh at this point, but be on the lookout for early camp reports – it's a tricky affliction that affects different players to different extents.
Andrea Bargnani (F – Toronto)
Bargnani dealt with back and ankle problems during the summer, missing some practices and games for EuroBasket 2007. The injuries are not considered serious, but they are the types that can linger, particularly with little break between international play and the start of the NBA season. Be looking for the latest on Bargnani's physical condition once the Raptors open camp.
Jorge Garbajosa (FC – Toronto)
Garbajosa had surgery to repair a fractured left fibula and torn ligaments in his left ankle on March 27. Surprisingly, he averaged 21.3 minutes and 7.8 points in nine games for Spain in the recent EuroBasket 2007 tournament after the Raptors reluctantly allowed him to participate. Garbajosa said his leg was not an issue, but the Raptors have a battery of tests planned – scheduled for later this week, according to the Toronto Sun – to make sure he didn't aggravate anything. Garbajosa was a pleasant surprise for fantasy owners last season, but his contributions may be limited this season, particularly in the season's early-going.
Gilbert Arenas (PG – Washington)
Arenas missed the regular season's final eight games and the Wizards' first-round sweep at the hands of the Cavaliers after suffering a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee on April 4. He underwent surgery the next day and had the entire summer to absorb the two-to-three month timeframe for his recovery. Expect Arenas to be at 100 percent when camp opens, and expect that he'll try his best to have a great season – he has already announced that he'll opt out of his contract after the season and be his own representation in the negotiations for his next deal.