Obvious statement alert: Injuries are never good for Fantasy owners. Even more obvious statement: Injuries are infinitely worse in the playoffs.
When they happen in February, there are ways to keep your season afloat. I was faced with this situation earlier when Joakim Noah first began to be troubled by his plantar fasciitis issue. I snagged Amir Johnson on the waiver wires and mostly kept rolling while Noah was sidelined, eventually earning a No. 1 overall seed and first-round playoff bye last week.
With the playoffs on top of us now, however, injuries are a much more serious concern, as we can hardly afford any sort of let down in a do-or-die situation. Which makes a recent rash of injuries a real concern for owners moving forward. If you are still reading this column, that likely means that you have enjoyed a run of good luck so far this season, but you might be hurting right now.
In the past few days, a number of high-end Fantasy options have gone down with injuries, some of them appearing quite severe. Along with Noah, you had big-name players from Marc Gasol (abdominal tear) to Rudy Gay (back soreness). A number of the guys you leaned heavily on might not be there for you this week and moving forward.
When we get to this part of the season, you want to dance with who you came to the dance with, but that might not be possible. With the Fantasy regular season just about over, I will spend much (though not all) of my final Start/Sit column looking at the effects of a lot of these recent injuries, and how Fantasy owners might be able to survive.
The problem with a lot of the injuries happening right now is teams are mostly labeling them vaguely, with "day to day" and "indefinitely" proving to be the buzzwords du jour. So, searching for replacements could lead you to drop a useful option for a fill in who might only play a big role for a game or two. You will want to focus on players who will still have value to you, even if an injured star returns.
One such player is Boston's Jeff Green, whose continues to build momentum after a slow first half of the season. His recent play, along with lingering concerns about the availability of Kevin Garnett are enough to earn him the final Start of the Week, for Fantasy Week 22 (March 25-31).
You certainly didn't miss Green's 43-point outburst against the Heat last week, but he has proven that he is not a flash in the pan at this point. Green has been tremendous since the end of January, and has averaged at least 15.3 points per game in both February and March. Despite his strong play, Green is starting in just 54 percent of all CBSSports.com leagues right now.
Garnett has missed three of the last five games as of Saturday, and the Celtics seem wary of using him on the second night of back to backs so late in the season. The Celtics have a back to back Tuesday and Wednesday this week, meaning Green could get at least one start in the week, and possibly more if Garnett's ankle injury continues to bother him. With four games on the schedule in Week 22 as well as Week 23, Fantasy owners will want Green in their lineups down the stretch.
Mario Chalmers, Heat (@BOS, @CLE, DET, CHA): The Heat have made a lot of noise about redefining basketball's natural positional hierarchy in recent years, but they have actually been relying on their point guards more during their (as of Sunday) 26-game winning streak than in the past. It helps that Chalmers, who cannot always be relied on to consistently make the right decision, has been on the mark recently. Chalmers is shooting 46.1 percent from the field and 43.9 percent on 3-pointers during the team's winning streak, and has been excellent even more recently. Chalmers is averaging 13.0 points, 3.4 assists, and 1.8 steals per game over the last two weeks, while playing 29.9 minutes in eight games. Chalmers is worth taking a shot on in.
Terrence Ross, Raptors (ATL, @DET, @WAS): Ross' potential was a big reason why the Raptors' acquisition of Rudy Gay was considered a questionable decision by many. Ross has shown the ability to space he floor nicely, and already gave the Raptors a dynamic athletic tandem with mainstay DeMar DeRozan on the wing. What is done is done, of course, as Ross' long term value is shot as long as Gay and DeRozan are on the team. However, with Gay dealing with a back injury, Ross could be in the starting lineup this week. The Raptors only play three times in the week but Ross has reached double figures in each of his starts this season. As you will read later, Gay's injury could be a lingering one with plenty of complications, so Ross could be a replacement option.
Sleeper Alert: Jannero Pargo, Bobcats (ORL, @NYK, @PHI): Another classic late season meme is the one where teams at the bottom of the standings start scooping up 10-day contracts who inexplicably ball out. Pargo is just the latest in an illustrious line of players that includes 2008 Blake Ahearn and 2012 Donald Sloan, among many others. Pargo has reached double figures in four games in a row for the Bobcats, earning himself a second 10-day contract. Pargo could actually turn out to be useful, if you need an emergency fill-in this week.
Derrick Rose, Bulls (MIA, @DAL, DET): This one isn't specifically about Week 22; I just wanted to get my thoughts down on Rose, because I am still getting questions about him. At the time of writing this, the Bulls have just 14 games remaining on the schedule, and Rose has yet to give an indication that he will return. He has held Fantasy owners in limbo for months, and I think it is time to cut bait. It would be great to get an elite Fantasy option down the stretch for nothing, but that is simply unlikely to happen at this point. Ricky Rubio and Iman Shumpert, our other young knee surgery veterans this season, took weeks to find their footing and get re-acclimated to NBA speed. Even if Rose returns at some point before the end of the season, he will probably struggle to live up to the hype. If you have a dead roster spot being taken up by Rose, wouldn't you rather scoop someone off waivers who can rely on for help? I know I would.
Bradley Beal, Wizards (MEM, @OKC, @ORL, TOR): You have to love how Beal has developed this season, as he averaged 16.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per game in 10 games after the All-Star break. Unfortunately, his left ankle has become a recurring issue, one the Wizards are obviously going to be very careful with. The team has been quiet about his status, preferring to tag him with the "day to day" label, but he has now missed 8 of the last 11 games as a result. Even in the three games Beal played, the Wizards were careful to hold him to roughly 20 minutes per game. And even then, he re-aggravated the injury this week on an awkward landing. Given his injury and the Wizards' lack of any real motivation to risk further injury down the stretch, I would swallow the pill and sit him down.
Bust Alert: Rodney Stuckey, Pistons (MIN, TOR, @CHI): It has been tough to get a read on Stuckey, who started the month of March in the doldrums before coming alive thanks to a Brandon Knight injury. Knight was back Saturday, but Stuckey still poured in 13 points and eight assists off the bench to help Detroit snap a 10-game losing streak. His recent production makes him look good for Fantasy owners, but I would advise against relying on him; his inability to provide any sort of consistency is a bad mix on a three-game schedule, especially now that he is back on the bench.
Patrick Patterson, Kings (@GSW, @PHO, LAL): Patterson could have sulked after being traded from a starting role on the playoff-bound Rockets to a spot on the bench on the forever hopeless Kings. It is a credit to him that he has been able to stay in playing shape and has taken advantage of a chance for an increased role lately. Patterson is averaging 12.8 points in 26.0 minutes per game over the last five games, and just as he did in Houston, is providing a unique look for defenses due to his three-point range from the power forward position. All three of the Kings' opponents in Week 22 rank among the league's 10 worst scoring defenses, and they also all allow an above average number of threes, which bodes well for his value.
Reggie Evans, Nets (@POR, @DEN, @UTA): I have wanted to avoid using Evans as a start, as his particular brand of junk points and rebounds simply does not appeal to me. However, I can no longer ignore his production, as Evans has actually shown flashes of not being a black hole offensively. Over the last 10 games in the month of March, Evans has increased his scoring to 6.2 points per game, a mark that would be a career-best for a season for him, with room to spare. That number is paltry, but it also comes with a monstrous 14.9 rebounds per game in just 26.5 minutes. At this point, his overall production is too hard to ignore, especially in head-to-head formats.
Sleeper Alert: Josh McRoberts, Bobcats (ORL, @NYK, @PHI): McRoberts has shown some real flashes of talent in his six NBA season, and it is easy to forget that he is just 26 years old due to how he has bounced around. McRoberts has averaged better than 20 minutes per game just once in his career, but is showing what he can do when the minutes are there. In seven starts for the Bobcats so far, he is averaging 9.9 points and 8.4 rebounds per game, with three double-doubles in his last six games. The Bobcats have little to play for this season, which means the final few weeks of the season could be a showcase for McRoberts before free agency. Expect him to take advantage of that.
Rudy Gay, Raptors (ATL, @DET, @WAS): Toronto's acquisition of Gay has not worked out quite like they had hoped, but the team remains undeterred in their appreciation for his abilities. The Raptors are expected to offer Gay a contract extension this offseason (link: http://sports.yahoo.com/news/nba--rudy-gay-takes-issue-with-grizzlies--embraces-challenge-with-star-hungry-raptors--230326752.html), a situation that will likely impact their handling of his recent back woes. As far back as two weeks ago, coach Dwane Casey was talking about shutting Gay down for the season, and he made rumblings about that yet again Saturday to the Toronto Star. Gay is too talented to sit on your bench when healthy, but the fact that Casey is even considering putting him on the shelf should make Fantasy owners shudder. Keep an eye on this one, and consider sitting him if the talk keeps up.
Kenyon Martin, Knicks (@UTA, ORL, @TOR, TOR): Martin's presence on this list represents a bit of a flipped script for much of the column's theme. Martin has been benefitting from a star player's absence in recent games, as he has four double-digit scoring games in the last six with Tyson Chandler. Knicks coach Mike Woodson already confirmed that Martin will return to the bench once Chandler is healthy, which makes that "day to day" designation attached to Chandler awfully scary for Fantasy owners looking to reap the benefits of Martin's play. I'm not sure I would rely on him in an important week.
Bust Alert: Paul Millsap, Jazz (NYK, @HOU, @SAS, @DAL): The Jazz have gone 1-4 in their last five games and are mired in a long slump that has seen them fall to a precarious position in the playoff standings. It is little surprise that their slide has coincided with injuries and then poor performance from Millsap, who many consider to be their best player. He is averaging a season-low 13.4 points per game in the month of March, a number that drops to just 11.8 over the last five games. Millsap could get it going quickly, but the Jazz also seem content to lean on the younger big men right now. Shockingly, Millsap is no longer the sure-fire start you thought you were drafting, and it comes at the absolute worst possible time.
Ed Davis, Grizzlies (@WAS, @NYK, HOU, @MIN): Davis earned the start at center Saturday, after it was announced that Grizzlies center Marc Gasol is dealing with a torn abdominal muscle. Coach Lionel Hollins initially downplayed the injury, before the team announced that he will be out indefinitely due to the injury. This means good things for Davis, who has clearly established himself as a useful Fantasy option when given the chance to play. Davis put up 11 points, eight rebounds and five blocked shots in just 19 minutes in the start Saturday. It would be awful for Fantasy owners to lose out on Gasol's production down the stretch, but Davis might not be a bad option this week if he stays in the starting lineup.
Sleeper Alert: Jonas Valanciunas, Raptors (ATL, @DET, @WAS): Valanciunas has the higher ceiling of the Raptors' rookie duo, and he is starting to show that off as the team has grown more comfortable relying on him down the stretch. Valanciunas is a mobile big man with serious offensive potential in the pick and roll, and he is averaging 13.4 points and 7.2 rebounds per game over the last five games, in 28.4 minutes per game. He is shooting an absurd 77.1 percent from the field and 86.7 percent from the free-throw line in that span. Expect the Raptors to give Valanciunas an extended tryout down the stretch.
Marc Gasol, Grizzlies (WAS, @NYK, HOU, @MIN): The flipside of Davis' writeup is here, as the Grizzlies could be looking at an extended run without their dominant center. Gasol apparently suffered the abdominal tear March 6, but was gutting through the injury before aggravating it Friday. He was averaging 16.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 3.3 combined blocks and steals per game since the injury, but it looks like it could at least cost him some time after he sat out Saturday's game. For comparison's sake, Heat center Chris Bosh was forced to miss three weeks after suffering a similar injury last postseason. At the time of writing, it is not known how long Gasol is expected to miss, but he is certainly a risky start.
Bust Alert: Omer Asik, Rockets (IND, @MEM, LAC): Asik continues to rebound at extreme rates, but his offensive game is starting to lag behind. After shooting nearly 60 percent from the free-throw line over the first four months of the season, Asik has regressed in that particular area in March, shooting a season-low 47.2 percent. As a result, his scoring has fallen to 8.9 points per game in the month, despite shooing 55.4 percent from the field. Asik's overall play is still solid for the center position, but he is ranked just 31st in the league among centers in Fantasy scoring in the month, making him anything but a confident start.