A successful fantasy basketball season is the result of many factors occurring both before and during the NBA season. You could spend months studying and preparing. It can take an hour, or even up to several weeks, to draft and assemble numerous teams. As the season goes along, day-to-day management involves sitting and starting players, looking at potential free-agent pickups, analyzing upcoming schedules, and negotiating possible trades to improve your team. Reading and researching don’t stop in-season, as players get hot and cold or see changes to playing time.
Then, out of nowhere, it happens: one of your players gets injured. Panic sets in. You quickly access various websites trying to distinguish between truth and rumor. Various questions must be answered: What happened? When will he be back? Is it a minor injury, or is it more serious? Depending on the severity of the injury, various measures must be taken to ensure that your team carries on with minimal impact.
If the injury isn’t serious, the player usually ends up playing through the pain. A minor injury keeping the player out of action would mean that you may bench the player for a short period of time. If the injury is more severe, a replacement might be needed either from the waiver wire or through a trade. A worst-case scenario involves a season-ending injury but allows the fantasy participant to move on completely from that player.
Why should you care? Below are some of the issues to be aware of regarding injuries.
The NBA Player
There are many different characteristics of NBA players, including age, height, weight, physical abilities, and mental makeup. These factors combine to determine how a player responds to, or even avoid, getting hurt. Some players are able to play through injuries better than others. Others, whether through luck or through hard work in the weight room, seem to avoid them altogether (i.e. Karl Malone). Sadly, there are some players whose bodies just can’t take the rigors of the NBA (i.e. Bill Walton).
A player’s role on his NBA team can also affect his chances of getting hurt. Players who make a living by driving to the basket or who play “above the rim” may have a greater propensity to get hurt than players who are solely spot-up shooters beyond the three-point line.
In a rotisserie league there is often a limit to the number of games (usually 82) that each team can use from each of their starting lineup positions. Ideally, you would want each of your best players to play every NBA game in order to maximize the quality of those 82 games. Injuries affect the quality of those games (if the player plays through injury) or the quantity of those games (if the player cannot play due to injury). Replacement players are usually used to make up the difference in games played which decreases the overall quality of those 82 games.
In a head-to-head scoring format, one of the ways to maximize your team’s potential to win on a weekly basis is to maximize games played in any given week. Having a roster of healthy players usually goes a long way toward this goal. Injury-prone players, conversely, may miss random games, leading to fewer games played on a weekly basis. When setting lineups on a weekly basis, not all information about the extent of a player’s injury may be known at the time, and that leads to anxiety over whether or not to start that player for the week. The timing of an injury is also important. For instance, an injury to a key player during the head-to-head playoffs would be especially disrupting. Injuries towards the end of the year could lead to NBA teams shutting down the player for the remainder of the season as a precautionary measure. This decision by the NBA franchise can be easier to make if the team has a playoff spot locked up or is out of the playoff race altogether.
The type of draft at the beginning of the year is also important. Generally, injury-prone players could provide more value to a fantasy team depending on where they are selected in a draft or what their prices were in an auction. Consider this example: Player A and Player B. They are identical in every way except that Player A has a history of impeccable health while Player B is injury-prone. It should be cheaper to acquire Player B in a fantasy auction draft. Player B should go later in a standard, or serpentine, fantasy draft.
The NBA does not have an injured reserve list. Instead, NBA teams have an inactive list for players who are injured. As a result, many fantasy basketball leagues do not have an injured reserve list to stash an injured player. The opposite is true in fantasy baseball; you can move an injured player to the disabled list, which frees up a roster spot for a free agent acquisition. Depending on which player gets injured and the severity of that injury, you may be forced to carry that player on your bench (or, worse yet, in your starting lineup). Because of this, it is important to keep in mind your league’s rules on roster size when constructing your team. Generally, a larger bench will give you greater flexibility when dealing with injured players. Conversely, smaller rosters and smaller benches have the opposite effect due to the fact that you can find a suitable replacement easier than you can in a larger league.
The Fantasy Participant
All else being equal (i.e. skill, luck, etc.), the fantasy participant with more time and energy to spend during the season will usually do better than the fantasy participant with less time and energy spent. Your situation (meaning school, work, and family, which are all more important than fantasy basketball) will determine how much time and energy you have. A team plagued by injuries will require more time (for research, analysis, etc.) than an injury-free team.
Every human being has a certain tolerance to risk. In fantasy sports, one way this character trait appears is how a person evaluates injury-prone players. The willingness (or lack thereof) to acquire an injury-prone player at a cheaper price or later draft spot can provide added value while building a team. This willingness is directly related to the individual’s tolerance for risk. In short, if you are risk-averse, you should seek to minimize the number of injury-prone players on your roster.
Injuries are an important variable to consider when constructing and managing your fantasy basketball team. You must be aware of the players that you draft or are targeting throughout the year, the setup of the league that you are in, and, most importantly, the type of person that you are.
I have been participating in fantasy sports since the good old days (paper, pencil, box scores in newspapers, etc.). Basketball and baseball are my favorites though I've dabbled (without success) in football and hockey. You name it, I've done it (standard/custom, serpentine/auction, live/computer/message board, public/private/winners, etc.).
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