Memphis Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley left Monday night’s game against the Charlotte Hornets with a lower back injury, sparking some concern among the fantasy basketball community. Those worries evolved into a full-fledged panic Tuesday, as The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Conley will miss “minimally six weeks with a fractured vertebrae.” According to ESPN.com’s Tim MacMahon, a source told his colleague, Jeff Goodman, that Conley is likely to be out for six-to-eight weeks with a tranverse process fracture. (For you fantasy football fans out there, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo suffered two such fractures in 2014, but he missed only one game with the injury.)
Considering Conley was off to a top-25 start this season, this is a devastating blow to both the Grizzlies and his fantasy owners. Assuming he makes it back exactly six weeks from the injury (Jan. 9), he’ll miss Memphis’ next 22 games, and that’s the optimistic side of the timetable. If he’s out for eight weeks, he’ll be sidelined for an additional eight games (30 in total).
That leaves fantasy basketball owners in a tricky spot, particularly for those in roto leagues. If you have an injured reserve spot on your roster, Conley remains a must-own, as you can stash him away for the next month or two and reap the rewards once he returns in January (or later, if complications arise). Owners off to a hot start in head-to-head leagues should also hang on to Conley if possible, as he figures to be a major boon come playoff time.
Those in roto leagues, however, should give serious consideration to parting ways with the Ohio State product, particularly if they have adequate point guard depth to survive without him. (Check Monday’s waiver wire watch for a few ideas of players to target in Conley’s place.) Whereas his rest-of-season value in head-to-head leagues will quickly bounce back once he returns, his roto value has plunged as a result of this injury.
For now, Andrew Harrison and rookie Wade Baldwin IV will shoulder much of the ball-handling load for the Grizzlies, although owners shouldn’t rush to the wire for either player until it becomes clear how Memphis’ point guard rotation shakes out in Conley’s absence. Acccording to Basketball Insiders’ Michael Scotto, the Grizzlies have also “expressed interest in Norris Cole” in the wake of Conley’s injury, as Memphis head coach David Fizdale spent a few years with him in Miami. If Cole, who’s playing in China but has an NBA opt-out clause, does join the Grizzlies, it could turn this position into a three-headed monster that cannibalizes all three players’ fantasy value.
Here’s a brief look at some of the other notable injuries across the league:
Dirk Nowitzki, PF, Dallas Mavericks: The Big German is set to miss “at least the Mavs’ next two games” with the Achilles tendon soreness that has plagued him for much of the year, per MacMahon. Head coach Rick Carlisle said Nowitzki is “making gradual progress but not enough to play him right now.” At 3-13, the Mavs have the NBA’s worst record, but team owner Mark Cuban told reporters Sunday night that the team will not tank, saying, “Haters gonna hate. We think that you always compete.” Dallas won’t rush Nowitzki back, but there appears to be little shutdown risk at the moment.
Paul George, SF/PF, Indiana Pacers: On Nov. 25, the Pacers announced both Paul George (sore left ankle) and Kevin Seraphin (sore left knee) were already ruled out for their next three games, including Wednesday’s road tilt against the Portland Trail Blazers. No details have emerged about the severity of George’s injury or an updated timetable for his return, so owners have little choice but to stand pat and hope he can make it back onto the court shortly. On a per-game basis, George is this year’s No. 20-ranked player in nine-category leagues.
T.J. Warren, SF, Phoenix Suns: In a Nov. 23 press release sparse on details, the Suns announced T.J. Warren would be “out indefinitely due to a minor head injury.” During an appearance on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM’s Burns and Gambo show (via ArizonaSports.com), Phoenix general manager Ryan McDonough suggested Warren would be out “a matter of weeks” rather than days or months. Warren confirmed that tentative timeline to reporters on Nov. 25, per Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic, saying he was “a couple weeks” away from resuming basketball activities. Warren currently sits just outside of the top 50 in terms of per-game fantasy value, so here’s hoping Warren can put this head injury behind him and return soon.
Jeremy Lin, PG, Brooklyn Nets: When Jeremy Lin injured his hamstring early in November, the Nets said he’d be out for at least two weeks, per ESPN.com’s Ohm Youngmisuk. Well, two weeks have long come and gone, yet Lin has still yet to return. According to Laura Albenese of Newsday, head coach Kenny Atkinson said Lin is “making strides,” although he still has no timetable to return. Atkinson hopes Lin can practice “soon,” though, so owners may be getting him back sooner rather than later.
All rankings via Basketball Monster are based on nine-category leagues and are current heading into Wednesday, Nov. 30. All ownership percentages via ESPN.com. All average draft position info via FantasyPros.