Countless fantasy basketball league owners have been without the services of many key players this season. An unusual amount of injuries have plagued some of the NBA’s biggest stars, but those patient owners who stashed away the Memphis Grizzlies’ Marc Gasol may finally be able to breathe a sigh of relief.
Gasol has been out since November 22 with a sprained medial collateral ligament (MCL) in his left knee, missing 23 games in the process. His timetable to return has shifted back and forth and caused some confusion among his owners, but we no longer have to worry about that.
On Monday — for the first time since his injury — the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year participated in Grizzlies’ practice. He was upbeat afterward, telling Grizzlies’ sideline reporter, Rob Fischer, that his “knee [felt] really strong and stable.” These comments were obviously taken to heart by coach Dave Joerger, because he wasted no time inserting Gasol into the Grizzlies’ starting lineup on Tuesday night, a game in which Gasol chipped in 12 points and four boards, helping the Grizz defeat the Thunder at home. He played 24 minutes and could hang around that range for the next few games till they’re ready to unleash him.
Prior to his injury, the 7-foot-1 Spaniard averaged 16 points, 7.1 rebounds, 0.9 steals, 1.1 blocks and was the sixth-ranked center, and 24th-ranked player overall in fantasy basketball, according to Basketball Monster.com. His 4.3 assists would still be tops among qualified NBA centers, ahead of the Bulls’ Joakim Noah and his brother, the Lakers’ Pau Gasol. Needless to say, Gasol plays at a high-caliber level, and while there could be some minute restrictions as evidenced by last night’s game, he needs to be in all fantasy lineups from this point forward.
Gasol isn’t the only player who will be affected by his return to the court. Kosta Koufos and Ed Davis have been filling in admirably up to this point, but their fantasy values stand to take the biggest hit. As soon as Gasol went down, Koufos immediately became the guy to own. In the eight games following Gasol’s injury, the former Ohio State Buckeye averaged 10.6 points, 11.5 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 2 blocks in 32.3 minutes per game, but those averages have plummeted to 7.9 points, 7 rebounds and just 0.8 blocks, while playing a meager 19.4 minutes over his last 15 games. The rebounds are slightly serviceable for deep-league play, but not for standard leagues. The moment Gasol stepped back on the court, was the moment you should’ve dropped Koufos from your squad. The same goes for his teammate, Ed Davis. Davis has been a decent plug-and-play guy due to his big game capabilities (three double doubles in his last eight games), but he’s far too inconsistent to keep around. He’s played 21.3 minutes per game since Gasol’s injury, but before that he was only getting 12.1 minutes of court time, which is what owners should expect from him the rest of the way in a crowded Grizzlies’ frontcourt. Davis is pure waiver wire fodder unless Gasol were to have a setback.
Many owners might also be wondering what kind of effect getting Gasol back could have on star point guard Mike Conley. You need not fret, though. Conley was actually putting up better numbers before the Grizzlies’ big man went down, averaging 19.5 points and shooting 51.6 percent in 13 games prior to Gasol’s injury, compared to 17.7 points and 43.4 percent shooting in the 21 games since. Because the center was second on the team with 4.3 assists, Conley has been forced to pick up some of the slack, so his assists should drop a bit, but in all, he benefits from Gasol’s return.
SETH KLEIN is the Senior Fantasy Basketball Writer at FantasyTrade411.com, as well as a top contributor in fantasy baseball and football. He is also a writer for BucketsOverBroadway.com, a New York Knicks website, and you can find his “expert” fantasy basketball rankings on FantasyPros.com. Although he was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Seth is a die-hard New York Giants, Knicks and Yankees fan, so naturally, he hates any team from Boston and the Dallas Cowboys.