I'm sure we say this every season, but it feels as though we have had a lot of injuries over the past few weeks, especially those that provide the most frustration. Long-term or season-ending injuries are at least easy to deal with in terms of decision-making. It's the injuries that often come with a broad timetable or no timetable at all that drive Fantasy managers crazy. Let's look at a few Fantasy-relevant players who are currently cheering on from the sideline instead of providing us with the production we so badly need.
Let's dive in.
Hot off the press, Towns suffered a lower leg injury against the Wizards on Monday with initial fears he may be done for the remainder of the season. Since then, it has been revealed he suffered a calf strain, likely to keep him sidelined for up to six weeks. This is a blow for Fantasy managers, especially in terms of him occupying an IR slot for a long time. He's too important to drop, given he could be back as early as January. If you are in a position where you cannot afford to stash him, it could make sense to try and at least trade him for a healthy body. No one will give you a top-20 player, but a team atop the standings may be willing to part with a mid-round guy.
Other than the fact we know Cunningham has a stress-related injury to his lower leg, the Pistons are yet to divulge a treatment plan. While it sounds like the team is leaning toward him getting surgery, Cunningham is not so sure. That said, it is reasonable to think that the team will win out here, meaning Cunningham's season could very well be over. Even in a best-case scenario, an absence of at least 2-3 months would rule him out for most of the Fantasy season. Until we get confirmation from the medical staff, managers are faced with a tough decision. However, moving on may be the best course since he is doubtful to play anytime soon.
James Harden, Sixers
Unlike Towns and Cunningham, Harden appears to be on the backend of his recovery, meaning he could return in the next week. His initial time frame had him coming back in early December, and recent reports have him on track. If you have held him for this long, you have to hope that he doesn't suffer any setbacks as he ramps up his activity in preparation for his return. Assuming nothing changes, there is a chance he returns against his former team, the Rockets, on Dec. 5.
Butler is no stranger to injury, so it shouldn't be surprising that he's already missed multiple games. Despite his per-game upside, most managers were savvy enough to drop him down draft boards based on his recent injury history. While he does not have a severe injury, "knee soreness" is not a phrase we like to hear. Latest reports have Butler potentially returning against the Celtics on Friday. This is good news, but unfortunately, it doesn't feel like it is the story's end. The Heat will prioritize having Butler healthy for the playoffs, meaning both scheduled and unscheduled absences could continue for the foreseeable future. Given the sample size, it is unlikely anyone will give you back a top-20 player in a trade, even when Butler is healthy. Other than taking a value hit, managers will have to ride this out.
Like Butler, Leonard is renowned for lower leg injuries that won't disappear. He came into the season after having missed last year with a knee injury. As a result, he was available at a discount in most drafts, often going in the second or third round. While this may have seemed like a good idea at the time, especially given his per-game upside, it's fair to say things have not gone well. After an early season setback, he finally returned, only to be ruled out due to an ankle injury. While it doesn't sound too serious, it continues to be frustrating for managers. There is still hope he gets back to his best at some point this season, although it is looking more and more like managers will have to take the hit here and deal with it moving forward.
After a couple of seasons of defying the odds, injuries finally appear to have caught up with Paul. Although his heel injury has never been viewed as a long-term issue, he has now missed 10 consecutive games. General manager James Jones did go on record last week, stating that Paul was close to returning. Since then, he has continued to be ruled out without even a questionable tag. The Suns will be very cautious regarding their veteran point guard, meaning that while he may return at some point soon, there could certainly be more missed games coming later in the season. Prior to his injury, Paul had been struggling on the offensive end, a sign that perhaps age is also catching up to him. The risk factors mean he, too, is unlikely to garner a significant trade partner, meaning managers have to play the waiting game.
Lillard is currently dealing with a calf injury, which has plagued him for much of the season. While it doesn't sound like it is going to be a long-term issue, soft tissue injuries like this tend to linger, with the only remedy being rest. His current timetable has him set to be re-assessed shortly. Unfortunately, that does not necessarily mean he will return to action at that time. The Trail Blazers will be very cautious when it comes to getting him back on the floor, especially given that he has already aggravated it once this season. There is no reason to be looking for trades at this point, with the hope being he can get back to his best sooner rather than later.