Fantasy Basketball: Who benefits from injuries to stars like Stephen Curry and Blake Griffin?

Even in an era where more emphasis than ever is placed on player health and rehabilitation, the NBA hasn't been immune to major injuries.  At present, the league is without – among others – a two-time MVP, a 70-point scorer, and two of the more productive forwards in the Western Conference.

Of course, the rampant injuries have been a nightmare for Fantasy owners, but as key players hit the shelf, opportunities open up for others to step into larger roles. While perhaps it's a bit tactless to suggest anyone truly benefits from an injury, in the cutthroat world of Fantasy basketball, there's no time to mourn the loss of a major contributor.

Below, we'll take a look at a few of the key injuries around the league and discern which players stand to gain the most, from a production perspective.

The Injury: Steph Curry (ankle)

Who Benefits: Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Shaun Livingston

Against all odds, the Warriors haven't missed a beat since Curry went down, reeling off three straight wins over Charlotte, Detroit and Portland.

Over that span, Durant has taken over as the clear-cut No. 1 option, averaging 33.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 3.3 blocks per game. Durant is also attempting 24.0 field goals while getting to the line nearly seven times per game. Those numbers represent a significant leap from his pre-Curry-injury averages of 24.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 2.0 blocks and 17.5 field goal attempts. Curry is without a firm return date, but he'll almost certainly remain sidelined through next week – a four-game week for the Warriors – as Golden State gears up for the annual Christmas Day showdown with the Cavaliers.

Green has been hampered of late by an injury of his own, but in the one game he played without Curry, he handed out 13 assists to go with three steals and a season-high six blocks. Of course, Curry's absence won't impact Green's defensive numbers, but it's fair to assume Green, once healthy, will assume at least some of Curry's half-court playmaking duties.

In terms of replacing Curry's minutes at point guard, Livingston has been the clear beneficiary. He's played more than 20 minutes in each of the last two games – something he'd only accomplished once, previously – but, as expected, that hasn't translated to Fantasy-relevant production (8.0 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 2.0 APG). Former G-Leaguer Quinn Cook has moved into the regular rotation in Curry's absence, but he played only nine minutes off the bench Monday and will sink back to anonymity as soon as Curry returns.

The Injuries: Blake Griffin (knee) and Patrick Beverley (knee)

Who Benefits: Austin Rivers, Milos Teodosic, Lou Williams, Danilo Gallinari, Wes Johnson

Neither injury is anything new, but with Teodosic and Danilo Gallinari battling recent injuries of their own, it's taken some time to see exactly how the Clippers' rotation will shake out.

Prior to Teodosic's return Monday night following a lengthy battle with plantar fasciitis, the Clippers had relied almost entirely on Rivers and Williams for backcourt production. Since Beverley's initial injury (Nov. 7), Williams is averaging more than 35 minutes per game, with Rivers close behind at 34.8 per game.

While Rivers continues to struggle as a finisher (40.6% FG), he's contributing 16.2 points, 4.3 assists, 1.0 steal and 2.5 made threes (38.8% 3PT) since Beverley went down. Most Fantasy owners have taken notice, though Rivers is still available in nine percent of CBS leagues.

Williams, meanwhile, is almost universally owned – and rightfully so. He's been in and out of the starting five in Beverley's absence and has played at least 35 minutes in all but two contests over the last month. Over his last 15 games, Williams is averaging 22.8 points, 5.7 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 1.2 steals to go with 3.0 made threes on 42.1 percent shooting from deep. The surge in production has made Williams a top-55 player in standard CBS leagues this season.

With Teodosic back in the mix, both Williams and Rivers could see modest reductions in playing time. Teodosic started and saw just over 20 minutes of action Monday against Toronto, though the roles of Rivers (33 minutes) and Williams (36 minutes) were largely unaffected. Teodosic is a superior passer to both players, but his defensive limitations will ultimately cap his upside.

Navigating the absence of Griffin has been a trickier task given the Clippers' lack of depth up front. Gallinari missing 13 games certainly didn't help, though it did lend some short-term utility to Johnson, who's averaging 28.7 minutes per game since the start of November. Even so, Johnson's production didn't warrant much Fantasy consideration, even in deeper leagues, and if Gallinari stays healthy, Johnson should be nothing more than an afterthought.

Speaking of which, Sam Dekker saw a slight bump in minutes with Griffin and Gallinari out, but Doc Rivers hasn't shown much faith in the Wisconsin product, who came to Los Angeles as part of the Chris Paul deal. While Dekker played a season-high 27 minutes Monday, it marked only the second time all season he'd eclipsed the 20-minute plateau.

The Injury: Marcus Morris (knee)

Who Benefits: Aron Baynes

Just how much time Morris will miss remains to be seen, but the expectation is that he'll be out for a couple of weeks, at the minimum. That means roughly 25 minutes per night will be up for grabs, and Baynes will likely be the primary beneficiary.

He's rightfully owned in only seven percent of CBS leagues, and while he shouldn't be a waiver priority, he's worth keeping an eye on, particularly for deep-league owners in search of rebounds. Baynes played 26 minutes and hauled in 13 rebounds Sunday against Detroit, though he did follow up with a dud – only 10 points, three rebounds, four turnovers in 17 minutes – Monday versus Chicago.

The Injury: Cody Zeller

Who Benefits: Frank Kaminsky

For the second consecutive season, Zeller will miss extended time with an injury after undergoing surgery Tuesday to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. With the backup center expected to be sidelined for at least six weeks, Kaminsky is the natural option to absorb a decent share of Zeller's 19.9 minutes per game.

Early returns have been difficult to gauge considering a sprained ankle kept Kaminsky out of two of the last three games, but once he's back up to full speed, his workload should move into the mid-to-high 20s, in terms of minutes, on most nights. As of Wednesday, Kaminsky is available in over 60 percent of CBS leagues. He's a decent source of points (10.5 PPG) and made threes (1.1 per game), but he's a sub-par rebounder for the position and won't help owners in leagues that value percentages (42.2% FG, 34.2% 3PT).

It's worth noting that Dwight Howard's value could also increase slightly in Zeller's absence, though the Hornets have mostly avoided playing Howard more than 30-32 minutes. With both Zeller and Kaminsky out last week against Chicago, Howard turned back the clock and put up a 25-20-6 line in 43 minutes. Naturally, numbers like that will clearly be the exception, rather than the rule.

The Injury: Devin Booker

Who Benefits: T.J. Warren, Josh Jackson, Troy Daniels

Booker will miss at least another week – and likely more – with a strained groin, and while there hasn't been one clear-cut replacement, a few players should see increased opportunities in his absence.

Warren was already playing a ton of minutes before Booker's injury, so that's not likely to change. However, he'll now be counted on as the No. 1 offensive option. In the two games without Booker, Warren has had a usage rate north of 31%, up roughly seven percentage points from his previous, season-long average (24.7%).

Jackson has replaced Booker in the starting five, but even with increased minutes – 29 and 30 in the last two games, respectively – his production has been discouraging. Jackson had just nine points on six shots against the Spurs on Saturday and followed up with seven points on 3-of-14 shooting Tuesday in Sacramento. The rookie remains intriguing in dynasty formats, but he's simply too inefficient and too inconsistent to warrant ownership in most season-long leagues.

Daniels has also picked up some increased run of late, though that trend began a couple games before Booker went down. Over the last four contests, Daniels is averaging 25.5 minutes per game, which he's translated to 10.5 points, 1.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists and – most importantly – 2.5 made threes. At this point in his career, Daniels is what he is: a volume three-point shooter who doesn't contribute in any other categories. Daniels' potential as a long-range specialist is intriguing, but his near-complete lack of contributions elsewhere have rendered him unowned in 99 percent of CBS leagues.

 

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