Fantasy Basketball

How should fantasy owners replace Anthony Davis?

Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire

Injuries just keep piling up at the worst possible time for fantasy basketball owners. On Sunday, New Orleans Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry announced Anthony Davis won’t play again this season due to ongoing issues with his shoulder and left knee (via Pelicans.com):

“We’re going to shut him down. He’s done for the year,” Gentry said. “It’s unfortunate, but he’s got an issue with his shoulder that he’s played with the whole season. It’s amazing when people talk about him being soft or whatever; they don’t understand that he’s played through a situation with his shoulder the entire season.”

With the Pelicans far outside of the Western Conference playoff race, shutting Davis down for the year makes perfect sense if his nagging injuries are at all a long-term concern, even if it could wind up costing him $20-plus million on his new extension. Davis initially injured his left shoulder all the way back in mid-November, per John Reid of the Times Picayune, while the left knee injury occurred just before halftime of Friday’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers.

The timing of Davis’ shutdown couldn’t be worse for fantasy basketball owners, particularly for those in keeper leagues. Those who own him in re-draft leagues have zero reason to hang on to him at this point; just throw him back onto the waiver wire and pick up someone whose value is on the rise as of late, such as Bojan Bogdanovic or Michael Beasley. There’s no way to replace what he brought to the table when healthy — after all, there’s a reason he was the consensus No. 1 overall pick this year, even if he failed to live up to that lofty draft status — but owners in re-draft leagues at least won’t have to deal with a nightly question of whether Davis will be at their disposal.

Those in keeper leagues with non-IR slots, however, may have a more difficult decision on their hands. This now marks the fourth straight season in which Davis will have missed at least 14 of a possible 82 games, which begs the question of whether owners can ever expect him to make it through a full campaign healthy. While the Brow will be a consensus top five pick next season barring any complications with his recovery — he’s set to undergo procedures on his shoulder and knee (torn labrum) — owners can’t necessarily count on him for more than 70 games based on his history to date.

Even in spite of him missing seven games heading into Sunday, Davis ranked ninth on ESPN’s Player Rater, putting him ahead of the likes of LeBron James, Paul George, John Wall and Damian Lillard. By the end of the season, however, he could well fall into the 15-to-20 range. When heading into next season, fantasy owners will have to take Davis’ durability questions into account while compiling their pre-draft rankings. At a minimum, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, James Harden and Russell Westbrook will likely be ranked ahead of him; depending on what happens in the offseason, Kawhi Leonard and Karl-Anthony Towns could be, too.

If you’re in a keeper league and can keep Brow for anything less than a first-round pick, it’s still a no-brainer. If you have to give up a top three selection for him, though, the equation is far more complicated. Realistically, you’ll have to keep him on your roster this year, title chase be damned, as his upside is simply too high for you to drop him outright. It wouldn’t be crazy to consider trading him this offseason, though, particularly if you’re presented with a Godfather-esque offer from an owner desperate to acquire his services. (This also marks your best chance ever to buy low on Davis in keeper leagues, as his owner may be a bit more gunshy after this year.)

As for the collateral effects of his injury, Ryan Anderson figures to be the primary beneficiary, although he missed Sunday’s game against the Clippers with a left and right groin strain. In Anderson’s absence, Tim Frazier (17 points, seven rebounds, four steals), Jrue Holiday (22 points, eight assists), Toney Douglas (15 points, nine assists, seven rebounds) and Omer Asik (15 points, 14 rebounds) all went off, making each worth a look if they’re available on your league’s waiver wire. Fantasy basketball is often a battle of attrition, and while no one expected to be counting on Douglas or Frazier down the stretch of a critical playoff matchup, being the last men standing on an injury-ravaged team has legitimate value.

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