Fantasy Basketball

Injury Impact: Marc Gasol, Tyreke Evans and Jimmy Butler

Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire

The Tuesday leading up to the All-Star break was unkind to fantasy basketball owners, as those who own Marc Gasol, Tyreke Evans and/or Jimmy Butler are suddenly in dire states. Here, we’ll take a brief look at how owners of the three major players facing injury can adjust with the fantasy playoffs rapidly approaching.

Marc Gasol

Gasol went into Monday night’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers listed as questionable due to an injured right foot. He left after going off for 11 points, three rebounds and two assists in just 11 minutes, as he suffered what was thought to be a right mid-foot sprain, per Memphis Grizzlies sideline reporter Rob Fischer.

A day later, the team announced that an MRI detected a fracture in Gasol’s right foot, which is set to keep him out “indefinitely.” The Grizzlies plan on providing a further update regarding their franchise cornerstone following the All-Star break.

Until Memphis releases an official timetable for Gasol’s recovery, fantasy owners will have an extraordinarily tough decision to make. According to Ronald Tillery of the Commercial Appeal, there’s no guarantee the 31-year-old makes it back onto the court this season. Because the Grizzlies’ announcement was light on details, it’s impossible to determine just how much time Gasol will miss, but owners realistically shouldn’t expect him back any time soon.

For now, Gasol owners have to stand pat until a more concrete timetable comes to light. On the off chance he’s able to return within a month or so, that should put him back right in time for the fantasy playoffs in a standard league. For those with three rounds of two-week matchups, he could be available right as the semifinals commence. Realistically, though, those who own the Memphis big man need to brace themselves for the possibility of not having him for the rest of the season.

Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to replace a player of Gasol’s caliber. Despite experiencing a slight downtick in his per-game averages from last season—through Monday, he was at 16.6 points on 46.4 percent shooting, 7.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.3 blocks and 1.0 steals—the big man still ranked 24th in ESPN’s Player Rater. At this point in the season, studs with top-50 potential simply aren’t floating on many waiver wires.

That said, if you’re in one of the 44 percent of leagues where Al Jefferson remains in the free-agent pool, he could be worth an add as he recently began non-contact and conditioning drills, per Bill Kiser of the Charlotte Observer. Beyond that, check out this past week’s Waiver Wire Watch column for an idea of players owned in far too few leagues based on their recent production and rest-of-season outlook.

In Memphis, Zach Randolph and Jeff Green figure to be the primary fantasy beneficiaries of Gasol’s injury. Head coach Dave Joerger may have little choice but to downsize more frequently, trotting out Green and Z-Bo as the 4 and 5 in a small-ball lineup, giving each some added intrigue. Considering how well Green has been playing off the bench as of late—in his past 12 games, he’s averaged 17.6 points on 49.7 percent shooting, 4.7 boards, 1.7 assists, 1.3 triples and 0.9 steals in 29.9 minutes a night—owners may prefer him to stay in his current role. Now’s the time to try buying even remotely low on Z-Bo or Green before their value skyrockets. Those in deeper leagues could take a flier on JaMychal Green or Ryan Hollins, too.

December 23, 2015: New Orleans Pelicans guard Tyreke Evans (1) grabs a rebound during the game between the New Orleans Pelicans and the Portland Trail Blazers at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, LA. (Photograph by Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire)

Tyreke Evans

As the NBA world basked in the Golden State Warriors’ latest attempt to break the space-time-basketball continuum, Shams Charania of The Vertical dropped a bomb early Wednesday morning, reporting New Orleans Pelicans swingman Tyreke Evans “plans to undergo surgery on his right knee and [is] likely out for [the] rest of the season.”

Seeing as Evans had been nursing soreness in that knee for much of the year and hadn’t played in the Pelicans’ past seven games, the news shouldn’t have come as a total surprise. With New Orleans slipping beyond the realm of reasonable playoff contention—it sits 6.5 games behind the eighth-seeded Houston Rockets heading into Wednesday—there was no reason to force the issue with a less-than-100-percent Evans.

Unlike Gasol owners, who had every reason to be caught off-guard by his significant injury, Evans owners should already have their contingency plans in place. Hopefully, you’ve already picked up Norris Cole, who has averaged 13.7 points on 43.0 percent shooting, 5.7 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 1.1 treys in 31.1 minutes a night since moving into the starting lineup 10 games ago. (He’s somehow still available in more than 70 percent of leagues, so check your free-agent pool and pick him up immediately if he isn’t already owned.)

Meanwhile, Eric Gordon, who fractured his right ring finger in mid-January, is rapidly approaching the beginning of the return timetable the Pelicans announced for him at the time of his surgery (four to six weeks). He’ll be four weeks removed from going under the knife on the Wednesday following All-Star Weekend, which means owners should reasonably expect him back by the end of the month, barring setbacks. If you have a vacant spot on your bench or are looking for a high-upside streamer, you could do far worse than the 27-year-old 2-guard.

For those in search of a safer option, Danny Green remains available in nearly 60 percent of leagues and is fresh off a monster 15-point, seven-rebound, three-assist, three-steal, two-trey, one-block night against Miami on Tuesday in only 31 minutes. Boston’s Marcus Smart (43.1% owned) and Phoenix’s Archie Goodwin (33.3% owned) likewise deserve to be rostered in far more leagues. 

Jimmy Butler

When Jimmy Butler went down with a knee injury in the second quarter against the Denver Nuggets on Friday, it was only natural to fear the worst. He needed the assistance of a wheelchair just to get from the court to the locker room, although an MRI taken the next day showed no sign of a tear, per K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. When Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg told reporters Monday that Butler felt “better,” per Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago, his return appeared to be imminent.

Instead, the Bulls announced Tuesday that Butler “is expected to miss the next three to four weeks with a strained left knee.” The release also noted, “Butler has begun rehabbing his injury and he will be allowed to engage in all activities as tolerated with the primary goal of maintaining his conditioning over the ensuing weeks.”

Given that timetable, there’s no way you can possibly drop Butler, no matter whether your playoffs are still a few weeks away or begin after this current two-week matchup. At worst, you’ll have him back by the time your fantasy semifinals come around, barring a setback. You don’t drop the 20th-ranked player in eight-category leagues to pick up a few more regular-season wins.

That said, owners still fighting for a playoff spot should now have their eye firmly trained on E’Twaun Moore, who has given the banged-up Bulls some positive minutes of late. Since moving into the starting lineup seven games ago, the Purdue product has averaged 12.4 points on 47.3 percent shooting, 2.7 assists, 2.6 rebounds and 1.7 triples in 33.1 minutes, and he now figures to maintain a chokehold on a huge role through the end of the month. Give him a look whether you own Butler or not if you’re in need of some short-term help.

All Player Rater data and ownership percentages via and are current as of Tuesday, Feb. 9.

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