Injuries to elite player are more devastating in fantasy basketball than any other sport. There are always home runs and steals to be found on baseball’s waiver wire and whenever a football player gets hurt, there are others on his own team that will benefit from the extra chances.
But you just can’t find 24 points per game off the waiver wire. There are only a handful of players of that caliber and you need to be in the upper half of your league’s draft to get them. No one player can replace their production and that’s what Danny Granger’s owners are facing right now.
Granger is out for the next six weeks with a heel injury that is so significant that he needed a wheelchair to get off the team plane.
Unfortunately for Granger’s owners, it will be impossible to replace his immense production (24.4. points, 3.1 3-pointers, 6.1 rebounds, 1.6 steals, 1.0 blocks).
Indiana has already hinted that without Granger, the team needs to revert to its up-tempo, small-ball style from the past couple of seasons in order to win games. In short, expect offense and a lot of it from the Pacers in the near future.
Every player on the Pacers gets a little more valuable now that Granger is no longer there to dominate minutes and shots. Here’s a breakdown of the major beneficiaries.
Troy Murphy (PF/C): Murphy battled a back injury earlier this season and the loss of Granger makes him a great buy-low option Ranked 36th overall in the preseason projections, he’s set to be the Pacers’ go-to guy for a while.
Last season, Murphy averaged 14.3 points, 2.2 3-pointers and 11.8 rebounds per game. He shot .475 percent from the floor and .826 from the line. Those numbers combined with center eligibility are a rare combination.
While he’s off to a rough start, Murphy was projected for 13.2 points, 1.8 3-pointers, 10.2 rebounds and percentages of .465/.811 this season. Expect him ctually exceed those numbers until Granger returns.
Murphy has slowly been rounding into form with 42 points, 27 rebounds and seven 3-pointers in his last three games. It’s his team now.
T.J. Ford (PG): There’s no way around it, Ford’s season has been a disaster so far. The best way to chronicle his ineptitude is to post his stats next to the preseason projection:
I guess we should be happy his rebounds are up? Even Ford’s per minute numbers are ugly. He’s having the worst season of his career and his playing time is suffering as a result.
The good news is that Granger’s absence will put the ball in Ford’s hands more, which will give him added opportunities to produce. And he can’t possibly be worse than he has been.
Ford’s also a great buy-low option at this point and a ton of owners have probably cut him loose. He can be had cheaply but probably not for much longer.
Mike Dunleavy (SF): Dunleavy was one of the riskier picks in this year’s draft. He was hampered by a knee injury last season and there were no clear answers regarding the status of his knee around draft time. He was a “cross your fingers” type of pick.
Dunleavy returned a little over a week ago and has been solid in five games, averaging 12.2 points, 1.0 3-pointer, and 1.0 steal while playing just 20.8 minutes per game.
Coach Jim O’Brien has already said the Pacers are not willing to give Dunleavy more minutes yet. Dunleavy’s already taking plenty of shots while he’s out there, so his production won’t likely increase until his minutes do.
There will be a gradual increase in minutes, but it’s possible that by the time Dunleavy returns to full health, Granger may be back as well. Either way, Dunleavy remains a scenario where you just have to hope for the best.
Dahntay Jones (SG/SF): Perhaps the biggest surprise on Indiana’s roster thusfar, Jones has averaged 15.3 points and nearly one steal and one block this season. Nothing he has done in his career until this season indicated he could be this productive.
Jones will slide into Granger’s spot in the starting lineup. He has posted 16.8 points, 4.1 steals, 2.1 assists, 1.0 block and 0.9 steals per 36 minutes this season. His percentages .447/.819 are fine for a small forward, but it would be nice if he shot more 3-pointers (only 0.2 3-pointers per 36 minutes).
Jones will definitely provide some scoring bunch and some defensive stats but doesn’t rebounds, pass or shoot well enough to make him truly strong in any one category. Still, he should be snatched up in all leagues.
Earl Watson (PG): Watson has actually provided better fantasy value than Ford this season, ranking 149th in eight-category leagues according to Basketball Monster. Ford came in at 196th.
And Watson is the one true barrier to Ford regaining his full value in the next few weeks. Watson is getting nearly as many minutes as Ford this season and has more with them.
But the simple fact remains: Ford is a better player than Watson. Six weeks of subpar play from Ford doesn’t change that. And furthermore, Watson is nursing a hamstring injury that may force him to miss the next few games, giving Ford a rock solid opportunity to turn things around.
Watson’s a decent player with an intriguing skill set but even if he starts getting 38 minutes per game, he’s fantasy value is limited.
Roy Hibbert (C)/Jeff Foster (C/PF): If Granger’s injury means more shots for Murphy, it also means Hibbert and Foster will have to do more dirty work on the inside for the Pacers.
Hibbert is the far better fantasy option and had a tremendous start to the season while Murphy was sidelined. He’s averaging 9.9 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per 36 minutes and is now in line to play more minutes once again.
In 15 games as a starter earlier this season, Hibbert averaged 9.5 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game. Similar numbers could be in line for the next couple of months.
Foster’s value is always low because he doesn’t do anything but rebound. But boy, he does it well. He’s averaged 10 or more rebounds per 36 minutes in each of his 11 seasons, including 11.2 this season.
The presence of Hibbert will keep Foster from logging the major minutes he has in the past so the odds of him finding his way onto many fantasy teams are slim.
Brandon Rush (SG/SF): Rush may see some added minutes and is going to be put back into the starting lineup, according to O’Brien. He’s shown an intriguing ability to combine blocks, steals and 3-pointers but until his awful percentages (.408/.652) get better, he’s got a few too many holes to rely on full time.