The hits just keep on coming from the injury bug.
Over the weekend, we heard that Amar’e Stoudemire needs a procedure to fix his knee that will cost him 6-8 weeks. And here on Monday, we learn that Kyrie Irving’s season is likely over due to a left shoulder sprain that will sideline him for the next 3-4 weeks.
As a proud Irving owner in League Freak, let me just say that I am in fantasy mourning as I peck away at this article. My slim hopes of winning my first League Freak title just took a serious hit.
Unfortunately, this is a recurring theme for Kyrie, who missed significant time earlier this season with a broken hand, and more recently due to a knee injury. If the Cavs decide to shut him down to rest that pesky shoulder, Irving will finish this season with a measly 49 games. Last year, Irving appeared in 51 of 66 games due to a myriad of injuries. In his one-and-done year at Duke, Irving played only 11 games, starting eight of them, thanks to a toe injury.
Going forward, there are two ways to look at Irving the fantasy player. If you have not owned him in either of his two seasons, you will probably try to go bargain shopping for him in next year’s draft. And if you have owned him, then he may have scorned you to the point of passing on him for lesser talent due to the injury risk.
I have owned Irving in each of his two pro seasons, and while I believe in the player (huge fan, actually), I no longer believe in the body of the player. There aren’t too many guys who average 23 points, 5.7 assists, 1.9 threes, and 1.6 steals, with shooting percentages of 47-41-84. However, given the parade of injuries over the past three years, it appears those numbers may be Fool’s Gold.
Moving on, one of the main fantasy beneficiaries of Irving’s injury is Shaun Livingston. Yep, the same Shaun Livingston who survived one of the worst knee injuries in the history of sports a few years back. Livingston recently started three games for Irving, averaging 13.3 points on 50+ percent shooting in exactly 33 minutes each game. Buyer beware: Livingston doesn’t hit threes or steal the rock, so his upside is limited.
Look for Dion Waiters and C.J. Miles to play more minutes and jack up more shots without Irving in the lineup. Of the two, look for the biggest spike in fantasy value from Waiters, who averaged 21.7 points in 34 minutes in three recent games without Kyrie.
Miles is averaging 13.4 points, 2.4 threes, and 1.8 steals in 22.6 minutes in five games this month. Assuming his minutes creep toward 30, even if he comes off the bench, it’s not hard to see Miles scoring 15+ with plenty of goodies every night.
Rick Kamla is an anchor on NBA TV. You can follow him on Twitter at @NBATVRick.