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Risk vs. Reward: Taking Chances to Win at Fantasy Basketball

Injuries play a major role in sports, real and fantasy alike. While many are unpredictable, some guys have a history of injuries that seem to lend credibility to the idea they will be hurt again. Many fantasy owners in yearly leagues have owned these players before and therefore aren’t going to take them again after feeling burned. This creates value for you, but not without risk of them being right, of course.

Stephen Curry was once labeled injury prone. I remember in one of my keeper leagues a few years ago he went in the second round of that draft due to constantly being injured. That owner’s team has been at the top or near it every year since. Guys with elite talent can sometimes be worth the risk. In this article I want to talk about a few players who aren’t quite on that high of a level but have provided immense top fifty value at a bargain draft price.

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Eric Gordon and Bradley Beal

Two top-50 fantasy stars this season drafted for cheap due to injury risk.


Eric Gordon

Easy injury, Eric Gordon. Famous for being involved in the trade that sent Chris Paul to the Clippers (seriously, I still don’t understand the veto to not allow the Lakers to acquire Paul). Eric was drafted in the first round, pick 7 overall. So his talent coming in to the Association was evident. For the most part, he lived up to the hype, when he was actually on the court. His problem was he spent large portions of every season in a suit on the sidelines.

Gordon’s games played over his first eight seasons were 78, 62, 56, 9, 42, 64, 61, and 45. Knee injuries, fractured fingers, shoulder injuries, you name it, Gordon had it. When something happened it was like, this guy again? For a few seasons owners can buy that a guy is unlucky with freak accidents. But for seven straight seasons? Enter 2017 and the Houston Rockets. Will he play all year? I wouldn’t bet on it. But for owners who took a chance, check out their reward.

ESPN had Eric Gordon ranked preseason at a lovely 123. That barely makes the roster in some leagues. So far this year, Gordon has averaged 17.4 PTS, 3.7 3PM, 2.6 REB, 2.9 AST, .7 STL, .5 BLK, 1.8 TO, while shooting .431 percent from the field and .827 from the free throw line. Those numbers have earned him a rank 37 so far this year. Not bad for a potential last round pick! Even more impressive is over the last thirty days he is ranked number 20.


Bradley Beal

Bradley “Stress you out with stress injuries” Beal. I don’t think I ever truly understood what a stress fracture even was until this guy. Apparently you can get injured just by playing too much and not any specific impactful moment. Really weird. Anyway, Bradley was drafted in the first round at pick 3 overall. This guy was definitely supposed to be special, and he showed glimpses of it each season. But then at some point he would get hit with the dreaded stress fracture, or some other injury to sap his year.

Beal’s games played over his first four seasons were 56, 73, 63, and 55. Not quite the length of Gordon’s shortened seasons list, but still a pretty concerning streak none the less. That’s three out of four seasons with too low of a game count to be impactful for his teams. This year Washington honored him with a max deal contract despite all of that, and Beal claims to have found some sort of diet or exercise routine to put the stress injuries behind him. For owners who carried the stress of drafting him, here is their reward.

ESPN had Bradley Beal ranked preseason at an optimistic 75. Not terrible but still a rotational player. So far this year Bradley has averaged 22.2 PTS, 2.8 3PM, 2.8 REB, 3.7 AST, 1.0 STL, 0.3 BLK, 1.8 TO, while shooting .449 percent from the field and .817 from the free throw line. Those numbers have earned him a rank of 47 so far this year. Not as huge of a jump as Gordon but considering Beal is just twenty-three years old that has to be exciting for owners in keeper/dynasty leagues. Over the past thirty days he is ranked even higher at number 34.



Injuries suck and can ruin your fantasy teams. After writing this, Bradley got a minor ankle sprain which probably has a lot of owners holding their breath. Nobody wants their star players not to play. But to win at fantasy, you have to get players who are going to perform better than the place you drafted them. That includes grabbing guys off the waiver wire who you didn’t draft at all. If all you do is draft safe mediocre players without a lot of upside, you are destined for a lot of safe middle of the road finishes. I’m sure Anthony Davis owners are pretty happy so far, as he dropped to the latter half of their first rounds.