I remember an interview with Boston Celtic’s SG, Ray Allen, and his response to the initials concerns surrounding the NBA lockout. He advised players to “Just stay in shape”. Allen has had prior lockout experience and if I was a player in the NBA and wanted to trust anyone’s advice, it’s going to be that of the 3-point NBA King!
I found a published article in a respected medical journal about injury ramifications on the effects of lockouts. The study looks closely at achilles tendon injuries in the NFL, but suggests for the NBA as well. Sports medicine expert, Timothy Hewett , PhD, Director of Research at The Ohio State University Medical Center’s sports medicine department suggests that NBA sports injuries, in response to a 149-Day lockout will increase at a rate of 2, 3, 4 times higher than in the NFL, because of longer duration.
In fact, already 4 days into the NBA pre-season, Boston’s SF, Paul Pierce, has sustained a heel injury preventing him from practice. Pierce has injury history with the achilles tendon in past seasons that have hampered his minutes in games. He is currently sitting out preseason team practices.
Pretty scarey stuff for fantasy players, but better to be prepared for BAD news, than losing hair and your bragging rights in your fantasy leagues!
The last NBA lockout, in 1998, forced just a 50-game season and really painted a clear picture of what happens when NBA players don’t practice and have shorten training camps before the season starts.
1. Slower Games
When NBA players returned in 1998, the NBA saw much uglier, lower scoring games. Teams averaged less possessions than in any other season and saw points per game drop to 91 PPG from 96-97 PPG. Because teams had less coaching and practice time, the ugliness extended all the way into the post-season.
2. Lower Efficiency
The biggest reason for the pace of games is lousy player efficiency. Just take a look at the drop off in player percentages from 97-98 in the lockout shortened season among all players who averaged 10 or more minutes per game:
3-Pt. FG%: -2%
3. Out of Shape Players
The biggest question mark at the start of the season will be which players actually kept in basketball shape in the off-season. We saw many star players participate in various exhibition games but with close to 400 players in the league (and rookies) we can only guess right now. Big name players also played overseas, therefore a fair assumption can be made that physical conditioning for players will be inconsistent.
In both the 98 NBA lockout and the 2011 NFL lockout, we saw players who were not ready to play and their stats suffered dramatically.
4. Who is Going Where?
With free agency and trading now underway, it is impossible to know where some key players will end up. With the destination of free agents like Dwight Howard, CP3, Nene Hilario, Jamal Crawford, and David West up in the air (as well as potential trade bait like Rajon Rondo), it is going to be almost impossible to draft your league well before Christmas Day.
So we already know that efficiency, pace, and individual performance will be down on the part of many players, what to do?
Draft As Late As Possible: Some Fantasy Basketball enthusiasts are already itching to hold a draft – if you have any say, try to push the draft back as much as possible since we won’t know everyone’s destination until the end of the two-week training camp, and probably even after that.
Draft Young: Avoid older players and players who are injury prone. Older players will be at the largest disadvantage because they need that all-too-important training camp and pre-season to stretch out and get their bodies back into game shape.
Avoid Rookies: Rookies, on the other hand, are coming over from college with no idea of what to expect on their NBA teams. They have yet to learn their systems, play with their teammates, or even have a basketball discussion with their coaches. You need look no farther than the NFL to see how much rookies need the pre-season.
Prepare To Pay Attention: There are a lot of question marks around the league right now and the frenzy of upcoming moves won’t help much. Be prepared to keep tabs on the league all year to quickly identify the breakout and sleeper talent, it won’t happen in the draft. Monitor player injuries and research player injury history to calculate risk for your fantasy rosters.