5 injury risk players to stay away from in early rounds of NBA fantasy drafts

2021 NBA All-Star Game - Chris Paul x Kyrie Irving
2021 NBA All-Star Game - Chris Paul x Kyrie Irving
Brenden Nunes

Most fantasy basketball drafts are either complete or right around the corner with the NBA season set to tipoff on Tuesday. Typically, draft participants prefer to wait until the last moment possible to make their selections in case of any trades, injuries, or roster changes before opening night.

The very top of the draft, usually meaning the first and second rounds, hardly includes players that are common injury risks. Players who are consistently healthy and productive will always populate the majority of the top spots in fantasy NBA basketball.

However, there are always those risky names somewhere between the late second to fourth rounds who may produce at a first-round level. If they remain healthy, then your fantasy team ends up in great shape, but the risk is often not worth the potential reward.

Here are five players who are likely to be early-round selections in the NBA fantasy drafts that you may want to stay away from for injury concerns.

#5 Michael Porter Jr.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Denver Nuggets
Minnesota Timberwolves v Denver Nuggets

Michael Porter Jr. is a tricky case for fantasy NBA basketball. His history of back injuries from high school and college is well documented, and he also sat out his entire first season in the NBA with the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets are obviously comfortable in that regard as shown by their willingness to ink in a five-year $172-million max rookie extension this offseason.

Still, back injuries are no joke for NBA athletes, and they should not simply be ignored now that Porter has been healthy for roughly two seasons. Notably, without Jamal Murray for a large portion of the year, most expect Porter's offensive responsibility to jump in the 2021-22 NBA season.

Finding high-round selections was a difficult task for this list, and I understand feeling willing to take the risk on Porter Jr in the second or third rounds of fantasy drafts. Still, his history of concerning back injuries cannot just be ignored.

#4 Jaren Jackson Jr.

Memphis Grizzlies v Detroit Pistons
Memphis Grizzlies v Detroit Pistons

When healthy, Jaren Jackson Jr. is a fantasy NBA basketball beast. His 2019-20 averages of 17.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, and 2.5 threes made per game make for a killer fantasy statline.

At just 22-years-old Jackson also has plenty of room to grow, and while the Memphis Grizzlies are surely attempting to win every game possible, their primary focus seems to be developing their young talent.

At the moment, Jackson projects to be the number two option for franchise cornerstone Ja Morant. The big caveat is what was mentioned at the top, when healthy.

Jaren Jackson Jr. played just 11 of 72 possible games in the 2021-22 NBA season. His defensive potential has yet to be actualized, and his inability to stay on the floor has not done him any favors in that regard.

The Memphis Grizzlies seems fairly confident in his health moving forward, none of the injuries have been repeated, and just signed him to a four-year, $105-million extension. He may pay off in NBA fantasy, but be aware of the risks that come with selecting him early on.

#3 Chris Paul

Los Angeles Lakers v Phoenix Suns
Los Angeles Lakers v Phoenix Suns

It's funny how quickly the narrative changes in the NBA. Just over two years ago, Chris Paul was labeled as an injury-prone player who was always unavailable at the worst moment. His unfortunate injuries, while apart from the Houston Rockets, may have stopped him from securing what would have been his first NBA Championship.

Since the Rockets moved on from Paul, the Point God has played 70 games in back to back shortened seasons that were a total of 72 games a piece. His health has been immaculate during that timeframe, but years prior should not be ignored.

Chris Paul's average of 16.4 points, 8.9 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals per night make him a prime fantasy target. Just remember the injury concerns that surrounded Paul's name not long ago when considering taking him in the second round of your draft.

#2 Kyrie Irving

Boston Celtics v Brooklyn Nets - Game Five
Boston Celtics v Brooklyn Nets - Game Five

It may be cheating a bit to include Kyrie Irving on this list, because his predicted inactivity is not due to injury but he is still a major risk to select in the early rounds.

Irving's situation revolving around the COVID-19 vaccine and New York's local law prohibiting him from playing in home games is well documented. The Brooklyn Nets released a statement entailing that the team would not allow a player to only be available part-time and therefore Irving would not participate this season until further notice.

If you believe Irving and the Nets will find a workaround, or he gets vaccinated, then his previous fantasy numbers are absurd. Last year, the point guard averaged 26.9 points, 6.0 assists and 4.8 rebounds per night with the ability to catch fire at any given moment.

The outlier situation revolving around Irving this season makes him one of the more complicated players to place in NBA fantasy drafts this season. Personally, I would not be surprised if we do not see Kyrie Irving play NBA basketball this season and I plan to stay away from him in drafts.

#1 Zion Williamson

New Orleans Pelicans Media Day
New Orleans Pelicans Media Day

Zion Williamson's offseason foot surgery seems weirdly underreported among NBA circles. His weight has always been a polarizing topic of conversation since it contributes to his outlier strength and physical game but also is not ideal for a 82 game NBA schedule.

With likely little opportunity for physical conditioning while nursing a foot injury, pictures of Williamson have emerged that look as though he is notably bigger than years prior. On October 14th, the New Orleans Pelicans announced that their franchise cornerstone has no timetable for his return and will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

Not that he will be playing in two weeks, but that he will be re-evaluated and another update can be expected at that time. Without injuries, Zion is often found in the first round of NBA fantasy drafts for good reason. This year, though, fantasy owners should take a moment to consider the injury concerns that Williamson is dealing with having come off of foot surgery not long ago.

If he slips to the later rounds, around the third, then taking the risk is understandable, but I would be hesitant to consider him with my second round pick this fantasy season.

Also Read: What is Zion Williamson’s Current Contract?

Edited by Arnav Kholkar


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