Brinks injury opens door for Li, Stevens and a ROY candidate

Prior to the season-ending injury, Cameron Brink was one of the favorites for Rookie of the Year. Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Cameron Brink's impressive rookie season came to a sudden halt this week as a result of an injury to her left knee. On Wednesday, it was confirmed that the talented Los Angeles Sparks forward will be out for the season due to a torn ACL. This news will undoubtedly have ripple effects in both the fantasy women's basketball and betting landscapes.

Brink, the No. 2 overall pick in April, was averaging 8.1 PPG, 5.7 RPG, and 2.5 BPG entering Tuesday's meeting with the Connecticut Sun. Most of her fantasy value came from her defensive stats, especially in blocks and steals, although she did score at least 10 points in five games.

As fantasy managers scramble to fill the void with Brink out, two players on the Sparks jump out. Li Yueru (rostered in 7.3% of ESPN leagues) has scored 21-plus fantasy points in the two games this season where she's played at least 24 minutes. Azura Stevens (15.3% rostered) averaged 10.8 PPG and 6.0 RPG last season and is someone else the Sparks could lean on once she returns from a an arm injury in the coming weeks.

From a betting perspective, Brink's injury removes a third top contender from the Rookie of the Year Award race, leaving it primarily between Caitlin Clark (-2500) and Angel Reese (+1000). However, for those seeking a dark horse candidate, consider Sparks forward Rickea Jackson (+6600). Selected No. 4 overall, Jackson is poised to see increased playing time with Brink sidelined, and has excelled during the past five games (12.8 PPG, 5.2 RPG and 1.6 APG).

With the Sparks currently holding a 4-11 record and set to facing the toughest schedule going forward based on opponents' winning percentages, betting on Los Angeles to finish under 10.5 wins (-130) seems like a smart move.

Looking ahead to next season and beyond, Brink's 15 games as a rookie provided a good look at the defensive impact she brings to the court and her offensive upside as well. Case in point: over her first 15 games as a rookie, Brink accumulated at least 100 points, 75 rebounds, 25 assists and 25 blocks. Only Breanna Stewart, Elena Delle Donne and Candace Parker achieved this feat as rookies, all going on to win Rookie of the Year and have stellar professional careers.

While Brink will not now have a chance to win the award, she certainly has the potential to become one of the league's elite defenders once she returns to the court in future seasons.