Welcome to the second edition of the 2015-2016 Eastern Conference edition of the NBA Minutes Watch column. In this series, I will break down changes and updates to the rotations of all the NBA teams over the course of the season.
This column will come to you early each week, and I will rotate weeks between the Western and Eastern Conferences, whereby every team will get updated on a two-week basis. Here's a look at how things have shaken out lately and how we can use that to our advantage in our FanDuel lineup building.
Best Position Battle: None
Notes: The Hawks tend to be the best team in the league as far as injury reporting goes, and this is helpful because they often rest players on back-to-backs or other extended game situations. Kyle Korver is slowly seeing his minutes restrictions go away as he has more games under his belt coming off injury. Kent Bazemore has been a pleasant surprise this year and still has a firm grip on the small forward job for the time being, though he is somewhat banged up at the moment. There are no major position battles to discuss right now, but Dennis Schroder is an intriguing value option whenever Jeff Teague or Kyle Korver receive a rest day.
Best Position Battle: Everywhere?
Notes: On the contrary to the Hawks, Brad Stevens tends to be among the worst at predictability. He is constantly shuffling around his frontcourt rotation, and his most explosive player (Thomas) is often used as the sixth man. Avery Bradley is the only one who appears to have a defined role, though Thomas has started of late with Marcus Smart out of commission. The frontcourt is essentially hands-off for fantasy purposes.
Injuries: Wayne Ellington (illness, day-to-day)
Notes: (No change from two weeks ago) - The Nets are not a good team, but they are relatively straight-forward for fantasy purposes. The three players listed above with “safe” minutes tend to be the top fantasy options here, with Lopez carrying the most upside and Young being the most consistent player for NBA DFS purposes. The wing spots are essentially hands off, as four players are splitting minutes. The only reliable play there is Joe Johnson, and he is a shell of his former self these days.
Notes: Walker and Batum have become the primary assets in Charlotte, and Batum is going to have one of his best seasons in his first year for the team. Jeremy Lamb could be an interesting target down the road if he gets a starting spot, and Marvin Williams seems to be holding off Cody Zeller at power forward. Al Jefferson isn’t the fantasy asset he used to be as the Hornets are monitoring his minutes, but he had a very productive game against the woeful Sixers last week. He can still be a solid per-minute player, so keep an eye on his workload going forward.
Safest Minutes: Jimmy Butler
Notes: The frontcourt play in Chicago remains difficult to predict, as minutes are spread thin between five different players. The most reliable option is generally Pau Gasol, but his upside is capped by the fact that he only plays around 32-34 minutes per game at the most. The safest option in Chicago is the ever-reliable Butler, who continues to improve as a player. He has also been tasked with running the offense more often with Derrick Rose and Aaron Brooks both dealing with injuries at the moment.
Best Position Battle: None
Notes: The Cavaliers are one of the most injury-ravaged teams in the league right now, and they have some clear fantasy beneficiaries over the next few weeks. That large contract for Tristan Thompson is starting to look like more of a good thing, as Thompson will slide into the starting lineup in place of the injured Timofey Mozgov. Thompson was fantastic on Saturday and should be a fine daily fantasy asset for the next few weeks. In addition, Matthew Dellavedova is picking up more minutes at the point with both Mo Williams and Kyrie Irving sidelined. Of course, LeBron James and Kevin Love are picking up some slack offensively, as well.
Best Position Battle: None
Notes: (No change from two weeks ago) - Stan Van Gundy has become a very fantasy friendly coach, as most of the Detroit starters are logging heavy minutes. Jackson, Drummond, and Morris have all been fantastic in the early going, and the Pistons are off to a good start to the year. Coach Van Gundy did mention that he is limiting Ersan Ilyasova to around 26-28 minutes per game so as to not wear him down. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is also cemented into his starting role, especially with Meeks and Jennings out, but he doesn’t carry the upside of the other players.
Best Position Battle: Power forward – cast of many
Notes: Paul George is obviously the fantasy stalwart in Indiana, and he is back to his pre-injury form. He is going to be a fine option all season long provided that he stays healthy. Ian Mahinmi is picking up a few more minutes on the interior with Myles Turner out, and he could be a reliable option in the coming weeks. Ellis has been seeing more ball-handling duties with George Hill sidelined, and he is finally getting settled in with his new team. The power forward spot is up in the air, though this sometimes becomes the small forward spot if Paul George shifts to the four. Chase Budinger and C.J. Miles are on the inside track for minutes right now, but nothing is set in stone.
Notes: The Heat generally play at a slow pace, and they are not very exciting for fantasy purposes. Bosh and Whiteside are the headliners here, as Dwyane Wade isn’t the player he once was and doesn’t play extremely heavy minutes anymore. One thing to watch going forward is that Whiteside has been on the bench down the stretch for a few games, as the Heat have gone with Bosh at center and both Luol Deng and Justise Winslow in the frontcourt together. Given Whiteside’s rebounding prowess, this is a curious move by Coach Spoelstra. He changes his mind often, however, so this might be a temporary thing.
Notes: (No change from two weeks ago) - Though Jason Kidd gets a bad rap for his rotations, he has actually been somewhat consistent so far this season. The three safe players listed above are all playing 33+ minutes per game. The only spot to avoid is the point guard spot, where there are four bodies available when everyone is fully healthy. In addition, the return of Jabari Parker will push Antetokounmpo to the small forward spot and Middleton to the shooting guard spot, thus squeezing out another guard play in the process.
New York Knicks
Injuries: Arron Afflalo (hamstring, day-to-day)
Notes: Porzingis has been a great addition for the Knicks, and he is quickly ascending up the fantasy ranks at the power forward spot after his monster game on Saturday that featured seven blocks. Carmelo Anthony’s role is obviously secure, and he’s the other reliable source of production here. The backcourt is still in desperate need of a shakeup, as Jose Calderon is somehow garnering 30+ minutes a game at this point. However, Arron Afflalo’s return has been a nice boost to the squad. Afflalo is the most reliable fantasy option on the wing for the Knicks, though he is by no means a fantasy star.
Injuries: C.J. Watson (calf, day-to-day)
Best Position Battle: None
Notes: Scott Skiles is at it again, as he has benched Nikola Vucevic in back-to-back games for poor effort. Perhaps nobody should be listed in the “safest minutes” column for this team, as Skiles can shake things up on a whim. On a normal night, the starters are generally all decent options. Payton is seeing a few more minutes as backup point guard C.J. Watson has been banged up for the past few weeks.
Notes: The Sixers are still winless, as they let a potential victory slip away on Saturday in Miami. The most interesting depth chart spot to monitor here is at small forward, where Robert Covington has returned and is starting to play more minutes. It is likely only a matter of time before he wrestles a starting spot away from Jerami Grant. Jahlil Okafor has had issues with getting his shots blocked, but he is still the most reliable offensive option on this team, as he put up a solid 16 and 11 line against the Heat over the weekend.
Injuries: Jonas Valanciunas (hand, out 6-8 weeks)
Notes: The Raptors will be a team to monitor going forward, as they have taken a hit on the interior with the loss of Jonas Valanciunas. Scola, Patterson, and Biyombo will all be asked to share in picking up the slack, and it was Biyombo who drew the start on Sunday. Of course, more of the offensive production will shift to the three reliable options in Lowry, DeRozan, and Carroll. All of them should be counted on for 34-38 minutes on a nightly basis.
Notes: John Wall has been a bit disappointing of late, but he will be an interesting daily fantasy target if his price starts to drop. The frontcourt has been led by a surprising Otto Porter Jr. He is having a great season so far and has established nice mid-tier value going forward. His minutes are secure, and that’s something that cannot be said for the rest of the frontcourt options in Washington.