Welcome to the latest 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 in the East and how we can use that to our advantage in our FanDuel lineup building.
Note: The Eastern Conference had more happenings in the past week than the Western Conference has had of late, so I am writing up the East for a second consecutive week, and will return to breaking down the West next week.
Injuries: Tiago Splitter (hip, day-to-day)
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. In an interesting small forward position battle, Thabo Sefolosha has been announced as the starting small forward for Monday’s game, which will send Bazemore to the bench. This situation will be in flux all year long, and it’s best to avoid this spot. The rest of the starters are certainly in play as daily fantasy options on most nights.
Injuries: Marcus Smart (knee, out 3-4 more weeks)
Notes: With Marcus Smart on the shelf, both Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley are secure in their backcourt roles. Both will play around 33-35 minutes per night, and they can definitely be targeted in FanDuel games. The frontcourt is much less settled. Jared Sullinger tends to be the most consistent option, but even his minutes are up-and-down. Evan Turner also gets a boost in Smart’s absence, as he will play backup minutes at the guard spots in addition to time spent at small forward.
Best Position Battle: None
Notes: 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. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has locked down a starting wing spot alongside Joe Johnson, but those two players have significantly less upside than the others.
Notes: Al Jefferson is not the fantasy asset he once was, and he’s also banged up and getting older, so the upside is limited here. Walker and Batum are the primary assets in Charlotte, and Batum is having a solid start to the year in the two-guard role for his new team. Jeremy Lamb could be an interesting target down the road if he gets a starting spot, while Marvin Williams and Cody Zeller are locked into a time-share at power forward. Batum and Walker are the primary targets to note on this squad.
Safest Minutes: Jimmy Butler
Notes: Nikola Mirotic has had an up-and-down start to the season, but he appears to still have a decent grasp on a starting spot. The frontcourt minutes are still unpredictable, with Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Bobby Portis also fighting for minutes. Only Gasol is averaging north of 30 minutes per game out of the whole bunch. The safe play in Chicago is the ever-reliable Butler, who continues to improve as a player. Derrick Rose has been up-and-down to start the year and will likely see fewer minutes once Hinrich is back in the mix, though Rose remains the unquestioned starter at the point.
Notes: The production here comes mainly from James and Love, who carry the highest usage rates, while Tristan Thompson played while in Timofey Mozgov’s absence. Mozgov returned over the weekend, however, which means this will once again become an uninspiring timeshare. J.R. Smith has surprisingly gotten extensive run at shooting guard, while Mo Williams and Matthew Dellavedova fight for minutes at the point. Smith’s fantasy production is spotty, but the playing time is hard to argue.
Best Position Battle: None
Notes: (No change from last week) - 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.
Injuries: Myles Turner (thumb, out 3-4 more weeks)
Best Position Battle: Power forward – cast of many
Notes: Paul George is officially a fantasy stud again, and he is now priced like it on the daily fantasy sites. George Hill is the only other semi-reliable option on the team, but he takes a hit with how much Paul George handles the ball. The wing options are up-and-down, though C.J. Miles has the inside track at the most minutes these days. Ian Mahinmi also gets a small boost at center with Myles Turner out of commission, but he lacks significant upside.
Injuries: Luol Deng (hamstring, day-to-day)
Notes: The Heat generally play at a slow pace, and they are not very exciting for fantasy purposes. In the absence of Deng, Gerald Green has had a few very strong games, and he is certainly worth a look as a cheap DFS option for as long as Deng remains out. Outside of this spot, the only real targets are Bosh, Whiteside, and Dwyane Wade, but even they are only solid picks in the right matchup given the general slow pace the Heat play at.
Injuries: Greivis Vasquez (ankle, day-to-day)
Notes: The Bucks are pretty much fully healthy now, and that means Jason Kidd has plenty of toys to tinker with. He started Jerryd Bayless over Michael Carter-Williams over the weekend, a logical move given how poorly Carter-Williams has played of late. He also chose to go with a small lineup, starting O.J. Mayo at shooting guard and moving Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton to forward spots while sending Jabari Parker to the bench. Kidd clearly likes Bayless and Mayo, and they could be viable cheap options until their price tags catch up with the recent uptick in minutes. Be sure to check the RG NBA starting lineups page for clarification.
New York Knicks
Injuries: Carmelo Anthony (illness, day-to-day)
Best Position Battle: None
Notes: How good has Kristaps Porzingis been for the Knicks? He is officially a fantasy stud, and he was fantastic in Anthony’s absence on Sunday. The rotation is actually fairly straight-forward at this point, even though some of the players (Robin Lopez, Arron Afflalo, and others) are not necessarily top-shelf fantasy assets. Afflalo’s return has really cut into the minutes of Jerian Grant and Langston Galloway.
Safest Minutes: Nobody is safe!
Injuries: C.J. Watson (calf, day-to-day)
Notes: Understanding Scott Skiles and his rotations is a near-impossible task. Channing Frye has started for Victor Oladipo of late, but he isn’t playing heavy minutes and he has no fantasy upside. Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris, and Elfrid Payton can all be fantasy assets at times, but you never know when they are going to get 25 minutes and when they are going to get 35 minutes. That makes every last person risky on a night-to-night basis.
Injuries: Nerlens Noel (knee, day-to-day), Kendall Marshall (knee, out 2-3 more weeks), Carl Landry (wrist, out 4-6 more weeks), Tony Wroten (knee, out 1-2 more weeks), Joel Embiid (foot, likely out for season)
Notes: The Sixers are still winless, but they have been much more competitive since Isaiah Canaan and Robert Covington entered the starting lineup. Canaan has more play-making upside than T.J. McConnell, and Covington is probably the best all-around player on the team. Jahlil Okafor has been a solid fantasy asset, but you have to wonder if his off-the-court problems will catch up at some point.
Injuries: Jonas Valanciunas (hand, out 5-7 more weeks)
Notes: The backcourt is obviously solid, and both Lowry and DeRozan will play heavy minutes most nights. Bismack Biyombo is also becoming a fantasy asset as the most reliable big man in the absence of Valanciunas. Carroll is a defensive stopper who also has a steady path to minutes. The only timeshare is at power forward, where Scola and Patterson are still stuck in a difficult timeshare.
Notes: (No change from last week) - 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.