Welcome to the latest edition of the NBA Minutes Watch column, where we’ll keep you updated on the latest rotation changes around the league. As opposed to doing the East/West alternating approach, I am going to change up the format for the stretch run. At this point, some teams are more predictable than others, and updating the teams where not much has changed seems a bit antiquated right now. Therefore, I will touch on the teams that have the most pressing updates at this point of the season.
Here's a look at the biggest rotation changes for the week of March 16th and how those changes may affect your FanDuel NBA lineups.
Beware of all Hawks. With literally nothing to play for at this point and the top seed in the Eastern Conference on virtual lockdown, the Hawks will be very cautious with their starters down the stretch. Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap, and DeMarre Carroll were all scratched after FanDuel’s roster lock time on Sunday, and this will be a common occurrence going forward. Be very careful on all back-to-backs. When the scratches do occur, you can look to Kent Bazemore, Shelvin Mack, and Dennis Schroder as potential value plays when they get thrust into 30+ minute roles. Otherwise, the Hawks are going to be very hard to trust over the last few weeks.
Kelly Olynyk is back in the fold, and Isaiah Thomas is likely to return to action Monday evening. That will clutter up the rotation for Brad Stevens, and it makes several players very hard to trust. Brandon Bass seems to have carved out the most consistent role in the frontcourt, as he plays around 30 minutes per game and has been scoring and rebounding very effectively since the beginning of February. Thomas will take some minutes away from both Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley, but those three should still see the bulk of the playing time at the two guard spots. All three will remain decent targets for the rest of the regular season.
As the Nets attempt to chase down a playoff spot in the watered-down Eastern Conference, we have a lot of moving parts here. Let’s start with the backcourt. Deron Williams and Markel Brown are the starters now, but Brown does not see enough consistent playing time to be a fantasy factor. In fact, the Nets are becoming more comfortable with playing Deron Williams and Jarrett Jack together at times. Williams is the only reliable fantasy asset here, as he appears to have his 30+ minute role back in tow.
In the frontcourt, Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young have supplanted Mason Plumlee and the now-departed Kevin Garnett in the starting lineup. Both are solid options, though their minutes tend to fluctuate between 25 to 40 per game, depending on their level of effort and game flow. However, they are solid, high-upside picks on most nights.
As the Bulls try to maintain their status in the top half of the Eastern Conference, they are finding the sledding to be a little bit tricky. Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler remain sidelined, which leaves more fantasy production to go around for Aaron Brooks and Pau Gasol. These two are the primary playmakers for the team, and both play around 32-36 minutes per game. Nikola Mirotic is also stepping into a major role while Taj Gibson is hobbled, and Mirotic is finding himself on the floor in place of Joakim Noah in crunch time. Noah is still on a minutes restriction as well. In short, the guys to target here remain Brooks, Gasol and the emerging Mirotic. Mike Dunleavy is back and starting again, but his production even in extended playing time leaves a bit to be desired.
The Nuggets are going to be another team to monitor down the stretch. They are being cautious with guys like Danilo Gallinari, Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried, Randy Foye and Wilson Chandler in back-to-back sets. On nights where everyone is active, Lawson and Gallinari look to be the safest bets for minutes. Both will play around 36 minutes per game on a typical night. Kenneth Faried is a high-risk, high-reward play who has been thriving ever since Brian Shaw was fired. Give these guys a look on nights where they are active.
Will Barton is coming on strong as a sixth man and potential explosive option off the bench. He has thrived in games where Lawson and/or Gallinari have been out, and he should be in the back of your mind when these scenarios arise. He is even worth considering on nights where the Nuggets employ a full roster. The rest of the team is a bit hard to predict, though Jusuf Nurkic possesses intriguing upside. He’s a solid tournament option though he isn’t guaranteed more than around 20 minutes per game.
Golden State Warriors
Along with the Hawks, the Warriors are a team we need to be careful with over the last month of the season. They are virtually locked into the best record in the Western Conference, and rest days may be in play as we forge ahead. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are obviously locked into major roles on the nights that they play. However, with blowouts and potential rest days on the horizon, the Warriors become a less attractive team to target for daily games. Keep an eye on the news wires and plug in guys like Shaun Livingston when the starters are rested.
The Pacers have suddenly become a guard-oriented team, and it’s paying dividends for fantasy purposes. George Hill and Rodney Stuckey are the fantasy winners in this case, as both are producing the goods in extended minutes. The expense has come at the hands of David West and Roy Hibbert, as both of those players are now somewhat irrelevant on a daily basis. Hill, Stuckey and C.J. Miles are locked into 32-36 minute roles, and they are the players you want to target moving forward. West and Hibbert tend to play closer to 24-28 minutes, and their production is slipping. The rest of the team can be ignored for daily fantasy games.
Los Angeles Clippers
Jamal Crawford’s injury status does not sound good, and this will open the door for J.J. Redick and Matt Barnes to continue playing 35+ minutes per game. Redick has been particularly good of late, though his lack of contributions to peripheral stat categories is always a bit of a drag. The real news is the return of Blake Griffin. Now that he’s back, everyone else on this roster is going to be overpriced on FanDuel. Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan have been carrying the load, but they will lose a bit of usage with Griffin finally back.
Los Angeles Lakers
Byron Scott simply doesn’t care about us as fantasy owners. He is constantly tinkering with his lineups and rotations, and he has already randomly announced that Jeremy Lin will start the last 10 games of the season. I have basically written the Lakers off as a fantasy-picking entity. Not a single player on the team is guaranteed more than 28 minutes per game, and attempting to figure out Byron Scott is like trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube in two minutes. That gets a big “no thanks” from me.
The Timberwolves are becoming a real headache to peg from a fantasy perspective, too. Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Garnett have become perpetual game-time decisions. Rubio has been a fantastic contributor for the team of late, but the Wolves will certainly be cautious with their best player’s ankle. When Pekovic and Garnett are sidelined, both Gorgui Dieng and Justin Hamilton receive sizeable fantasy boosts in 32-36 minute roles. Hamilton is really coming on strong right now. The only constants of late have been Kevin Martin and Andrew Wiggins, both of whom play 40 minutes on a regular basis and see major roles in the Minnesota offense.
New York Knicks
Along with the aforementioned Lakers, the Knicks are one of the laughingstocks of the 2014-2015 season. They are currently sporting a combination of youth and old-age resurgence, and it’s hard to peg their rotations on a game-by-game basis. Andrea Bargnani has come out of nowhere to be fantasy relevant again, though the team sometimes limits his minutes in back-to-back situations. Alexey Shved is creating a new version of Linsanity in New York, and he appears to be the guy you want to roster from New York these days. The revolving door at shooting guard, small forward, and center remain the spots to avoid even with Carmelo Anthony on the shelf.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The injury bug keeps on biting the Oklahoma City Thunder. News came out this morning that Serge Ibaka needs a procedure and will be sidelined indefinitely, and Kevin Durant remains out. Enes Kanter is the big winner with all this news, as he has put together several spectacular performances in recent games. Fire him up as a top-shelf option before his price rises too much, as he will be locked into major minutes with Ibaka out. Steven Adams also gets a sizeable bump here.
The wings are still too difficult to predict. Andre Roberson, Dion Waiters, Anthony Morrow and others all split playing time, and none of them are consistent. If you want to target an Oklahoma City guard, the answer is obviously to play Russell Westbrook. His fantasy upside right now is unlike anything we have ever seen in this game. Fire him up while he’s still worth his $12-$13K price tag.
Alex Len and Brandon Knight remain sidelined, and as long as they are out we have some clear-cut winners in Phoenix. The team is playing P.J. Tucker at the two guard spot, which opens up a starting position for Marcus Morris. The younger Morris has been playing much better in his new role and should be considered a viable cheap play on FanDuel as long as Knight is out. In addition, Brandan Wright is enjoying a fantasy resurgence with Len on the shelf, as he has put up some big games in recent days. Eric Bledsoe carries a high price tag, but he is the only guy on the team who is generally guaranteed 38-40 minutes, and his price tag is hefty because of it.
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs are playing their best basketball of the season. Tony Parker, Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard have been a daily fantasy machine so far in the month of March, but things will get a little tricky down the stretch. You know Gregg Popovich will rest players when the Spurs face back-to-backs or three games in four nights, so this is definitely a fluid situation that you need to monitor. On nights where they are full go, Parker, Green and Leonard are definitely in play as 32-36 minute players.
Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter are fringe-worthy fantasy options at this point. Neither player is usually extended beyond 24-28 minutes, and it’s hard to prorate that into consistent fantasy production. Duncan is still a solid NBA player, but his days as an elite fantasy talent are now gone. He’s in a similar mold as Dirk Nowitzki at this point of his career.
What has gotten into this team? We have a couple of unsung fantasy risers in Rudy Gobert and Rodney Hood in Utah. Both players should be locked into 35+ minute roles down the stretch as Utah attempts to develop their young talent. In addition, Derrick Favors is becoming one of the better fantasy power forwards in the game. Gordon Hayward’s production has taken a step back, but he and Favors are also locked into steady roles for the team. The biggest uncertainty is at point guard, which is now a virtual time-share to avoid with Trey Burke and Dante Exum splitting minutes. The momentum definitely revolves around the twin towers and Hood right now.