Welcome to the final edition of the NBA Minutes Watch column, where we’ll keep you updated on the latest rotation changes around the league. 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 30th. This will be the final NBA Minutes Watch column of the year, so thanks so much for following along over the course of the season. Baseball is back in full force a week from today, while the NBA season winds down to its conclusion in just a few weeks. Hopefully this column was useful in your daily fantasy research for the 2014/2015 season!
Warning! Warning! Warning! The Hawks have secured the number one seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, and they care not for your fantasy happenings. All five starters rested on Saturday, and full rest days are likely to occur in all back-to-back sets down the stretch. The upshot here is actually to watch for these rest nights. On days where the starters sit, fringe options like Dennis Schroder, Kent Bazemore, and Mike Muscala make for great cheap options in daily fantasy. As for the starters, they’re definitely a gamble even when they suit up now. Heavy minutes will not be tasked upon any of the regulars for the rest of the regular season.
As the Hornets attempt to chase down a playoff spot, they are hurting at the worst possible time. Al Jefferson is far from 100%, and he is a threat to miss a game at any time. Cody Zeller has yet to return to action, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist could be out for another week or two. In other words, the Hornets are thin as a needle when it comes to big men. This is a boost to the fantasy value of Marvin Williams, who should play 30+ minutes per game until everyone is healthy… which may not happen again this season.
The backcourt is a little more stable with Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson holding down the fort. Both will play big minutes, and Henderson will even see some time at the small forward spot when the team decides to play Walker together with sixth man Mo Williams. Walker and Henderson will push for 40 minutes per game down the stretch while Williams settles into a 28-30 minute role off the bench.
Will we see Greg Monroe again this season? The answer to that question is starting to look more like “no” with each passing day. Although this is sad news for Pistons fans, it’s great news for the fantasy outlook of Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond. Both players have been racking up impressive stats lately while playing massive minutes as the Pistons cling to playoff life. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has numbers that are less eye-popping, but he is playing 40+ minutes as well, and he is taking a lot of shots. All three guys should be solid contributors down the home stretch. Anthony Tolliver and Tayshaun Prince are splitting time at power forward, and that situation is probably best left alone from a fantasy perspective.
Golden State Warriors
Warning! Warning! Warning! The Warriors have secured the number one seed in the Western Conference playoffs, and they care only slightly more about your fantasy happenings than the Hawks do. A random night of rest for Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and company is likely down the stretch. However, Steve Kerr does seem to want to keep his starters in a rhythm more than some other coaches would if they were given the same set of circumstances. I still worry about trusting this team, but I do have more faith in taking their players than I do the Hawks. That’s a very mild endorsement.
The big news out of Houston has been the return of Dwight Howard, but he won’t be a fantasy option for the rest of the regular season. The Rockets will look to get him back into game shape and rhythm by slowly ramping up his minutes. Right now, he isn’t playing in back-to-back situations and is only going for about 20 minutes per game. Even at 25 minutes per game, it would be hard to justify backing him on a FanDuel roster where you only get to take one center. This is big for Houston, because the team is desperately thin up front. Donatas Motiejunas could be out another two weeks, Terrence Jones is still recovering from his partially collapsed lung, and there is a lack of depth for the team up front. This will force them to go small at times, with Trevor Ariza and Josh Smith both playing as many minutes as they can handle.
The backcourt is a bit of a mess, too, as Patrick Beverley will miss the rest of the season. This will shift more ball-handling duties to James Harden as the Rockets look to fend off Memphis in the Southwest Division. Jason Terry will likely continue to start at the point, but he will lose minutes to Corey Brewer when games get close. Outside of Harden, it is really hard to trust a Houston guard.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers are a train wreck, but their rotations deserve a write-up almost every week because Byron Scott has no idea what he is doing. Jeremy Lin had become the one constant in the starting lineup for a few games, but then he fell ill and has missed the last two contests. This has forced Jordan Clarkson and Wayne Ellington into 35+ minute roles, and Clarkson has played well in the second half of the year. In fact, he’s probably been the best player on the team. All three of these players are decent fantasy options, especially when one of the others sits out.
As for the frontcourt, it’s a significantly harder rotation to peg. Players are being rested for random games, and Byron Scott seems to be going with the pull-a-rabbit-out-of-a-hat approach to his frontcourt rotation on a game-to-game basis. I would suggest avoiding the whole mess altogether to save yourself some headaches. Jordan Hill and Ryan Kelly have put up some decent stat lines of late, but their minutes are too unpredictable for them to be regular options.
The Grizzlies and Rockets are in a dogfight for the Southwest Division crown, so Memphis should go all-out down the stretch in an attempt to take the division. This should mean that guys like Mike Conley, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol are safe bets for their usual 32-36 minutes over the final 10 games, but nothing is written in stone. Tony Allen has missed a few games with a nagging hamstring injury, and this will thrust additional minutes on the shoulders of Courtney Lee and Jeff Green. They should approach similar minute totals as the rest of the starters as long as Lee remains out. The Grizzlies might actually be a decent team to target right now, and it’s not often that statement gets said.
The injury train continues in Minnesota, where now Gorgui Dieng is sidelined with concussion-like symptoms. Jordan Hamilton will get another crack with the starting unit and should be in line for a heavy workload as the season winds down, especially as the club has ruled Nikola Pekovic out for the rest of the season. Adreian Payne is a high-risk, high-reward option, at least until (if) Kevin Garnett returns.
There’s more uncertainty here, too. Ricky Rubio seems to be a game-time decision every night, Kevin Martin is trending down the same path, and other players seem to randomly sit for nights off. It’s pretty obvious that the club is tanking, but they just won’t come out and say it. As long as the starters remain out, Zach LaVine and Lorenzo Brown will see big minutes in the backcourt and should make for fine low-cost options. Andrew Wiggins is probably the safest bet for 40 minutes on the roster as the Timberwolves continue to develop the young talent.
Oklahoma City Thunder
A big win over Phoenix on Sunday was exactly what the Thunder needed to cement their status as the likely #8 seed in the Western Conference. Russell Westbrook has been nothing short of phenomenal over the last month, but he is showing some signs of fatigue. Should the Thunder clinch the #8 spot before the season’s final games, look for Westbrook to get a well-deserved game or two off before the team matches up with the Warriors.
It hasn’t just been the Westbrook show, however. Enes Kanter has provided a much-needed lift to this team, and he is playing big minutes along with the star point guard. The other spots are a little cloudier. Dion Waiters and Anthony Morrow are splitting minutes on the wing, Steven Adams and Mitch McGary are splitting minutes at the four with Serge Ibaka out, and role players like Anthony Roberson are soaking up minutes. Basically, this team is Westbrook, Kanter, or bust for your fantasy games.
George Karl has stated that he will look to rest DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay for a game or two in order to test out different rotation combinations. Cousins rested on Monday, while it seems likely that Gay will sit for Wednesday’s game. Whenever one of these players is out, the other becomes a very solid fantasy option that should play 38-40 minutes. Bumps also go to guys like Omri Casspi and Jason Thompson when one of the two stars is out. The rest of the team is fringe-worthy at best. Ben McLemore cannot be trusted, while Ray McCallum is a little safer but still unspectacular. Both play a healthy 30-34 minutes per game, but the majority of the usage goes to Cousins and Gay. It’s not the most exciting fantasy situation.
The Raptors are limping toward the playoffs as they look to get as close to 100% as they can by that time. The oft-injured Kyle Lowry is currently without a timetable for a return, so look to DeMar DeRozan and Lou Williams as better fantasy options as long as Lowry remains out. As for the rest of the team, there isn’t a whole lot that is predictable. The frontcourt minutes are split amongst five different players, and no single player tends to get 30+ with consistency. Jonas Valanciunas does tend to be under-rated in fantasy circles, but the minutes make it hard to trust him. This is a good team, but they aren’t the best fantasy team. Look to the guards as the more reliable options here.