Welcome to the latest edition of the Western Conference edition of the NBA Minutes Watch column, a series in which 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 every Monday, 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 what has changed (and how those changes affect your FanDuel NBA lineups) since the last installment of the Western Conference edition.
The Mavericks have been changing in front of our very eyes over the past two weeks, starting with the addition of Rajon Rondo. The early returns on Rondo in Dallas have seen an uptick in scoring and a downtick in assists, which leaves his fantasy value about the same as it was in Boston. He should be safe to deploy moving forward in this high-powered offense. Chandler Parsons and Monta Ellis might see their usage decrease slightly, but their minutes should be safe in the mid-30s.
Tyson Chandler missed Sunday’s game with back spasms, and with Brandan Wright now in Boston, Dallas is left without a true backup. They went small on Sunday with Nowitzki starting in the middle, and this is a viable strategy against a lot of teams. However, expect Rick Carlisle to mix-and-match depending upon the opponent here, as Nowitzki can’t really handle that much additional playing time. There isn’t a true beneficiary here.
The Manimal is back. Kenneth Faried has posted massive lines in each of the Nuggets’ last three games, and he will be a popular option moving forward until his FanDuel price catches up with that production. I can get on board with this, as it appears that his sit-down with Brian Shaw is starting to pay dividends. Faried played a whopping 38 minutes on Sunday, and playing time like that will definitely equate to production from the big man. Along the same token, both Wilson Chandler and Arron Afflalo are seeing a boost in playing time of late, and the Nuggets are starting to play better on the offensive end.
Obviously, the mainstay for production here is Ty Lawson, and he should continue to play around 36-38 minutes per game. He is the safest bet from a long-term perspective. The only starter that hasn’t been playing well of late is Timofey Mozgov, and he is losing some minutes at the expense of Faried and some bench players. It’s probably best to look elsewhere until he turns it around.
Golden State Warriors
Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli are out of commission at the moment, which has forced the Warriors to go small. David Lee has returned, but he will be limited to about 20 minutes per game as he gets back in shape. This has meant a few more minutes for Marreese Speights, who has been productive with his playing time all season. He gets a temporary boost as long as the other guys are out. Draymond Green is seeing more time at the power forward spot, too, and his minutes should safely lock around 32-35 per night even when the team is fully healthy.
The backcourt is as consistent as any in the league. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson both play upwards of 40 minutes nightly, and they should be fine to lock in as long as they are healthy. Fire them up with confidence. The small forward spot remains a timeshare between Andre Iguodala and Harrison Barnes, with Barnes logging a few more minutes these days.
In somewhat of a bold move, the Rockets signed Josh Smith after he was waived by the Pistons. He made his first start with his new team on Sunday, though the final results weren’t overly encouraging. It will be interesting to see how he co-exists with Dwight Howard and James Harden, as there are only so many shots to go around. This is an obvious direct hit for the fantasy value of Donatas Motiejunas, as his minutes will nosedive with Smith in the lineup. In addition, the arrival of Corey Brewer will cut into the minutes of Trevor Ariza a little bit, and we already have some data points here. Ariza is playing around 35 minutes per game now compared to 40-42 before Brewer’s arrival. The minutes of the rest of the starters remain unaffected, as Patrick Beverley, Harden, and Howard are locked into big roles.
Los Angeles Clippers
There is not much to report out of Clippers camp these days. The regulars are humming along with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan playing big minutes. Jordan is seeing a few more minutes than normal with Spencer Hawes out, and all three of these guys are no stranger to cracking the 40 minute mark when a game is close. J.J. Redick, Matt Barnes, and Jamal Crawford split the majority of minutes on the wing. Crawford is now fully recovered from a sore shooting elbow, and his playing time has ticked up to around 28-30 minutes per game at the expense of Barnes.
Los Angeles Lakers
The heavy minutes played by Kobe Bryant in the early part of the season are finally starting to catch up to him, and he will likely require quite a few maintenance days over the rest of the season. Byron Scott is not comfortable putting Nick Young with the starting unit, as he prefers Young’s scoring punch off the bench. The biggest beneficiary of this is Wayne Ellington, who has averaged over 30 minutes per game when Kobe has been out. Ellington is a viable cheap play when this occurs.
Outside of Kobe, the “new” starting five for the Lakers remains intact with Ronnie Price at the point and Ed Davis at power forward. Davis is still splitting time with Carlos Boozer, and whichever player is performing better on a particular night is going to play down the stretch. Good luck figuring this out. Price’s upside is limited but he is in play as long as his price remains depressed.
Tony Allen has returned from his eye injury, but Zach Randolph remains day-to-day for now. In Randolph’s absence, it has been Jon Leuer and Kosta Koufos that have picked up a few extra minutes, though they have traded off games of fantasy relevance. That’s probably a situation to steer clear of for the moment, unless a long-term injury situation develops. Aside from those guys, the rest of the lineup is stable. Mike Conley and Marc Gasol will play 34-38 minutes per night, while Courtney Lee and Tony Allen start but play a few less minutes. Conley and Gasol are the solid fantasy options here, especially in favorable matchups.
With the departure of Corey Brewer to Houston and the injury to Kevin Martin, Shabazz Muhammad is coming into his own as a primary scorer on this team. He should continue to see heavy run and put up solid fantasy totals, at least until Martin returns. Nikola Pekovic remains out, and Gorgui Dieng is still seeing the majority of the minutes at the center position, though his production has been up and down. The minutes for the rest of the team are shaky. Thaddeus Young has his share of good games, but Flip Saunders isn’t afraid to use Anthony Bennett for extended stretches on nights where Young struggles. The same logic is applied to Andrew Wiggins, who looks great at times but lost at others. Both Young and Wiggins see anywhere from 25 to 40 minutes depending on how games play out. That makes them risky fantasy plays.
At the point guard spot, Zach LaVine and Mo Williams are splitting minutes now that Williams is healthy again. Throw in the impending return of Ricky Rubio at some point in January, and you have a logjam at the position. Rubio is a good bet to lead the pack once he regains full health, but that could be a month or more down the line.
New Orleans Pelicans
After missing a few games with a sore knee, it appears that Tyreke Evans is back to 100% and should be fine to deploy moving forward. This dials back any long-term appeal for Austin Rivers, as Evans generally plays 32-36 minutes per game when healthy. The rest of the rotation remains intact, with Evans, Jrue Holiday, and Anthony Davis locked into big roles in the starting lineup. Omer Asik is a fixture in the lineup but appears limited to 22-26 minutes most nights, which caps his upside. The only other major fantasy contributor for the Pelicans is Ryan Anderson, who could potentially enter the starting lineup at some point. Regardless, he is a solid option in 24-27 minutes per game off the bench. Eric Gordon is nearing a return, but it’s impossible to tell what his role will be at this point.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Kevin Durant remains sidelined with a sprained ankle, though it appears that his return is imminent. Should he remain out, Russell Westbrook will continue to carry the Thunder on his back and play as many minutes as he can possibly handle. Westbrook is obviously a great play with this news. It would be wise to take a wait-and-see approach on Durant until he can get a few games under his belt and ramp ups his minutes again.
Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams have picked up their play in Durant’s absence, and Adams in particular has been opening some eyes. Ibaka’s minutes remain steady in the low 30s, while Adams has seen his average rise from the mid-20s to almost 30 in recent games. He is rebounding the ball well and looking more assertive on the offensive end, though his numbers may take a dip with Durant’s return. The shooting guard spot is a rotating mess of guys with Andre Roberson, Anthony Morrow, and Jeremy Lamb all competing for minutes. That’s a situation to stay away from.
With Isaiah Thomas back in the mix, the Suns are back to having a three-headed monster at guard with Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe also vying for playing time. Bledsoe’s minutes remain the most consistent of the bunch, but even he has his down games. This is a tough situation to peg correctly on a given night.
In the frontcourt, Alex Len has taken the starting center job and has been playing relatively well of late. Unfortunately, he still seems to cap out at around 26 minutes per game, with Miles Plumlee garnering the rest of the playing time off the bench. Markieff Morris is a solid bet for 32-35 minutes nightly, but his production has waned in recent weeks. It would not be a surprise to see his playing time decrease in the coming weeks.
Terry Stotts is not a very fantasy-friendly coach, as he tinkers with minutes on a consistent basis for anybody that is not a regular starter. For example, LaMarcus Aldridge has missed four of the last five games with an upper respiratory infection. In his place, it has been a stable of three or four guys that have stepped up. Robin Lopez has been out for a few weeks, but Joel Freeland, Meyers Leonard, and Chris Kaman are all splitting time at the center position. You can’t trust anyone here outside of the regular starters. Thankfully, the minutes for those players are all reliable. Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, and (when healthy) Aldridge tend to see between 34 and 36 minutes per game, with Lillard and Aldridge on the high end. You will pull your hair out trying to mess with anyone else here.
The Kings are taking a run-and-gun approach under Ty Corbin, which should inflate the fantasy numbers of their players and their opponents. DeMarcus Cousins has returned from his bout with meningitis, and he is putting up huge numbers right now. With no restriction on his minutes, deploy Cousins as you normally would. Corbin appears fine with giving Darren Collison, Rudy Gay, and Ben McLemore big minutes as well, with all three of them hovering around 33-36 minutes per game. The only trouble spot is at power forward, where a rotation of three players is simply a mess from a fantasy perspective. Avoid this position and target the other Kings. There will be some high scoring games here.
San Antonio Spurs
Greg Popovich has been playing games with fantasy owners for years, and the last few weeks have been a struggle. Everything was thrown off with the back-to-back triple overtime games, but thankfully those are in the rear view mirror. However, Tony Parker can’t stay healthy and Kawhi Leonard is still out, so nothing is set in stone for San Antonio. Kyle Anderson inherited a starting spot for a while, but now it appears that Marco Belinelli is the biggest beneficiary of Leonard’s absence. He is worth a look as long as Leonard remains out, as he is playing 30+ minutes nightly.
The point guard spot is still tough to dissect even with Parker out, thanks to the return of Patty Mills. Expect him to take away a share of minutes from the steady but unspectacular Cory Joseph. Tiago Splitter has returned but appears limited to around 20-25 minutes per game, and this also hurts Boris Diaw. The only reliable San Antonio options are Tim Duncan and Danny Green, as their minutes are secure and they both produce well when they are on the court. Green should continue to see 30-35 minutes per game with Duncan at the low end of that range as well.
The Jazz are the final team on this list, and there isn’t much to report here, either. Alec Burks is dealing with a sore left shoulder, but he is not expected to miss very much time. While he is out, Rodney Hood will see a boost to upwards of 30 minutes per game, though his fantasy production has been spotty at best when given the chance to play more. Burks should return to heavy minutes once he regains full health. The rest of the rotation is fairly stable, with Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors playing around 35 minutes per game and Trey Burke and Enes Kanter playing around 30 minutes per game. Should any of the big men miss time, Rudy Gobert becomes a solid plug-and-play with increased minutes.