Welcome to another edition of the Eastern Conference NBA Minutes Watch column, where 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 Eastern Conference Edition.
The Dennis Schroder ride came to a quick halt with the return of Jeff Teague, and Teague has largely been superb since his return. That takes both Schroder and Shelvin Mack off the fantasy board for now, as Teague generally plays 30-35 minutes when he is healthy. Kyle Korver has a lockdown on the other guard spot, and the Hawks aren’t going to make any sweeping changes right now since they sit atop the Eastern Conference with a 25-8 record. Korver sees similar minutes to Teague, but his across-the-board fantasy contributions are significantly less. He’s a solid source for points and three-pointers.
In the frontcourt, Paul Millsap, Al Horford and DeMarre Carroll still have a hold on heavy minutes. Horford had a surprise DNP a week ago because of an illness, but that should not impact his production moving forward. All three guys will log between 34 and 38 minutes per game, and their production should rise as a result. Atlanta’s rotations are still pretty straightforward on most nights.
Your guess is as good as mine as to what Brad Stevens will do to shake up his rotation next. He loves to go deep into the bench and has a ton of frontcourt depth since the trade with Dallas. Evan Turner was a bright spot in the last game, but Marcus Smart is the point guard of the future. Expect the minutes to vary quite a bit for these two guys, as Stevens will ride the hot hand on occasion. Avery Bradley seems to be the only lock for 32-36 minutes as one of the only off-guards on the squad. The frontcourt is so crowded and muddy that I would just avoid the whole lot of them for now, though Jared Sullinger appears the most likely guy to lead the frontcourt in minutes moving forward.
The return of Deron Williams and Brook Lopez has helped the Nets as a team, but it has hurt us daily fantasy sports players. Jarrett Jack remains the starting point guard, but he is in a virtual time-share with Williams. Lopez is also eating away at the previously red-hot Mason Plumlee’s minutes. Kevin Garnett and Mirza Teletovic are sharing time at power forward. Sergey Karasev and Alan Anderson are splitting minutes at small forward. Does that clear things up? The Nets remain a squad to avoid for fantasy purposes right now, unless a player goes down. The only consistent option for 35+ minutes on a nightly basis is Joe Johnson.
Lance Stephenson and Al Jefferson remain sidelined for the Hornets, which means the usage for the club comes down to Kemba Walker… and then everyone else. Walker will be steamrolling through games with 40+ minutes as long as the other starters remain shelved, and he is a good bet for solid (though sometimes inefficient) production in those minutes. Also, Gerald Henderson, Cody Zeller and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will also see somewhat significant bumps in playing time, up to around 25-32 minutes each.
The direct beneficiary of Jefferson’s absence has been Bismack Biyombo, though he is not known as an offensive player. He has gone from receiving DNP-CDs to playing around 20-22 minutes per game, but there is not much production to be had in those minutes. He can safely be ignored for daily fantasy games.
Rinse, lather, repeat: We know the pecking order in Chicago. When Derrick Rose is out, both Kirk Hinrich and Aaron Brooks split minutes while Jimmy Butler runs the offense. When Pau Gasol and/or Joakim Noah is out, Taj Gibson sees a major boost in value. As of now, the Bulls are mostly healthy, which diminishes the value of the bench guys. Tom Thibodeau loves to ride his starters, especially Butler and Gasol. Knowing the pecking order is nice, but you can’t trust Brooks or Gibson barring the absence of another starter. The Bulls will be cautious with Rose and Noah, so expect the two of them to remain in the 28-32 minute range going forward, while Butler and Gasol log upwards of 40 minutes in most games.
There is one development here, however. Mike Dunleavy is currently shelved with an ankle injury and could miss some time. Even though Coach Thibodeau was reluctant to play Nikola Mirotic at the small forward spot, he might now be forced into it. The Bulls have limited options off the bench at the position, and Mirotic showed well in a surprise start at the position on Saturday. He has massive upside on the offensive end and will definitely be a target while his salary is cheap on FanDuel, assuming he continues to start.
The Cavs remain in bad shape, as now Kyrie Irving has joined LeBron James on the shelf. The squad is therefore looking at the trio of Matthew Dellavedova, Shawn Marion, and Mike Miller in the starting lineup. At this point, they should seriously consider starting Dion Waiters. There is simply not enough offense in the tank to be competitive with that group in the starting lineup. Waiters should see a boost in usage in the near-term, but don’t expect his minutes to drastically increase from where they are now. The biggest minutes bump goes to Dellavedova, who is a virtual lock for 30+ with both Irving and James on the shelf.
Tristan Thompson has excelled in the starting lineup in place of Anderson Varejao. His upside is not enormous, but he has been super consistent since being given the keys as the starting center. Kevin Love has been very quiet this season, but he will undoubtedly see his production rise with other stars injured. Both Thompson and Love are locked into 34-38 minute roles with the team’s depth thinned out right now.
Predicting rotations is never an easy task when Stan Van Gundy is involved, especially as the Pistons go with a youth movement to evaluate the team going forward. Greg Monroe has replaced the now-departed Josh Smith as the starting power forward, but his minutes have been inconsistent. Despite solid production, Monroe has had his minutes held in the lower 20s despite starting on a few occasions of late. Andre Drummond tends to play 35+ minutes but often finds himself in foul trouble. The frontcourt is simply hard to figure out in Detroit.
Brandon Jennings has seen his minutes rise of late, and he is playing his best basketball of the season. That has led Van Gundy to praise Jennings’ attitude, and Jennings is seeing heavy minutes as a result. Just be aware that we have seen this movie before. Jennings is never safe to trust in your cash games, but he is a better choice as long as he continues to get 33-36 minutes per game.
As quickly as George Hill returned to the radar, he is gone again. C.J. Watson has also missed a few games with a foot injury. This combination of injuries has thrust Donald Sloan back into daily fantasy relevancy, and he had a monster game on Sunday against the Lakers. He will get as many minutes as he can handle as long as Hill and Watson are out, and he makes for a fine cheap play in FanDuel games. Similarly, Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Miles get a boost as the only other true guards on the roster. All three are playing 30+ minutes per game right now.
In the frontcourt, David West has returned to being his consistent self, and Roy Hibbert has returned to being his inconsistent self. West is a much safer play for daily games, though he doesn’t tend to exceed 32 minutes. Hibbert’s minutes range anywhere from 20 to 35 depending on his effectiveness and oftentimes his foul trouble. His inconsistent play makes him better used as a tournament option.
Outside of Dwyane Wade (when healthy) and Chris Bosh (when healthy), there aren’t many appetizing daily fantasy options on the Heat. The team plays at the slowest pace in the league, and Wade and Bosh take such a large percentage of the shots that minutes don’t really matter for the rest of the team. Even so, nobody else on the team plays a consistent 30+ minutes, with Luol Deng and Mario Chalmers coming the closest to that mark. Hassan Whiteside has been generating some buzz of late, but his minutes are still too inconsistent to trust on a daily basis.
Jason Kidd still does not make his rotations easy for fantasy players. Brandon Knight and Giannis Antetokounmpo are the safest locks for 30+ minutes in the bunch, and they are – dare I say it – relatively safe targets right now. Both are playing well and getting into a rhythm in Kidd’s system. The same cannot be said for the rest of the team. Larry Sanders is out with an illness, and it sounds like he is being pushed away from the team even once he returns to health. That has thrust Zaza Pachulia into the starting center role, though Kidd appears comfortable keeping his minutes in the 23-27 range for most games. The bench is a hodge-podge of guys that all play around 10-15 minutes, and it’s hard to extract any fantasy value here. John Henson has intriguing upside, but he needs an injury to befall a teammate in order to become more relevant from a fantasy perspective.
New York Knicks
Amar’e Stoudemire has not played since Christmas Day due to his knees, Carmelo Anthony is a candidate to get shut down for the season, and the Knicks are simply a mess overall. Cole Aldrich has been the star since the most recent version of this column, and he appears poised to lock in a 30-minute role whenever Stoudemire is out. Keep your eye on him moving forward. The rest of the big men are hard to trust.
In the backcourt, Iman Shumpert is nearing a return. This will slightly hurt the value and minutes of Jose Calderon, J.R. Smith, and Tim Hardaway, Jr., though all should continue to see upwards of 25-30 minutes per game. The problem is simply that the Knicks are so bad that it may not matter too much.
Rookie point guard Elfrid Payton has started to play a bit better of late, as he nearly posted a triple-double over the weekend against Brooklyn. He doesn’t shoot the ball efficiently, but as long as he is playing 34-38 minutes he is worth a look. Tobias Harris, Nikola Vucevic and Victor Oladipo are also entrenched in starting roles for the Magic, as all three have decent usage rates and play 32+ minutes per game. The only question mark is at power forward, where Kyle O’Quinn and Channing Frye split minutes. O’Quinn is as boom-or-bust as they come, and he can only be trusted in tournament games. He does get more time in the games where he is playing well, but there are games where he sees less than 20 due to ineffectiveness or foul trouble.
The Sixers don’t exactly have a reliable rotation, as Brett Brown mixes and matches various combinations to see what works best. This makes everyone unpredictable from a minutes perspective. Michael Carter-Williams generally sees the most playing time with Tony Wroten not far behind, even though Wroten comes off the bench. Robert Covington has seen his minutes rise to around 35 per game of late, as well. The rest of the team is hard to trust, with Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Henry Sims and Nerlens Noel splitting time up front and K.J. McDaniels rotating in and out of the starting lineup. The good news is that all the players are blowout proof, as Brown doesn’t seem to alter his rotations even when the team is losing by a large margin.
The Raptors have gotten a little tougher to peg from a fantasy perspective in the absence of DeMar DeRozan (who’s expected to return soon), with the exception obviously being Kyle Lowry. He is a lock for monster minutes and a high usage rate as long as DeRozan remains out, and he is one of the safest plays every time he takes the court. That’s where the safe part ends. The rest of the team remains nearly impossible to predict.
Landry Fields has been starting alongside Lowry, but he plays limited minutes and doesn’t do much while he is on the court. Lou Williams and Greivis Vasquez have done well off the bench, but their minutes are also inconsistent, and they seem to rotate solid games. The frontcourt remains a mess with six guys competing for three spots (Terrence Ross, James Johnson, Amir Johnson, Patrick Patterson, Jonas Valanciunas and Tyler Hansbrough). It’s nearly impossible to predict who will lead the pack here as none of them average more than 30 minutes per game outside of Ross, and his production is spotty at best.
The last team on the list is luckily one of the most predictable. John Wall and Bradley Beal will hold down the backcourt, and both guys play upwards of 40 minutes when games stay close. Their production is also solid on a per-minute basis, so they are safe to target in daily games. Marcin Gortat is the reliable option in the middle, as he plays around 32-34 minutes on most occasions. The other two spots are a little shaky. Paul Pierce can no longer handle heavy minutes, so he plays around 28 per game with Rasual Butler picking up the slack off the bench. The power forward spot is a rotating tandem of Nene Hilario and Kris Humphries, and that time-share is best left avoided for now.