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 lately, and how we can use that to our advantage in our FanDuel lineup building.
Injuries: Mike Scott (knee, 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 grasped what seems to be a firm gig on the starting job. Kent Bazemore still sees plenty of action as the sixth man, and he gets a boost when guys like Sefolosha or Kyle Korver are rested in back-to-back scenarios. As a daily fantasy player, I appreciate how forthcoming the Hawks generally are with their injury news.
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 daily games. The frontcourt is much less settled. Jared Sullinger tends to be the most consistent NBA DFS 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. Kelly Olynyk is starting to claw out a bigger role in the frontcourt, as he has played very well over the past few weeks.
Best Position Battle: None
Notes: The Nets are not a good team, but they are relatively straightforward 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. Bojan Bogdanovic is holding down the starting small forward spot in Hollis-Jefferson’s absence, and he is an intriguing low-cost daily fantasy option right now.
Notes: (No change from two weeks ago) - 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
Injuries: Mike Dunleavy (back, out 2-4 more weeks)
Notes: Taj Gibson has recently supplanted Nikola Mirotic in the starting lineup, but the frontcourt minutes are still unpredictable. Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, and Bobby Portis are 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 Butler, who continues to improve as a player. Derrick Rose is no longer the same player after his numerous injuries. Joakim Noah has played surprisingly well off the bench of late, and he is a solid low-cost option in daily leagues. His rebounding rate has spiked since Gibson moved to the starting unit, as Noah is now the unquestioned top rebounder with the second string.
Notes: The Cavs are finally getting healthy, and it will be interesting to see how the minutes shake out once everyone is back. Mo Williams, Kyrie Irving, and Matthew Dellavedova will be fighting for point guard minutes, while J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert split time at the two guard spot. Dellavedova is likely going to be the odd man out in the rotation, so he loses the most value here. Until we see how things shake out with this, James and Love remain the only safe plays in town.
Best Position Battle: None
Notes: (No change from two weeks ago) - 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 2-3 more weeks)
Notes: (No change from two weeks ago) - 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: Tyler Johnson (shoulder, day-to-day)
Notes: The Heat generally play at a slow pace, and they are not very exciting for fantasy purposes. The one high-upside option has always been Hassan Whiteside, but Erik Spoelstra seems to be limiting his minutes a lot more of late. It’s a frustrating situation for daily fantasy players, while Bosh and Wade become the most reliable options. Even still, there isn’t a lot of upside here. Goran Dragic has been playing a bit better lately, and he seems to be more comfortable in Miami these days than he was before.
Best Position Battle: None
Notes: The Bucks are still short-handed in the backcourt, which has given O.J. Mayo a major role on this team. He has even started the last few games at the point, and he shifts over to shooting guard when Michael Carter-Williams comes in. Jabari Parker has been the biggest beneficiary of this, as the Bucks have gone with a bigger lineup out of necessity. The safe options here are Antetokounmpo and Monroe, as the Greek Freak is coming off a triple-double as the Bucks shocked the Warriors over the weekend.
New York Knicks
Notes: The New York rotation is actually fairly straightforward at this point, even though some of the players (Robin Lopez, Arron Afflalo, and others) are not necessarily top-shelf fantasy assets. Kristaps Porzingis went through some rookie growing pains over the past week, but he should be fine in the long run. However, his minutes are not as secure as they were a couple weeks back, as he has been getting benched at times for poor play and foul trouble. Robin Lopez might be in danger of losing his starting spot to Lance Thomas, though that would necessitate some very small lineups from the Knicks.
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. The good news is that Scott Skiles has calmed down a bit of late, and guys like Payton and Vucevic have put some productive games together.
Best Position Battle: Point guard – Cast of many
Notes: The Sixers have a victory! The team is still tough to figure out for fantasy purposes, especially since most of the guards are now healthy. T.J. McConnell, Nik Stauskas, Isaiah Canaan, Tony Wroten, Kendall Marshall, and a few others are all fighting for minutes at two positions, and this becomes a clear-cut stay-away for now. The only reliable players are Covington and Okafor, and even they can be up-and-down as a result of the poor performance from the team as a whole. This is a tough spot.
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. The only timeshare is at small forward with DeMarre Carroll out of commission right now. Stick to the guards for the reliable production here, though Luis Scola has been a pleasant surprise over the past few games.
Notes: John Wall has been on fire of late, and he should have a huge role going forward with Beal sidelined. Otto Porter also had a massive performance the other night, and he is becoming a reliable asset in Washington. The Wizards have been banged up on the interior, too, so Marcin Gortat should play 32-35 minutes for the foreseeable future. They have been forced to go small with Jared Dudley at power forward for quite a few games now.