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.
Notes: (No change from two weeks ago) - 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. Kent Bazemore has regained his spot as the starting small forward at the expense of Thabo Sefolosha in a move that was probably long overdue. He has actually been playing fairly well over the past few weeks, and he is a player to monitor going forward. As a daily fantasy player, I appreciate how forthcoming the Hawks generally are with their injury news. It also doesn’t hurt that they have some viable fantasy options, led by Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague and Al Horford.
Notes: It appears that Isaiah Thomas has solidified himself as the starting point guard in Boston. Even though Marcus Smart is back, he has been used in a bench role since his return. However, the situation could change as Smart works his way up to a full workload of minutes. In the interim, expect Thomas and Bradley to soak up the majority of the minutes at the guard sports. Jae Crowder continues to get a steady 32-25 minutes on a daily basis at small forward, too. The uncertain spots are at power forward and center. Kelly Olynyk has been getting more run than the others of late and does have some fantasy upside when he gets the playing time. The bad news is that we have seen these scenarios change time and time again.
Notes: The Nets are going to struggle for production from the backcourt for the rest of the year. Jarrett Jack is out for the season, leaving a big void at point guard. Shane Larkin is the new starter, but his production has been underwhelming at best. Donald Sloan is working his way into a time share here. Joe Johnson, Bojan Bogdanovic, Markel Brown and others are simply not attractive fantasy options. The big upgrades here go to Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young. They should carry the squad for the rest of the year and see plenty of usage and minutes on a nightly basis.
Notes: No sooner did Al Jefferson return from his five-game suspension than he got hurt once again. The Hornets still have plenty of depth in the frontcourt, with Marvin Williams, Cody Zeller, Frank Kaminsky, and Spencer Hawes fighting for minutes. This is a hands-off situation until we get more clarity, as the main targets rely in the reliable backcourt options in Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum. Both play a hefty dose of minutes and have high usage rates in the offense.
Notes: Say it isn’t so! Just as Nikola Mirotic started to heat up, the news broke that Joakim Noah might return as soon as Monday against the Wizards. This will clutter the already frustrating Chicago frontcourt some more, but hopefully Mirotic has carved out a big role for himself with his recent play. Pau Gasol is the only other frontcourt player to trust in Chicago these days. The majority of the offense now runs through Jimmy Butler thanks to the rapid decline from Derrick Rose, and Butler is the guard to target on this team.
Injuries: Mo Williams (thumb, day-to-day)
Notes: The Cavs are finally getting healthy, and the training wheels are off Kyrie Irving. He has played up to 34 minutes in recent games, so it is safe to say that the mini “big three” of Irving, James and Love is officially back in action. This detracts from the fantasy value of anyone outside of that trio, though Tristan Thompson has seen a spike in minutes of late. He doesn’t get enough usage in the offense to be trusted on a regular basis.
Best Position Battle: None
Notes: Stan Van Gundy has become a very fantasy-friendly coach, as most of the Detroit starters are logging heavy minutes. Jackson, Drummond and Morris were all fantastic in the early going but may be showing some signs of wear of late. Their minutes have been scaled back a bit, and Morris missed a game over the weekend with a minor knee injury. Stanley Johnson started in his place, though he didn’t have a great game. The starters are going to continue to see heavy run here, and hopefully the team bounces back soon.
Notes: Paul George has busted out of his mini slump a little bit, while Monta Ellis has picked up the slack with some good games in recent weeks. Ellis is really the only other asset we can trust outside of Paul George, as George Hill is up-and-down and you never know what to expect out of the play of guys like C.J. Miles, Rodney Stuckey and Ian Mahinmi. With the team fully healthy right now, there isn’t a ton of value to be had with the Indiana roster.
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 have become the most reliable options. Nevertheless, there isn’t a lot of upside here. Goran Dragic has been playing a bit better lately, but he doesn’t carry a ton of upside either.
Best Position Battle: None
Notes: The Bucks are still short-handed in the backcourt, which has given Michael Carter-Williams a much bigger role on this team, and he has been playing well of late. Jabari Parker has been another beneficiary of this, as the Bucks have gone with a bigger lineup out of necessity. The safe options here are Antetokounmpo and Monroe, though Khris Middleton has seen his minutes creep into the mid-30s over the past month. His production is a little more volatile than the others, but his fantasy appeal is higher now than it was four weeks ago. Despite the craziness of Jason Kidd’s rotations in the past, we might actually be getting some stability here.
New York Knicks
Injuries: Cleanthony Early (knee, out another 1-2 months)
Notes: (No change from two weeks ago) - 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: Scott Skiles has actually gotten a little more predictable with his rotations of late, which is a win for fantasy players. Victor Oladipo has moved into the starting five and has played well in place of Elfrid Payton, who has missed the last handful of games with an ankle injury. Skiles has stated that Oladipo will remain with the starters even when Payton returns, which means either Payton or Evan Fournier will find the bench. In any case, Oladipo’s fantasy value is on the rise with a better-guaranteed role. Nikola Vucevic has also been playing at an All-Star level of late, and he is the best fantasy asset in Orlando.
Injuries: Joel Embiid (foot, likely out for season)
Best Position Battle: Shooting guard – Cast of many
Notes: The Sixers are certainly playing much better of late, and Ish Smith, Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor have spear-headed somewhat of a surge in Philadelphia. The shooting guard and small forward spots remain hands-off for daily fantasy, but the duo of big men and Smith are playing well together. It remains to be seen if the production will fall off, but the three of them could carve out nice fantasy value in the second half of the season if they all keep 30+ minute roles on this rebuilding team.
Injuries: DeMarre Carroll (knee, no timetable)
Notes: The backcourt is obviously solid, and both Lowry and DeRozan will play heavy minutes most nights. Bismack Biyombo became a fantasy asset as the most reliable big man in the absence of Jonas Valanciunas, though Valanciunas has now returned to claim his starting spot back. DeMarre is going to be out for an extended period, so expect an inconsistent timeshare from James Johnson and Terrence Ross in his absence. The return of Valanciunas also means a few less minutes for Luis Scola and Patrick Patterson, in addition to the aforementioned Biyombo.
Notes: John Wall has been on fire of late, and he will continue have a huge role going forward , though Bradley Beal’s impending return will cut into the value of Wall and Otto Porter. The Wizards have been banged up on the interior, so Marcin Gortat will continue to play 32-35 minutes for the foreseeable future. They have been forced to go small with Jared Dudley at power forward of late, though Dudley’s fantasy upside is very limited.