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: Jeff Teague has blamed his balky ankle for his recent poor play, and his minutes have taken a hit as a result of that poor play. This is basically a time share with Dennis Schroder at this point, which leaves both players as undesirable fantasy options. Kyle Korver’s shooting slump has also negatively affected his playing time. The other three are the players you want to target here, as Bazemore, Millsap and Horford are much more consistent options. Be wary as the season drags on, as the Hawks often rest players when they are on extended stretches of games.
Injuries: Jordan Mickey (ankle, out another 2-3 weeks)
Notes: (No change from two weeks ago) – 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 spots. 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. Donald Sloan has supplanted Shane Larkin as the starter, but his production has been hit-or-miss at best. Joe Johnson, Bojan Bogdanovic, Markel Brown and others are simply not attractive fantasy options. The safe options here are 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.
Injuries: Al Jefferson (knee, out another 3-4 weeks), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (shoulder, out for another 1-2 months), Nicolas Batum (toe, day-to-day), Cody Zeller (shoulder, out another 1-2 weeks), Jeremy Lamb (toe, day-to-day)
Notes: The Hornets are gradually thinning out in the frontcourt, with both Al Jefferson and Cody Zeller now battling injuries. We are starting to get some clarity there, as Spencer Hawes has exceeded 30 minutes as a starter in each of the last two games. He could be a cheap source of fantasy production in the near term, even though he doesn’t have much upside as a real life player. The main targets rely on 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. Batum is currently dealing with a toe injury, though he should be back soon.
Notes: Joakim Noah will miss the rest of the season with a shoulder injury, which should open things up in the Chicago frontcourt once again. Pau Gasol becomes a safe option on a nightly basis, while the Bulls will also rely on Taj Gibson for big minutes as Fred Hoiberg does not seem to trust Bobby Portis just yet. Nikola Mirotic remains a hit-or-miss GPP option. In the backcourt, Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose are holding down the fort. Butler has quietly been a fantasy star this season, and Rose has been more aggressive of late. Hopefully they can stay healthy for the second half of the season.
Notes: A new coach is in town and the Cavs are finally getting healthy. Though Kyrie Irving is still shaking the rust off, 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 could be re-inserted as the starting center over Timofey Mozgov as early as tonight. He doesn’t get enough usage in the offense to be trusted on a regular basis, however. The bench is a hands-off situation, as Tyronn Lue says he wants to get Mo Williams back into the rotation. That will take minutes away from the only reliable bench option the team has in Matthew Dellavedova.
Injuries: Jodie Meeks (foot, out 3-4 more weeks)
Notes: Stan Van Gundy has become a very fantasy-friendly coach, as most of the Detroit starters are logging heavy minutes. However, the return of Brandon Jennings has cut into the workload of Reggie Jackson. Jackson is now a risky, GPP-only option in daily fantasy. Andre Drummond also carries a bit more risk as he has been getting benched down the stretch of close games because of his free throw shooting woes. The minutes continue to pile up for Marcus Morris and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Ersan Ilyasova has quietly been playing well in the month of January, too.
Notes: Because of some recent injuries, the Indiana roster is a little more intriguing from a daily fantasy perspective. Rodney Stuckey’s absence has cleared the way for C.J. Miles to play more. Ian Mahinmi’s absence has turned Myles Turner into an overnight fantasy stud. There doesn’t appear to be much drop-off with those two players sidelined. Monta Ellis ran the point while George Hill was out for personal matters, though Hill has now returned to the team. Paul George has slowed down after a red-hot start but is still a viable play in the right matchup.
Safest Minutes: Chris Bosh
Injuries: Dwyane Wade (shoulder, day-to-day), Gerald Green (knee, day-to-day), Hassan Whiteside (hip, day-to-day), Luol Deng (eye, probable to return Monday), Beno Udrih (neck, probable to return Monday), Chris Anderson (knee, day-to-day), Goran Dragic (calf, day-to-day), Josh McRoberts (knee, no timetable)
Notes: The Heat are currently a MASH unit. Any and all available bodies are welcome to play some heavy minutes right now. The only healthy starter is Chris Bosh, so he should be counted on to carry the load this week. Most of the other players are simply day-to-day, so it is very difficult to get a long-term read on the Miami situation. You literally have to look at this one on a daily basis. Even then, it’s hard to figure them out. Miami plays at a slow pace and they are not the most fantasy-friendly squad.
Best Position Battle: None
Notes: The Bucks are still short-handed in the backcourt, which has given Michael Carter-Williams a bigger role on this team. However, he has started to lose some minutes now that Jerryd Bayless has returned to the lineup. Jabari Parker has been another beneficiary of the limited depth, as the Bucks have gone with a bigger lineup out of necessity at times. 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 the Milwaukee rotations in the past, we are getting some stability here. You can attribute this to Jason Kidd being away from the team if you want, but he actually deserves some credit as he was starting to become more predictable before he left.
New York Knicks
Best Position Battle: None
Notes: I couldn’t really believe that there wasn’t a position battle for me to put in here. The starting five seems set with Jose Calderon, Afflalo, Anthony, Porzingis and Robin Lopez. You could argue that the Knicks should use Jerian Grant more in place of Calderon or that Robin Lopez doesn’t have much upside, but the starting five seems solidified. Derrick Williams has been playing well off the bench and could see an increased role once again this week if Carmelo Anthony and Lance Thomas miss any games.
Injuries: C.J. Watson (calf, no timetable)
Notes: Scott Skiles is up to his old tricks again. He has changed the starting lineup several times over the past few weeks, with the newest change being at power forward. Aaron Gordon started in the last game but fouled out in just 22 minutes. He attributed a lot of that to being over-excited for his first start, so it will be interesting to see if he sticks with the starters. The backcourt is in a state of flux, as Skiles can’t decide who he wants to keep in the starting backcourt. Is it Elfrid Payton? Is it Victor Oladipo? Is it both? Who knows. We can’t predict Scott Skiles. The only sure-fire minutes of late have gone to Vucevic and Fournier, but even those two aren’t safe on a bad night.
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 spearheaded somewhat of a surge in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, Brett Brown does not like to play Noel and Okafor together down the stretch of games, so he simply rides the hot hand at times. That is trouble for playing time, especially for Okafor, as he tends to be the one that gets the shaft. The shooting guard spot remains hands-off for daily fantasy, but Robert Covington has been resurgent of late. His up-and-down production for extended stretches is very strange, but we know now that you target him during his hot streaks. This period of time would certainly qualify as such a streak.
Injuries: DeMarre Carroll (knee, no timetable)
Notes: The backcourt is obviously solid, and both Lowry and DeRozan will play heavy minutes most nights. Jonas Valanciunas has now returned to claim his starting center spot back, and he is actually playing very well right now. DeMarre Carroll 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 Bismack Biyombo. There isn’t much to love for fantasy purposes outside of Lowry, DeRozan and Valanciunas.
Best Position Battle: None
Notes: John Wall has been on fire of late, and he will continue have a huge role going forward. Not even Bradley Beal’s return has been enough to derail the Wall train. The Wizards remain 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. Bradley Beal is still being limited to around 25 minutes per game, so don’t target him just yet in your daily games.