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NBA Minutes Watch: East

by Justin Van Zuiden
Updated On: December 3, 2018, 6:02 pm ET

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.

 

Atlanta Hawks

 

Safest Minutes: Paul Millsap, Al Horford, Kent Bazemore

 

Injuries: None

 

Best Position Battle: Point guard – Jeff Teague vs. Dennis Schroder

 

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.

 

Boston Celtics

 

Safest Minutes: Avery Bradley, Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder

 

InjuriesJordan Mickey (ankle, out another 2-3 weeks)

 

Best Position Battle: Center – Amir Johnson vs. Kelly Olynyk

 

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.

 

Brooklyn Nets

 

Safest Minutes: Brook Lopez, Thaddeus Young

 

InjuriesRondae Hollis-Jefferson (ankle, out another 2-3 weeks), Jarrett Jack (knee, out for season), Andrea Bargnani (illness, day-to-day)

 

Best Position Battle: Point guard – Shane Larkin vs. Donald Sloan

 

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.

 

Charlotte Hornets

 

Safest Minutes: Nicolas Batum, Kemba Walker

 

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)

 

Best Position Battle: Power forward – Marvin Williams vs. Frank Kaminsky

 

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.

 

Chicago Bulls

 

Safest Minutes: Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, Pau Gasol

 

Injuries: Mike Dunleavy (back, out 1-2 more weeks), Joakim Noah (shoulder, out for season), Kirk Hinrich (quadriceps, day-to-day), E’Twaun Moore (hamstring, day-to-day)

 

Best Position Battle: Small forward – Nikola Mirotic vs. Tony Snell

 

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.

 

Cleveland Cavaliers

 

Safest Minutes: LeBron James, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving

 

Injuries: None

 

Best Position Battle: Center – Timofey Mozgov vs. Tristan Thompson

 

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.

 

Detroit Pistons

 

Safest Minutes: Andre Drummond, Marcus Morris, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

 

InjuriesJodie Meeks (foot, out 3-4 more weeks)

 

Best Position Battle: Point guard – Reggie Jackson vs. Brandon Jennings

 

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.

 

Indiana Pacers

 

Safest Minutes: Paul George, George Hill, Monta Ellis

 

Injuries: Ian Mahinmi (ankle, day-to-day), Rodney Stuckey (ankle, day-to-day)

 

Best Position Battle: Go small vs. Go big – C.J. Miles vs. Lavoy Allen

 

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.

 

Miami Heat

 

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)

 

Best Position Battle: Small forward – Luol Deng vs. Justise Winslow vs. Gerald Green

 

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.

 

Milwaukee Bucks

 

Safest Minutes: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Greg Monroe, Khris Middleton

 

Injuries: Greivis Vasquez (ankle, out another 1-2 weeks), O.J. Mayo (hamstring, day-to-day)

 

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

 

Safest Minutes: Carmelo Anthony, Arron Afflalo, Kristaps Porzingis

 

Injuries: Cleanthony Early (knee, out another 3-4 weeks), Carmelo Anthony (knee, day-to-day), Lance Thomas (knee, day-to-day)

 

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.

 

Orlando Magic

 

Safest Minutes: Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier

 

Injuries: C.J. Watson (calf, no timetable)

 

Best Position Battle: Power forward – Aaron Gordon vs. Channing Frye

 

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.

 

Philadelphia 76ers

 

Safest Minutes: Nerlens Noel, Ish Smith

 

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.

 

Toronto Raptors

 

Safest Minutes: Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan

 

Injuries: DeMarre Carroll (knee, no timetable)

 

Best Position Battle: Power forward – Luis Scola vs. Patrick Patterson

 

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.

 

Washington Wizards

 

Safest Minutes: John Wall, Otto Porter Jr., Marcin Gortat

 

InjuriesAlan Anderson (ankle, out 2-3 more weeks), Kris Humphries (knee, day-to-day), Drew Gooden (calf, day-to-day)

 

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.

Justin Van Zuiden
STLCardinals84 has qualified for 3 separate live finals, including the FanDuel Baseball Championships in 2013 and 2014. Justin won the MLB Monster 3 separate times in 1 month on FanDuel and was one of the most profitable players in all of Daily Fantasy this past season. STL is ranked No. 6 overall. You can follow him on Twitter @stlcardinals84.