Welcome to the another 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 now that we are heading down the home stretch of the season. I’ll take a look at the safest minutes for each team, some notable injuries, and any other news and notes that might be relevant to our FanDuel lineup building process.
Injuries: Tiago Splitter (hip, out for season)
Notes: The Hawks aren’t quite the fantasy darlings of years past, and things might get a little hairy down the stretch. Atlanta is still fighting for playoff positioning, as they currently sit fifth in the Eastern Conference. That will prevent them from providing excessive “rest days” as of now. Millsap and Horford are the biggest fantasy assets here, but they also carry the highest DFS price tags. Kent Bazemore and Jeff Teague have seen increased roles of late and minutes in the low 30s, but they have still shown more inconsistency in DFS than the others.
Notes: Brad Stevens is leading a renaissance in Boston, as the Celtics currently have the third best record in the Eastern Conference. The three players listed above are all playing steady minutes in the mid-30s, and they represent the safest players to target. The recent absence of Kelly Olynyk has opened up more minutes for Jared Sullinger, but he is dealing with an illness of his own right now. The power forward and center spots are still too risky to look to on a nightly basis, despite the overall success of the team.
Notes: The Nets have nothing left to play for this year other than a draft pick, so expect plenty of games like we saw on Saturday, where Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young were both rested. Thomas Robinson and Willie Reed were both fantastic in that game, so give them a look whenever they see increased opportunity. Bojan Bogdanovic has picked up the Joe Johnson role and may continue to be worthwhile value option for the last 20 games of the season.
Notes: Charlotte sits amongst a gaggle of teams jockeying for the final few playoff spots in the East, so they have everything to play for as we move forward. Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum are locked into major roles and are fine fantasy plays, while Cody Zeller and Marvin Williams have also been playing well. The return of Al Jefferson hasn’t really hurt anybody’s role, as Jefferson appears content in a 20-25 minute role off the bench.
Notes: The rotations for the Bulls have been in flux all season long, as they have been hit by the injury bug as much as any team in the league. Jimmy Butler has apparently been hit with a setback, and he is out with a sore knee on Monday. That will open up the offense for Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol, who become elite plays whenever Butler is out. Nikola Mirotic has returned, but he will be limited in terms of minutes for the first few games. Taj Gibson and Bobby Portis are forming a nice tandem at power forward, but the time-share is a buzzkill to both of their values for DFS purposes.
Injuries: Mo Williams (knee, out another 2-3 weeks)
Notes: Mozgov appears to have the starting center job back, but you can leave him for someone else to take on the fantasy side. The big three are the players to target here, as they take a hefty percentage of the shots for Cleveland. Whenever one of them rests for a maintenance day, feel free to fire up one (or both) of the others. If two of them sit, the third would almost become a must play on those days. That’s all you need to know about the Cavs and DFS. Tyronn Lue has them playing at a faster pace, which is also good news as a whole.
Best Position Battle: None
Notes: Stan Van Gundy runs the tightest rotations in the NBA, and several of the bench players are currently injured. Play the starters, especially when the matchup is prime. They all get plenty of run and are very safe plays most evenings. It’s that simple.
Notes: Paul George was great at the start of the season, decidedly average in the middle of the season, and now he seems to be back to being great again. His legs have looked fresh since the All-Star break, and he says the game is slowing down for him. That’s good news for fantasy owners, as the Pacers currently sit seventh in the Eastern Conference. They will push their starters down the stretch, which should also add some value for guys like George Hill and Monta Ellis. The frontcourt is a bit of a mess, as the recent benching of a struggling Myles Turner has thrown off the rotations there.
Notes: The rotations for the Heat have been surprisingly consistent of late, as they are a bit thin without Chris Bosh around. Amare Stoudemire continues to start for Hassan Whiteside, though Whiteside still sees around 30 minutes a game off the bench (and has been playing very well). The Heat have picked up the tempo of late, and when you combine that with Bosh’s absence, there has been a sizable fantasy boost for both Goran Dragic and Dwyane Wade, too. Even Luol Deng has been playing well. There’s some value here, with the Heat currently sitting in the fourth spot in the conference standings.
Notes: How fun are these Bucks? Michael Carter-Williams is out for the year, so the offense will continue to run through the young stars in Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Jabari Parker. All three are surging in the second half of the season, and they are playing very well together. Greg Monroe has seen his role move to a similar one of Hassan Whiteside, where he plays around 30 minutes per game off the bench. Don’t expect that to change, especially given how well the Bucks have been playing of late.
New York Knicks
Injuries: Kristaps Porzingis (leg, day-to-day)
Notes: The Knicks are just playing out the string at this point, as they don’t have much hope at a playoff spot. Kurt Rambis doesn’t seem to believe this, though, as he refuses to play the young players. The Knicks sit six and a half games out of the eighth spot, so they aren’t making the playoffs. Once this realization hits home, expect guys like Galloway and Jerian Grant to see more playing time at the expense of Jose Calderon and company. This is a spot with which to tread carefully right now. Changes might be on the way.
Injuries: Victor Oladipo (back, day-to-day)
Best Position Battle: None
Notes: Despite his bad rap, Scott Skiles has actually been a fantasy-friendly coach over the second half of the season. The three players listed above are all playing heavy minutes, and Aaron Gordon can even be added in there for the games where he manages to stay out of foul trouble. Even Elfrid Payton has been getting some consistent run in the low-to-mid 30s minutes-wise, so the acquisition of Brandon Jennings hasn’t really affected him. Orlando is in the basement in the Southeast Division, but that doesn’t mean we can’t like their rotations for fantasy purposes. They don’t play much defense but can score the basketball, which is a nice combination for us!
Safest Minutes: Ish Smith
Best Position Battle: It’s all a mess.
Notes: The rotation for the Sixers is going to be a mess down the stretch. They have been missing four players in recent games, allowing players like Hollis Thompson and Richaun Holmes to pick up added minutes. There’s not much to analyze here, other than that Ish Smith seems to be the safest option given all the injuries. Keep an eye on this situation on a daily basis and adapt to the NBA injury news as appropriate.
Injuries: DeMarre Carroll (knee, no timetable)
Notes: Toronto still has an outside shot to catch the Cavaliers for the top spot in the conference, so their rotation seems safe for now. Lowry and DeRozan represent the safe plays on a daily basis, while the frontcourt is mildly unpredictable. Outside of Jonas Valanciunas, there is almost no security there. Stick to the backcourt. Should they fall out of the race for the top seed, expect to see some rest days over the final week or two of the season.
Notes: It will be all hands on deck for the Wizards, who sit 1 ½ games outside of a playoff spot as of the time I am writing this. With Bradley Beal injured again, expect the offense to run through John Wall a bunch down the stretch. Ramon Sessions and Garrett Temple will also see some increased run. The frontcourt is led by Marcin Gortat, though they try to keep his minutes in the low 30s. The acquisition of Markieff Morris has provided the added depth to make that possible, and he appears to have the upper hand on Jared Dudley and Nene Hilario for the majority of the power forward minutes.