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NBA Minutes Watch: West

by Justin Van Zuiden
Updated On: December 3, 2018, 6:01 pm ET

Welcome to the latest edition of the Western Conference edition of the NBA Minutes Watch column, a series in which 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 every Monday, 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 what has changed (and how those changes affect your FanDuel NBA lineups) since the last notebook on the Western Conference.

 

Dallas Mavericks

 

The Rajon Rondo era started out with a bang, but Dallas has dropped its last two games. Even so, the Mavericks now have one of the most stable starting fives in the NBA. Barring injury, the unit of Rondo-Ellis-Parsons-Nowitzki-Chandler should dominate the minutes for this team moving forward. All of them play around 32-36 minutes per game except for Nowitzki, who they like to keep closer to the 30 mark. The bench is underwhelming and can be ignored so long as the starting unit stays healthy.

 

Denver Nuggets

 

Timofey Mozgov has been traded to Cleveland for a pair of draft picks, and that will open the door for Jusuf Nurkic to pick up the slack in Denver. Nurkic is extremely foul-prone, so how much he will benefit remains unclear, but he should be able to tick up to about 30 minutes per game when not in foul trouble. He’s a solid FanDuel fantasy contributor when he is on the floor and will be a player to watch in the second half of the season.

 

The rest of the rotation remains intact, though Wilson Chandler is a bit banged up right now. Darrell Arthur started in his place over the weekend but should be ignored for fantasy purposes as long as the injury doesn’t turn serious. J.J. Hickson will see a few more minutes as a backup big man, and he is theoretically the second largest beneficiary of the Mozgov trade. Ty Lawson and Arron Afflalo are locked into heavy minute roles in the backcourt, and Afflalo has really stepped up his play over the past few weeks.

 

Golden State Warriors

 

Draymond Green for MVP? It’s not that farfetched of an idea. The Warriors are cruising along as possibly the best team in the NBA, and not much is going to change with their rotations. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Green are going to play big minutes and be a big factor in the Warriors’ quest for a title. It’s no surprise to see these guys play 36-42 minutes depending on game flow. The other positions are less stable, with Harrison Barnes slowly taking the majority of the wing time away from Andre Iguodala and Marreese Speights and David Lee dueling for minutes at center. Those two positions are loose time shares, and it’s the big three you want to focus on from a daily fantasy perspective.

 

Houston Rockets

 

Josh Smith’s foray into the starting lineup was not working out, so the Rockets have moved him back to the bench for now, and he has seen a drop in minutes since the move, playing just 21 in Houston’s last contest. Meanwhile, Donatas Motiejunas played a hefty 36 minutes in a starting role. This is a fluid situation that is likely to change many more times between now and the end of the year. In addition, Trevor Ariza has started to lose some minutes as well. Corey Brewer is another wing player who can be thrown into the mix at times, and Houston is very deep here. Expect Ariza to settle in around 30-32 minutes per game as opposed to the 36-38 he was playing before Brewer and Smith came aboard.

 

The rest of the team remains unchanged in terms of roles. Dwight Howard hasn’t been playing well of late, but he should still get around 36 minutes per game as the starting center alongside team anchor James Harden. Harden gets upwards of 40 minutes of playing time in tight games, while the Rockets limit him to around 35 if games are a little more out of hand. Patrick Beverley is entrenched as the team’s starting point guard and defensive lynchpin, but he is generally limited to 28-30 minutes per game.

 

Los Angeles Clippers

 

Though they aren’t exactly playing well right now – or for the season – not much has changed with the rotation for the Clippers. Their bench is extremely thin and the starters generally play big minutes outside of J.J. Redick and Matt Barnes, who often lose time to the only bench player that is worthwhile in Jamal Crawford. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan remain the fantasy stalwarts of this team, and they will continue to play upwards of 40 minutes when games are close well into the second half. Crawford is also locked into around 25-28 minutes per game as the primary option off the bench.

 

Los Angeles Lakers

 

If the Clippers are the stable unit, the Lakers are the exact opposite. It seems like the only player who is guaranteed consistent playing time is Kobe Bryant, and now we don’t even know what days he is going to take the court. When he is out, the rotations become a jumbled mess. For example, even without Kobe, ten different Lakers played 17 minutes or more on Sunday. That makes it hard to predict fantasy relevance. Ronnie Price remains the starting point guard, but he is in a time share with Jeremy Lin. Wayne Ellington splits minutes with Nick Young (and Kobe, when he plays). Wesley Johnson is back from an injury but must split time with the recently-activated Ryan Kelly. Ed Davis and Carlos Boozer are in a year-long timeshare at the power forward spot. Jordan Hill seems to be the only player with a firm grip on minutes, but even he has struggled mightily of late. Targeting the Lakers in daily fantasy is a very risky proposition.

 

Memphis Grizzlies

 

After a lengthy absence, Zach Randolph returned to the court with a vengeance last week, posting a massive double-double on Sunday. His return will push Jon Leuer and Kosta Koufos back into supporting roles, and they can be ignored for fantasy purposes now. Randolph and Marc Gasol will chew up the majority of the minutes on the interior, with Gasol averaging around 36-38 and Randolph averaging around 32-34 minutes per game. Nothing has changed in the backcourt, where Mike Conley dominates the playing time and sees the heaviest workload. Courtney Lee and Tony Allen are fringe players who focus on defense, and they also see a few less minutes than Conley.

 

Minnesota Timberwolves

 

Mo Williams is healthy again, and it appears that Ricky Rubio is very close to a return. That’s going to make the point guard situation in Minnesota a nightmare to predict, especially as long as the trio of Williams, Rubio and Zach LaVine stays healthy. Figuring out this rotation will require getting a handle on what Flip Saunders does once Rubio returns. The Wolves may elect to roll out smaller lineups at times because of this newfound depth. This may take away minutes from starting wings Shabazz Muhammad and Andrew Wiggins, though the pair has been dynamic over the past month. Muhammad missed the last game with some abdominal soreness, and he would likely be the first one to have his minutes reduced. Wiggins is coming into his own in the NBA and appears locked into a 36-40 minute per game workload.

 

Thaddeus Young has had a disappointing first season with the team, and he’s now in a timeshare with Anthony Bennett at power forward. Avoid this situation unless there is an injury. Nikola Pekovic remains sidelined, so Gorgui Dieng will carry the load in the middle. He can handle 30+ minutes per night and has been a pleasant surprise for the Wolves with Pekovic out. Dieng is the most attractive target among the Minnesota big men.

 

New Orleans Pelicans

 

In a curious move, coach Monty Williams relegated Tyreke Evans to a bench role in the Pelicans’ last game, thrusting Dante Cunningham into a starting role. Though the move was strange, there wasn’t a whole lot of change in the results. Cunningham went scoreless in a whopping 32 minutes, while Evans put up a sturdy 21/10/5 line in 33 minutes off the bench. This should be a short-term move, but Evans should still see 30+ minutes per night regardless of whether or not he starts. It would be a similar role to that held by Ryan Anderson, who generally plays around 30 minutes despite coming off the bench himself. In fact, the biggest hit with the rising role of Cunningham will likely be Omer Asik, who played just 21 minutes in the last game.

 

Eric Gordon has also returned, and he has looked healthy in his first few games back. He is very cheap on FanDuel right now, and this might be the time to give him a look. His price is cheap and he could be a bargain if he is going to play upwards of 30 minutes on a nightly basis. Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis remain the stalwarts of the team, and both are locked into roles of 36+ minutes per game, and their production usually follows.

 

Oklahoma City Thunder

 

If the Thunder want to make the playoffs in the crowded Western Conference, they are going to have to pick it up in a hurry. Despite the return of both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, the team has been scuffling of late. Expect them to turn to the two superstars in an effort to get things going again. With Durant no longer limited, both guys should average 36+ minutes per game for the rest of the season, barring another injury. They are far and away the best fantasy options on the Thunder squad. Steven Adams is back into a timeshare with Kendrick Perkins at center, and the shooting guard spot is manned by a trio of players. The only other safe option here is Serge Ibaka, who offers consistent mid-level production in around 32 minutes per game.

 

Phoenix Suns

 

The Suns played an entertaining double overtime game against Memphis on Sunday, and the rotation for the team is starting to take a more defined shape now that everyone is healthy again. Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe are playing around 35 minutes per game, with Isaiah Thomas picking up the rest of the guard minutes. They have even gone very small at times and played all three together for a few stretches. All three carry decent fantasy value, with Bledsoe being the best option. Obviously any of them would get a boost in playing time should one of the others get hurt.

 

In the frontcourt, P.J. Tucker and Alex Len have assumed starting duties, though they don’t always see a full complement of minutes. Neither player is an overly intriguing fantasy option in 24-28 minutes per game, though they are serviceable on the cheap in the right matchup. Markieff Morris is the safest bet in the Phoenix frontcourt, as he is the only player who is a lock for 32-36 minutes on a nightly basis.

 

Portland Trailblazers

 

Robin Lopez remains sidelined, and now Joel Freeland is out as well. This has the Blazers very thin at center, and Terry Stotts has been almost forced into starting Chris Kaman. However, Kaman is still not seeing a bump in minutes, as he doesn’t play more than 24 minutes a game. It’s basically an even timeshare with Meyers Leonard, and the Blazers also opt to go small at times. This situation is probably best left alone. The rest of the starters are still locked into big roles. Damian Lillard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Wesley Matthews all play heavy minutes, and you can pencil them in for 34-38 when a game stays close. Nicolas Batum also plays big minutes, but his declining usage has made him a fringe fantasy option.

 

Sacramento Kings

 

With all due respect to Anthony Davis and Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins is making a case to be the top overall fantasy player when healthy. He has been putting up massive lines with regularity, and he’s locked into a huge role and around 40 minutes per game for Sacramento. Rudy Gay and Darren Collison are also called upon to do heavy lifting minutes-wise, and it appears that the trio has seen a slight boost in minutes under new coach Ty Corbin.

 

As for the rest of the team, there are only fringe fantasy options. The power forward spot is a rotating trio of Jason Thompson, Derrick Williams and Carl Landry and can be safely ignored. At shooting guard, Ben McLemore seems to have a stranglehold on the starting job, but he is losing some minutes to rookie Nik Stauskas. For now, pencil in McLemore for around 30 and Stauskas for around 20 minutes per game, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see this become even more of a time-share later in the year.

 

San Antonio Spurs

 

As we all know, Greg Popovich is not shy about trolling fantasy players everywhere. I’ll leave this nugget here: Austin Daye played 36 minutes in the last game and put up a 22 and 10 line. He had played a grand total of seven minutes in the Spurs’ previous nine games before that outing. Kawhi Leonard remains out, but Tony Parker and Patty Mills have returned. They will share the bulk of the point guard minutes until Parker gets fully healthy, when Parker will likely lead the committee. This moves Cory Joseph into a secondary role as a reserve two-guard.

 

Tim Duncan is a steady fantasy option when he is active, but the Spurs will likely be cautious with him in the second half. He will in all likelihood average around 25-28 minutes per game down the stretch. This will open up a bit more time for Boris Diaw and Tiago Splitter, who are currently splitting minutes at center. The most reliable source of minutes here is probably Danny Green, who is having a solid year as the starting shooting guard. He’s the safest bet for 30+ minutes on a nightly basis.

 

Utah Jazz

 

The Jazz are in a state of flux right now. With Alec Burks out for the year and Rodney Hood also banged up, the team is barren at the shooting guard position. Joe Ingles has been starting, but his performance has been decidedly underwhelming. Dante Exum is not a shooting guard. Surprisingly, it’s been recent signee Elijah Millsap that has been turning heads. The younger brother of Paul Millsap has been playing 26-30 minutes over the past few games and could be a sneaky fantasy option for the foreseeable future. The only sure thing in the backcourt is that Trey Burke will play as many minutes as he can handle and should get a sizeable usage bump moving forward.

The frontcourt is also in a state of transition, as Rudy Gobert was impressive during Enes Kanter’s time away from the court. It remains to be seen if Kanter will reclaim the starting job, but in any event, Gobert should be given a crack at extended minutes. This will likely develop into some sort of timeshare that may become hands-off for fantasy purposes. Another reason for this is because Derrick Favors has been playing extremely well. He seems to play better alongside Gobert, and Favors should be safe for 30+ minutes along with fellow forward Gordon Hayward. Keep an eye on how the minutes get split between Gobert and Kanter in the coming weeks.

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.