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 since the last article on the Western Conference. Taking advantage of fluctuations in playing time is crucial to having success in daily fantasy basketball.
Tyson Chandler had a potential injury scare on Sunday, as he had to be helped off the court and looked to be facing a potential long-term injury. However, he ended up returning to the game and looked no worse for the wear, so expect him to be fine moving forward. Dallas continues to roll with the same starting unit, but some attention has been made to recent fourth quarter bench time for Rajon Rondo. Rick Carlisle called this an “aberration,” so it doesn’t look like there’s any long-term issue here. The starting five for Dallas remain the only ones you want to target in daily fantasy, as all play 30+ minutes per night and the bench has a solid collection of pure role players. Value may occasionally creep up due to injury, but there isn’t a lot to look at on a day-to-day perspective.
The biggest news out of Denver has been in the frontcourt. Jusuf Nurkic has taken over the starting center role for the recently traded Timofey Mozgov, but he has not been receiving consistent minutes. There are certain games where he appears to be disinterested on the court, and he also tends to rack up fouls in a hurry. He makes a great tournament play on FanDuel for that night he explodes, but with minutes ranging from 15 to 35, those nights are hard to predict. Kenneth Faried and J.J. Hickson have also benefited with an uptick in minutes, with Faried playing 30+ and Hickson playing 25+ on most nights.
The rest of the squad remains relatively steady. Ty Lawson and Arron Afflalo hold down the majority of the backcourt minutes, while Wilson Chandler is a consistent option at the small forward spot. All three tend to see 32-36 minutes on a regular basis, with Lawson playing upwards of 40 in some close games. These three are definitely the most reliable fantasy options for the Nuggets.
Golden State Warriors
Golden State is quietly humming along as perhaps the best team in the NBA, and the league seems to be slowly taking notice. Klay Thompson’s 37-point quarter on Friday certainly didn’t hurt. The mainstays in the lineup – Thompson and Stephen Curry – can be relied upon for solid production in any game that’s not a blowout. The rest of the squad, however, has gotten a little harder to peg. The returns of David Lee and Andrew Bogut have put a cap on the minutes and production of Draymond Green, and 30+ minutes are hard to come by for any of the three on a regular basis, especially when you throw super-sub Marreese Speights into the mix. In addition, Andre Iguodala and Harrison Barnes continue to share time at the small forward spot. Outside of Curry and Thompson, it’s getting hard to trust anyone on the Warriors on a game-by-game basis.
The wheels are in motion again. It only took a few weeks for Dwight Howard to get re-injured, and it’s anyone’s guess as to how long he will be out. For now, it appears to be a short-term situation. Joey Dorsey got the start on Sunday in Howard’s absence, but he doesn’t have much upside and will likely be capped at around 25 minutes. The real beneficiaries if Howard misses any significant time are Donatas Motiejunas and Josh Smith, both of whom should see upticks in playing time. Motiejunas played 32 minutes on Sunday while Smith logged 25. That’s a reasonable expectation going forward should Howard sit for an extended absence.
In the backcourt, not much has changed. Patrick Beverley mans the point, but James Harden runs the offense. The two guards – along with Trevor Ariza – have seen a minor dip in minutes to accommodate the presence of Corey Brewer, who is playing 20-24 minutes per game off the bench. Harden remains the safest bet for production as he still gets around 36-38 minutes per game, while Ariza is a steady mid-range value at around 30-32 minutes per contest.
Los Angeles Clippers
I could probably cut and paste my previous renditions of discussing the Clippers into this space and it would prove serviceable. The starters remain healthy. Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, and Blake Griffin will continue to carry the load for the team and play 38-42 minutes in close games. J.J. Redick and Matt Barnes man the other two starting spots but lose a few minutes per game to Jamal Crawford. Outside of those six players, the bench is awful. That forces Doc Rivers into playing his starters big minutes, and it makes the Clippers an easy team to trust fantasy-wise. Even games that look like they are getting out of hand become close if the bench is on the court in the fourth quarter, and that oftentimes necessitates re-entry of the starters.
Los Angeles Lakers
With the news that Kobe Bryant will miss the remainder of the season, there is fantasy value up for grabs in Los Angeles. Byron Scott has already tinkered with the starting lineup, sending Ed Davis and Ronnie Price to the bench in favor of Robert Sacre and Jordan Clarkson. Ryan Kelly has also joined the starting five in place of Wesley Johnson. Wayne Ellington will fill in at shooting guard for Bryant. That’s four new starters in the span of a week, and it’s hard to say if the new lineup will stick. Nobody seems to be a lock for heavy minutes as the Lakers eye the future, though Scott has been very complimentary of Clarkson.
It seems as though the only player whose role hasn’t changed in this whole mess has been Jordan Hill. He remains with the starting unit and has picked up his play of late. As a consistent option for 28-32 minutes who will now see a bigger role with Bryant out of commission, Hill should be a solid bet for an uptick in stats in the second half of the season.
The big news out of Memphis is that recent acquisition Jeff Green has taken over the starting small forward spot, sending Tony Allen to the bench. Green appears poised to play a 30-32 minute role, and he is a solid fit on this Memphis team. He should be better fantasy-wise than he was with Boston, as he tends to perform better when he isn’t the go-to player in an offense.
Not much has changed with the rest of the rotation. Mike Conley, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol should hover around 32-36 minutes for most games, with Courtney Lee around 25 minutes and Tony Allen closer to 20 minutes now that he is coming off the bench. The sources of fantasy production are fairly easy to pinpoint for Memphis, and that’s always a welcome sign for fantasy owners.
Things are about to get tricky in Minnesota. Let’s start with the point guard spot. Mo Williams continues to hold down the starting job, as he has easily won it from struggling rookie Zach LaVine. However, trade talks are swirling and it’s possible that Williams could be dealt. In addition, Ricky Rubio is likely to return in the next week or so, and the Wolves will surely want to continue to develop Rubio after his long layoff. That’s going to make this extremely tricky, assuming Williams doesn’t get traded. I wouldn’t count on 30+ minutes for Williams once Rubio returns, as this could be an almost even time-share situation.
Nikola Pekovic has also returned from injury, and he has been starting alongside Gorgui Dieng as the Timberwolves decide to go with a bigger lineup. That shifts Thaddeus Young to the three spot, Andrew Wiggins to the shooting guard spot, and Robbie Hummel/Shabazz Muhammad to the bench. It will be interesting to see what Flip Saunders does once Muhammad returns from injury, but it appears as though that might be a ways off yet. Despite the position changes, these four should all be in for heavy minutes as long as Muhammad is out, with Wiggins possessing the most upside.
New Orleans Pelicans
Jrue Holiday is going to miss another two weeks or so, which means Tyreke Evans should settle in as the starting point guard, and more minutes will also be available for Eric Gordon. With both of them being locks for 35+ minutes in any close games, they should be a steady source of production until Holiday returns. The frontcourt is obviously headed up by Anthony Davis, but that’s where the consistency ends with the starters, as Omer Asik seems limited to about 24 minutes per game right now. Ryan Anderson has been a steady source of production in around 30 minutes per game off the bench, and he’s actually performed better in a bench role than in a starting role.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder need to get serious over the last few months of the season if they want to make a playoff push, as they currently sit on the outside in the tough Western Conference race. Expect them to ride their stars hard down the stretch, and both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant could average upwards of 40 minutes per game in the second half. Their presence makes everyone else hard to trust, though Serge Ibaka is a solid #3 option at around 32-34 minutes per game. The rest of the squad is chalk full of role players that can get anywhere from 10-24 minutes per night, so there aren’t any other real fantasy winners here.
Markieff Morris is getting himself in hot water with the team for accumulating quite a few technical fouls, and he was benched in the second half on Sunday as a result. His up-and-down fantasy performances are also frustrating, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see his minutes start to get reduced in the near term. A check back from 34-37 minutes to 28-30 minutes is somewhat reasonable, especially since Alex Len is playing well. Len is trending strongly in the other direction, and with a consistent 25+ minutes of playing time, he makes a nice target on FanDuel while his price is still cheap.
Nothing has changed with the rotation for the rest of the team, with about seven players fighting for time at the other three spots on the court. Eric Bledsoe continues to edge out the others in terms of playing time, though Isaiah Thomas has been taking some minutes away from Goran Dragic of late. This is a virtual even time-share now, with both on the court at times when Bledsoe takes a rest. P.J. Tucker and Gerald Green are in a similar situation at the small forwad spot. Phoenix is a high-scoring team, but they are often very frustrating for daily fantasy players.
The Blazers are hurting right now, and LaMarcus Aldridge has decided to put off surgery to help the team. Initially believed to be out for 6-to-8 weeks, he made a Willis Reed-like return on Saturday and should be free to deploy for now, as the injury is to his non-shooting hand. Chris Kaman and Nicolas Batum are both banged up right now, and that could be the reason for Aldridge’s change of heart with regards to surgery. Unfortunately, it’s hard to figure out who benefits most in their absence. Terry Stotts doesn’t have many friends in the DFS community. Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews should see an uptick in usage, and they are safe for around 36 minutes or more per game, so perhaps that is the place to look.
Despite battling some injuries over the past few weeks, the Kings are as close to 100% healthy now as they have been all season. DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay will continue to lead the team in production and minutes as long as they are healthy, so pencil them in for 36-38 minutes on most occasions. Darren Collison is the other steady source of production in around 32-34 minutes per game. The rest of the rotation tends to vary based on matchup and game plan, and the Kings have several players that can rotate in and out at the shooting guard and power forward positions. Let someone else deal with the trauma of picking from that bunch correctly.
San Antonio Spurs
As we head down the stretch of the season, there’s no telling what Greg Popovich will do. The Spurs currently hold the seventh seed in the Western Conference, so they can’t afford to be too careful. This should mean less heartache when attempting to deal with Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and the like. Obviously, Popovich will limit their minutes in blowouts, but games where two or three of them sit out are less likely now. With Parker almost 100% back from his injury, he should be good to go for 30-32 minutes per game along with Duncan and Danny Green.
The big fantasy star in San Antonio is Kawhi Leonard. He has looked fantastic in recent games, and he should be the guy who gets the most minutes for the Spurs in the second half. Expect him to play 34-36 minutes per game with solid across-the-board production in most games. He’s definitely a player you want to target in FanDuel games. His emergence has limited the production of Danny Green, who has seen a small dip in minutes and can probably be ignored for now.
Inconsistent but talented rookie Dante Exum has taken over the starting point guard duties for Utah, and that has sent Trey Burke to the bench. Quin Snyder will likely want to get a long look at his young players in this rebuilding year, and Exum makes a solid option as a super-cheap play on FanDuel right now. It appears as though he is going to get 30+ minutes of run for the foreseeable future. Rudy Gobert will also challenge Enes Kanter for minutes at the center position, and they can also play together when Derrick Favors needs a break. The three of these guys will generally rotate and all play around 28-30 minutes. The most consistent option is Gordon Hayward, who logs 36+ minutes per game and is no stranger to a 50-point fantasy performance. He should continue to develop down the stretch with Exum making plays at the point.