Welcome to the inaugural 2015-2016 Western 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 West now that the season is almost one week old, and how we can use that to our advantage in our FanDuel lineup building.
Best Position Battle: None
Notes: The starting five for the Mavericks is pretty well defined, but the problem is that 60% of their starting lineup has already dealt with an injury this season. Parsons will be on a minutes limit as he returns from a knee injury. Deron Williams has already missed a game and will likely be capped at 30 minutes in the near future. Wes Matthews will have a similar cap as he returns, and he will also likely sit out some games in back-to-back sets. As a result, the only predictable minutes right now reside in the frontcourt, and even Nowitzki has a soft cap on his playing time these days. In short, Dallas isn't a very fantasy-friendly squad.
Notes: A now-healthy Gallinari should lead the team in scoring, and he looks poised for a solid fantasy season. Mudiay has a clear path to heavy minutes as he learns the ropes as a starting point guard in the NBA, and he has sneaky fantasy upside if he can start to harness his turnover issues. Faried will be a monster on the glass as usual, especially because the team lacks a reliable option at center. The shooting guard spot is up in the air with Harris and Foye splitting time, but there isn't much upside to be had there.
Golden State Warriors
Injuries: Andrew Bogut (concussion, day-to-day)
Notes: Not much has changed in Golden State over the last 12 months. Curry is a superstar, while Thompson and Green are good players on a great team. Festus Ezeli is seeing 20-25 minutes per game at center and is a decent stop-gap option in DFS for as long as Bogut remains out. The only position struggle in Golden State remains at small forward, where Barnes starts but tends to play fewer minutes than the other regulars. Iguodala is the sixth man and gets enough playing time to be relevant on occasion.
Notes: Lawson appears to have the upper hand in the battle for point guard minutes right now, as he has been getting upwards of 30 minutes of playing time per game while Beverley is at around 20. Montrezl Harrell has opened some eyes in limited duty and could become an intriguing option if Jones misses significant time. Trevor Ariza has had a rough start to the season and has lost out on a few minutes to Corey Brewer in the early going, but it's still Ariza's starting job.
Los Angeles Clippers
Notes: The position battle is probably one to avoid, as Doc Rivers will likely ride the hot hand here all year long. The same is somewhat true of the shooting guard position, as J.J. Redick sometimes loses minutes to Jamal Crawford when Crawford is playing well. The other three starting spots are as secure as secure gets.
Los Angeles Lakers
Injuries: Brandon Bass (eye, day-to-day)
Notes: The real takeaway from the start to the season for the Lakers is that they aren't a very good team, but Julius Randle is a very good player. He was dominant against Dallas on Sunday and even brought the ball up in transition at times. The guards are hard to target right now, as Bryant is well past his prime, Russell is struggling to learn the NBA game, and Clarkson has trouble getting his numbers with Bryant still on the court.
Notes: The wing positions are best left ignored for fantasy purposes, as Green, Allen, Courtney Lee, and Matt Barnes all have limited fantasy upside. Conley, Randolph, and Gasol remain the guys to target, and all will see 32-36 minutes on a regular basis for the Grizzlies. They are a straightforward squad to figure out.
Injuries: Nikola Pekovic (ankle, out another 2-3 months)
Notes: Tayshaun Prince is still starting for an NBA team? My, how times haven't changed! He can still be ignored in all fantasy formats. The Wolves present intriguing potential at the other positions, as Rubio and Towns are off to fantastic starts. Towns is currently looking like he will be the man to beat for the Rookie of the Year award. Wiggins has gotten off to a comparatively slow start and was apparently bothered by a sore back last week, but all indications are that he will be fine moving forward.
New Orleans Pelicans
Injuries: Omer Asik (calf, day-to-day), Kendrick Perkins (pectorals, no timetable), Tyreke Evans (knee, out 4-6 more weeks), Quincy Pondexter (knee, out 2-4 more weeks), Norris Cole (ankle, no timetable)
Notes: The Pelicans are perhaps the most banged up team in the NBA. They have had an eventful transaction list to start the year, too, as they have already signed and waived Nate Robinson all within a two-week time frame. Ish Smith has been signed to run some backup point guard, with Jrue Holiday currently on a minutes restriction. Toney Douglas is seeing some time at the position, too. Dante Cunningham has been uninspiring as the starting small forward and will be facing competition in the near future as the team gets healthy. Ryan Anderson is perhaps the one bench player in the NBA with the most defined role, and he plays extensively when the Pelicans decide to go small.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Notes: Not much needs to be said about Westbrook, Durant, and Ibaka. They are good players, right? Dion Waiters and Enes Kanter are probably the other semi-reliable sources of minutes, but they come off the bench for now, and their roles fluctuate from time to time. Steven Adams can be ignored in fantasy circles right now even though he currently starts. The same can be said for current starting shooting guard Andre Roberson.
Notes: The current version of the Suns squad is actually somewhat predictable from a fantasy perspective. Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe are locked into big minutes as the starting guards, while Markieff Morris leads the charge up front. All three will push for 32+ minutes on nights where the Suns are involved in close games. Tyson Chandler is cemented in his role as the starting center, too, though he will likely play a few less minutes than the others. The only uncertainty is at small forward, where P.J. Tucker has been dreadful to start the year. T.J. Warren has been up-and-down and has made this a time share at this point.
Portland Trail Blazers
Injuries: Gerald Henderson (hip, no timetable)
Notes: The point guard spot is obviously set with Lillard, and the Blazers have reliable options on the wings with McCollum and Aminu. All three of these players will play 32-38 minutes per game and should be solid plays all year long. The frontcourt is much more difficult to predict, with four players vying for two spots. Meyers Leonard and Mason Plumlee appear to have the upper hand right now, but this feels like a situation that will be in flux all year long. If I had to pick one, I would guess that Plumlee has the best value for the season as a whole.
Injuries: DeMarcus Cousins (Achilles, out for 2 games)
Notes: Cousins and Gay are certainly the fantasy stalwarts here, and they will play significant minutes when healthy. The Kings have actually used Rondo and Collison alongside each other at times, and it appears that Rondo will have close to a 30 minute role, with Collison in the 22-25 range. The shooting guard spot is one to avoid, with Collison seeing some time there and a cast of plenty vying for the remaining minutes. The center battle between Willie Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos will be one to watch, as well. Cauley-Stein figures to be playing more minutes by mid-season than he is now.
San Antonio Spurs
Best Position Battle: None
Notes: Well, the boring Spurs continue to plod along. Their starting five is set in stone with Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Tim Duncan. Parker and Duncan will see their minutes monitored all year, and any of the starters are at risk for rest days on extended runs of games. The Spurs are healthy right now, too, and Gregg Popovich is dangerous with a full complement of players. Proceed with caution on anyone outside of Leonard and Aldridge.
Injuries: Dante Exum (knee, out for season)
Notes: The Jazz are another squad that can be relatively straightforward to analyze from a fantasy perspective. The point guard position is a dreadful time share between Neto and Exum, but the other four starters all receive significant run in close games. They are also all capable of putting up big fantasy lines on any given night. When any of the four have a good matchup, feel free to target them in daily games.