Minutes equals money (not sure if Al Smizz has that trademarked or not).
With that statement in mind, we need to wrap our heads around what’s going to happen in the NBA playoffs from a minutes perspective. Just about every coach will shrink their rotation, but by how much? And where will that coach distribute the extra minutes?
I’ve compared my playoff minute projections to regular season averages. I expect the guys below to get the biggest bumps, allowing us to exploit their salaries – which are based on regular season minutes. Note that this is Part 2 and only discusses Sunday’s four-game slate from a FanDuel perspective. Here was Part 1.
1. Tim Duncan, PF, Spurs
28.9 regular season, 34.5 projected playoffs = 19.3% gain
Tim Duncan finished 10th in FanDuel points per minute this season. Let that sink in. At age 38, he was just behind CP3/Durant and just ahead of Drummond/Pau. The dude is still wildly effective on a per-minute basis. Now the playoffs are here and the Spurs have an extremely tough first-round matchup with the Clippers, meaning there’s no reason to save Duncan. He logged 35.0 minutes per game in last year’s first-round matchup with the Mavs and went over 34 minutes in eight of the Spurs’ first 12 playoff games. We’re essentially getting a $9000 player for $7500.
2. Nicolas Batum, SF, Blazers
33.5 regular season, 40 projected playoffs = 19.4% gain
When Nicolas Batum is truly healthy, Terry Stotts likes to give him huge minutes. We saw it in February when Batum logged 35.6 minutes a night and we saw it in last year’s playoffs when he played a whopping 43.0 in the first-round series against the Rockets and 40.2 in the second-round matchup with the Spurs. Batum’s projection gets an even bigger boost with Arron Afflalo (shoulder) looking doubtful. Of course, all this would be more exciting if the matchup against the Grizzlies wasn’t so suffocating.
3. Tony Parker, PG, Spurs
28.7 regular season, 34 projected playoffs = 18.4% gain
Tony Parker only played 31.3 minutes per game in last year’s playoffs, but a lot of that had to do with blowouts. He was over 33 minutes in every game against the Heat and 5-of-7 games in the tight first-round series against the Mavs. Given how close this Spurs/Clippers series projects to be, we can safely give Parker upside toward the hefty workloads he saw in the 2011 through 2013 playoffs, when he averaged over 36 minutes. It feels like Parker is 40 years old because he’s been winning for 14 years, but he’s still only 32.
4. Al Horford, C, Hawks
30.5 regular season, 36 projected playoffs = 18.0% gain
Mike Budenholzer spent 17 years as a Spurs assistant under Gregg Popovich. It’s shown in both the way his team plays and the way he handles regular-season rotations/resting. Now that it’s the playoffs, expect Bud to go Pop on us and let the studs loose. That’s especially true for Al Horford, who should be very well rested after playing just 27.3 minutes over the final seven games and a mere 30.0 after the All-Star break. With a season rate of 1.039 FanDuel points per minute, Horford represents profit potential at just $7100.
5. Evan Turner, SG, Celtics
27.6 regular season, 32.5 projected playoffs = 17.7% gain
A big part of the Celtics’ impressive surge toward the playoffs has been their bench, sparked by the Isaiah Thomas and Jonas Jerebko deals. Coach Brad Stevens said he’s going to stick with the deep rotation that has been successful: “I think we’re going to continue to play our team. We’ll see. If you feel like, after a couple games, that we need to shorten our rotation, so be it. We’ll continue to go with who is playing well.” Therefore, I’m not targeting very many Celtics. The one guy who projects to stay on the floor a little extra is Evan Turner, as he’ll be LeBron James’ primary defender. That said, Turner is priced up at $6900 because he’s been playing more than 30 minutes a night for the last two months.
6. Brook Lopez, C, Nets
29.2 regular season, 36 projected playoffs = 23.2% gain
This gain is a bit skewed because Brook Lopez wasn’t unleashed until after the Kevin Garnett trade. Before the All-Star break, he was at 27.1 minutes and after he was up at 32.0. That included 35.5 over the final 13 games as the Nets made their push for the East’s final playoff spot. We can lock Lopez into massive minutes against the Hawks and the vast majority of offense will funnel through him, but his $8500 pricetag already reflects that.
7. Marc Gasol, C, Grizzlies
33.7 regular season, 39 projected playoffs = 15.7 percent gain
It’s really hard to take Marc Gasol off the floor when the chips are down. He’s not only a dominant defender, but also a facilitator and a scorer on offense. We saw it last year, as Gasol played 33.4 minutes during the regular season and 42.7 in seven playoff games (aided by four OT games). The year before, he was at 35.0 in the regular season and 40.6 in 15 playoff games.
8. Jamal Crawford, SG, Clippers
26.6 regular season, 30 projected playoffs = 12.7% gain
The Clippers bench is atrocious and they are absolutely desperate to get out of Round 1. So what should Doc Rivers do? Go to a six-man core rotation, of course. That’s obviously not too realistic, but the point is that the starters are going to play a ton of minutes and super sub Jamal Crawford is a lock to pile them up as well. Doc just can’t play Hedo Turkoglu, Lester Hudson, Spencer Hawes, Glen Davis, Austin Rivers against the Spurs and expect to have success.
9. LeBron James, SF, Cavs
36.1 regular season, 40 projected playoffs = 10.8% gain
I suspect the Cavs are essentially going to go seven deep with a core rotation featuring Tristan Thompson (24 projected minutes) and Iman Shumpert (26) off the bench. Matthew Dellavedova and guys like James Jones will probably get on the court, but only for bit minutes. It’s LeBron James’ time and everyone knows it. Although David Blatt is in his first year, he’ll do the same thing LeBron’s previous coaches did – he’s averaged 42.5 minutes per game in his 158-game playoff career.
10. C.J. McCollum, SG, Blazers*
15.7 regular season, 29 projected playoffs = 84.7% gain
The asterisk here is due to Arron Afflalo’s (shoulder) questionable status. If Afflalo sits, Allen Crabbe is tentatively expected to draw the start at shooting guard. That’s just because a lineup featuring ball-hogging Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge needs a defense-first player like Crabbe. C.J. McCollum will bring his impressive offensive arsenal off the bench and sport a very high usage rate with the second unit. He also projects to close both the first half and the fourth quarter with the first unit, giving us a rare playoff value play candidate at $4600.
Mike Conley, 19.4% gain – I didn’t include Conley in the main part of this piece because he’s nursing a foot injury sustained April 8. If he’s 100 percent, I’m comfortable projecting 38 minutes and very excited about using him for $5800 against defensive sieve Damian Lillard. But we won’t know for sure.
Kawhi Leonard, 13.2% gain – Just like Tim Duncan and Tony Parker mentioned above, there’s no reason for Pop to coddle in this series. Look for 36 minutes out of the white-hot Kawhi, who is at 1.17 FanDuel points per minute over his last 10 games.
LaMarcus Aldridge, 12.9% gain – LMA logged 40.1 minutes per game in last year’s playoffs and 43.0 back in 2011. He gets the superstar treatment in the postseason.
DeMarre Carroll, 11.8% gain – We can safely project a bump for all the Hawks. But especially for Carroll, who was playing his best ball down the stretch and also benefits a bit from Thabo Sefolosha’s absence.
Blake Griffin, 10.7% gain – As noted in the Jamal Crawford blurb, the Clippers are brutally thin. Doc Rivers’ only choice is to ride his starters into the ground. Both Griffin and Chris Paul are solid candidates for 40 minutes.