Welcome to 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 our last peek at the Western Conference.
Since his one-game suspension for getting into it with Rick Carlisle, Rajon Rondo has actually been playing much better. His minutes still seem to be capped in the low-to-mid 30s, but that’s enough time for him to do some damage with his price tag as cheap as it is now. Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler also continue to play minutes in the high-20s to low-30s as the Mavericks attempt to keep their aging players rested up for the playoff push.
Chandler Parsons returned from injury on Sunday and will attempt to re-incorporate himself with the team after missing an extended period. Expect his minutes to slowly rise into the mid-30s, where he will be alongside starting shooting guard Monta Ellis. These two players tend to see the most time of all the starters. The team being at full strength will now render both Richard Jefferson and Al-Farouq Aminu irrelevant for fantasy purposes unless another injury hits the club.
Brian Shaw is gone, and fantasy owners shall rejoice. Kenneth Faried should get consistent minutes down the stretch playing alongside fellow starters Danilo Gallinari, Ty Lawson, Wilson Chandler, and whoever the Nuggets throw out at center with Jusuf Nurkic sidelined. Faried is a nightly threat for a double-double, and he should improve on his season-long stats with a 32-35 minute role moving forward. Similarly, expect Lawson and Chandler to see an uptick in production with a few more guaranteed minutes. Gallinari has been a pleasant surprise since February and is a viable option as long as he remains healthy.
Though the starters are seeing a few extra minutes, the Nuggets are still using their bench quite a bit. Will Barton has been the best option off the bench of late, as the team has often decided to go small with Nurkic dealing with a sprained right ankle. Barton is a capable scorer and a solid tournament option on FanDuel, but he only gets around 20-25 minutes per game. He would become more viable with an injury elsewhere on the roster. For the moment, he remains in a timeshare with Randy Foye. None of the other bench players see enough playing time to warrant serious fantasy consideration.
Golden State Warriors
There isn’t much to update with the Warriors, as the machine continues to hum along. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green are locked into solid 35+ minute roles and should be treated as high-end fantasy options most nights at their respective positions. Harrison Barnes and Andre Iguodala continue to split time at small forward, but Barnes is the preferred play as he tends to get a few additional minutes shifted his way. The big man situation is a fantasy stay-away, as Andrew Bogut plays very limited minutes these days. With both Festus Ezeli and David Lee fighting for backup minutes, there’s not a lot of appeal here.
If the whole team was healthy, the Rockets would have a glut of depth in the frontcourt. However, that hasn’t really been the case at any point this season. Dwight Howard remains out, Terrence Jones can’t stay on the court, and other guys have been in and out of the lineup. As it stands now, Jones seems to be atop the pecking order, with Donatas Motiejunas and Josh Smith splitting the bulk of the remainder of the frontcourt playing time. Joey Dorsey became somewhat fantasy relevant for a while, but he has disappeared from the rotation since Jones’ return. Trevor Ariza remains a consistent staple as the starting small forward, and he’s locked into a 32-36 minute role of his own.
The backcourt is spear-headed by James Harden, who has one of the highest usage rates in the league and plays a ton of minutes. Corey Brewer spells him at times, while also relieving Ariza at the small forward spot. He would be a prime play if Harden or Ariza were to ever miss any time. Patrick Beverley is a defense-first point guard who is generally limited to around 26-28 minutes per game, and his stats are not overly fantasy-friendly as he occasionally loses minutes to Jason Terry.
Los Angeles Clippers
Unfortunately for them, the Clippers just can’t get back to full health. Blake Griffin is nearing a return, and Matt Barnes returned over the weekend, but now Jamal Crawford is ailing and has no timetable for a return to action. This will thrust more responsibility onto J.J. Redick and Barnes, and both these guys should be viable low-cost options while Crawford is out. DeAndre Jordan has been a rebounding machine since Griffin got hurt, and he is also playing 40 minutes on a regular basis. Expect his production and playing time to both slip a bit upon Griffin’s return. Chris Paul is still a fantasy stud, but his numbers should also decline some. He will remain a safe nightly bet for 35-38 minutes, however.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers remain in full “tank mode” right now, and we still aren’t going to be able to peg their rotations with any certainty. Jordan Clarkson, Wayne Ellington, and Jeremy Lin seem to have a stranglehold on the majority of the backcourt minutes, but playing time still fluctuates nightly for all three. Wesley Johnson has secured the starting small forward gig, but his upside is limited as he doesn’t look for his own shot very often. However, Johnson is probably the safest bet on the team for a 30+ minute role right now. The frontcourt is a disaster, with Carlos Boozer, Tarik Black, Jordan Hill, Ryan Kelly, and Ed Davis all vying for minutes. All five of those guys neutralize each other’s production, and that makes this a fantasy situation to completely avoid.
Memphis is quietly humming along with a 44-18 record, though they aren’t playing their best basketball of the season right now. Zach Randolph and Mike Conley have both been relatively quiet in recent weeks, but they are still locked in as 32-34 minute players as long as they remain healthy. Quietly, Jeff Green is also making his way into heavy playing time despite both Courtney Lee and Tony Allen being healthy. These three players tend to split most of the time at the #2 and #3 positions for the Grizzlies.
The one consistent options remains in Marc Gasol. His FanDuel price has dipped lately, but his production is starting to come around. He is a lock for 34-36 minutes, and his production should come back as we hit the final six weeks of the regular season. None of the bench players get enough playing time to be considered as viable fantasy options.
Ricky Rubio has announced his return in a big way, and he has been a top-five point guard over the last few weeks. After the Wolves traded Mo Williams to Charlotte, it was clear that the intent was to let Rubio play a star role after he came back. He should be locked in for heavy minutes down the stretch. On a similar note, Kevin Martin and Andrew Wiggins will also remain lynchpins of the team with Thaddeus Young off to Brooklyn. All three players should average 36+ minutes a game over the last few months, barring injury.
The only spots that are a little harder to peg here are power forward and center. Kevin Garnett has returned, but he can no longer play heavy minutes. Most of the minutes will fall to Garnett, Gorgui Dieng, and Nikola Pekovic, though the situation is difficult to peg when everyone is active. If Pekovic’s knees and ankles cause him to miss any time, Dieng gets a massive fantasy boost.
New Orleans Pelicans
Anthony Davis showed no rust from his long layoff, putting up a massive line in his first game back last Wednesday against Detroit. He obviously reclaims his status as one of the top overall fantasy players in the game today. This will put a dent in the forward-looking minutes outlook for both Alexis Ajinca and Omer Asik, despite the absence of Ryan Anderson. It doesn’t really affect the minutes of anyone else, but guys like Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, and others will also lose a handful of shots. Gordon and Evans remain viable plays as they will still log 35+ minutes on a consistent basis.
Oklahoma City Thunder
I could probably fill a whole column discussing the recent performances of Russell Westbrook. He has simply been a fantasy monster of late, as he is single-handedly attempting to will the Thunder into the playoffs. He is playing over 40 minutes a night, and he is posting ridiculous stat lines with ease. His FanDuel price is north of $12,000 now, but he continues to pay off his massive salary night after night. The impending return of Kevin Durant will obviously hurt Westbrook some, but the Thunder star is definitely making his case for an MVP run.
With Westbrook going nuts lately, there hasn’t been a ton to get excited about outside of him. Serge Ibaka had a solid February, and Enes Kanter has been steady since his acquisition. Both will play 32-35 minutes per night, but their value will also take a bit of a hit when Durant returns. Steven Adams remains out, however, and that will solidify the minutes for both Ibaka and Kanter. The shooting guard spot is a jumbled mess in OKC, and that’s the one position you can generally avoid here.
Phoenix is seeing its playoff hopes grow dimmer by the day, but it’s not for a lack of effort. Brandon Knight is having a little bit of trouble co-existing with Eric Bledsoe, but both garner major minutes in the Suns’ backcourt. P.J. Tucker joins them as a third player who is a general lock for 35+ minutes on a nightly basis. The rotations are much clearer with Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas no longer around. The frontcourt has a bit more depth, with Alex Len and Brendan Wright splitting minutes at center and the Morris twins stashing most of the playing time at power forward. Len and Markieff Morris are the safer bets that tend to play closer to 30 minutes, while Wright and Marcus Morris hover closer to the 20 mark.
The Blazers had finally returned to full health, and then Wesley Matthews was lost for the season. The team certainly has to be glad that they acquired Arron Afflalo at the trade deadline, as Afflalo will now step into Matthews’ role with around 35 minutes per game headed his way. Terry Stotts loves to ride his starters, and he will have to do that even more now. Damian Lillard, LaMarcus Aldridge, and a rising Nicolas Batum should be in line for heavy workloads in the season’s final month and a half. A fully healthy Robin Lopez will also be a big factor, though the team likes to limit him to closer to 28-30 minutes in an attempt to keep him fresh.
George Karl is wisely building the future of the team around DeMarcus Cousins, and the fantasy appeal of the Kings as a whole has increased since Karl took over. He plays the starters very heavy minutes, which increases the stock of Cousins, Rudy Gay, Ray McCallum, and even Ben McLemore. Jason Thompson has actually logged a few double-doubles since Karl took over, too. There’s not a lot of usage for the guys not named Gay and Cousins, but the heavy minutes are generally enough to offset the lack of shots. If Karl remains the coach for a while, this team could become decent over time. In the meantime, expect most of the starters to be out there for 34-36+ minutes on the nights where the games are close.
San Antonio Spurs
Tony Parker is currently playing his best basketball of the season, but we are getting to that point of the year where targeting Spurs is going to become a real challenge. The Spurs are 5 ½ games up on a playoff spot right now with under 20 games to play, so rest days will be a possibility on the tail-end of back-to-backs or when easy opponents come calling. Tim Duncan generally only plays around 25 minutes per game now. Parker and Kawhi Leonard seem to be the safest bets for 32-35 minutes, but even that will fluctuate if games get out of hand. Manu Ginobili and Danny Green hurt each other’s value by splitting minutes at shooting guard. In short, there’s still not a lot to love with San Antonio.
America’s flavor of last month was Hassan Whiteside. The flavor of this month just might be Rudy Gobert. The Jazz are playing very good basketball with Gobert leading the charge at center and Derrick Favors at power forward. Both guys are locked into heavy roles with Enes Kanter in Oklahoma City, and with 35+ minutes per night they can both do their fair share of damage. Gordon Hayward is also locked into a solid fantasy role with a high usage rate.
The guard positions in Utah are a little more unpredictable. Rodney Hood is back. Trey Burke is still coming off the bench, and the team is trying to develop Dante Exum. Elijah Millsap is a viable bench contributor, too. Burke has the most upside of the bunch, but it’s very hard to peg minutes correctly for any of these guys.