NBA Fantasy Trends

NBA Lineup Flexibility

Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Diversity isn’t just an old wooden ship anymore. NBA teams build their teams to add players with the capability to play more than one position. A lot of this has to do with the Warriors causing teams to switch everything on pet-play pick-and-roll, but multi-player action hasn’t been this live since Golden Eye 64. No Odd Jobs either. 


Because of that diversity, we’ve seen a lot of teams use a handful of players to replace one guy. Unlike in football, the days of the handcuff point guards are falling by the wayside. Instead, we see teams use wings or even bigs to help dictate the offense. Hey, the Bucks felt comfortable dealing away their franchise point guard for a guy who wasn’t even in the rotation for the Bulls. They did pay Matthew Dellavedova, though.


That new style has made it a little more difficult to figure out who to use in DFS or to pickup in in fantasy after a key injury. With that in mind, I thought it might be helpful to look at which teams mix things up the most to help indicate who steps up on an injury.


We’ll go through all 30 teams in this mini-series to show who plays where based on some preseason minutes. Yeah yeah, you’ll see some mad Twitter people saying “preseason doesn’t matter” or some other lazy take. The truth is it does matter because coaches want to know who can play where. It is a tall task to figure it out, but I got you guys.


For this column, there will be a flexibility rating for each team. The higher the flexibility rating, the more players could be involved in replacing an injury to a starter. In other words, the lower-rated teams should have more value to their backups. In football terms, Spencer Ware of the Chiefs would be helped by a low rating. A high or low rating doesn’t necessarily mean one way or another. For instance, a team can have a high flexibility rating because it has guys to play 4-of-5 positions, but it doesn’t have it in one spot. 


I’m hoping to show who can step up with a quick pull on this column for the early part of the season. I have DFS in mind here, but this should have value in season-long leagues, too. 


Here goes nothing.




Position Flexibility Rating: 6


Robert Covington - He came up as a power forward, but now he’s playing almost all three. RoCO did get some minutes at the four in the preseason while Dario was out. Also, he did play some three in scrimmages before the Ben Simmons injury. Expect a lot of treys and steals from Lord Robert Covington.


Dario Saric - After getting some minutes at the three in practices before the Simmons injury, The Homie played most of his minutes with Joel Embiid while there was some run with Richaun Holmes and Jahlil Okafor. He saw a few possessions with Shawn Long, too. Saric looks like he’s going to get big burn this year. This was also amazing from Friday:


Dario Nowitzki?

— Michael Gallagher (@MikeSGallagher) October 22, 2016

Nik Stauskas, Hollis Thompson and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot - They all played mostly two with a few minutes at the three.


Gerald Henderson - Hendo has plenty of size and did play some three along with his starting shooting guard role.


Jahlil Okafor, Richaun Holmes and Joel Embiid - These guys all played straight center with the exception of one minute of a Holmes-Embiid lineup. Also it was somewhat interesting Okafor played all eight of his minutes next to The Homie on Friday. Not much to go on at all, but that might have to do with Embiid resting on back-to-back sets earlier.




Position Flexibility Rating: 8


Giannis Antetokounmpo - Perhaps nobody plays more positions than the Greek Freak. He logged all of his preseason minutes next to a “point guard” on the roster, but it's his show.


Malcolm Brogdon - He’s looking like the backup point guard and he did get minutes next to Giannis and Matthew Dellavedova, too. He should be sneaky and would step up with almost any injury to the rotation.


Jabari Parker - He was in the top 10 for players who “added a 3-pointer” over the summer. He did make 0.5 per game this month, so that seems fair to expect. Plus, he is playing outside the paint more as a small forward. This was cool:


Jabari Parker with one dribble blow-by from the corner for the jam. He looks kinda healthy.

— Michael Gallagher (@MikeSGallagher) October 20, 2016


It feels like a breakout is coming.


Michael Beasley - The Bucks offense is really confusing regarding who plays where. For the most part, Beasley was at power forward. As for personnel, he logged minutes next to Mirza Teletovic more than any other forward while he saw time with Thon Maker. He didn’t play too much with Jabari.


John Henson - We saw some double-big lineups from the Bucks. Henson played about 20 percent of his preseason minutes next to Greg Monroe — none next to Miles Plumlee.


Mirza Teletovic - They’ve started him at small forward and are using him next to Jabari Parker a ton. We still don’t know how Tony Snell (ankle) is going to fit in here, but it is not good for Mirza.


Thon Maker - The Bucks did get him out there as a five, so that’s something to watch if the Bucks make some moves.




Position Flexibility Rating: 5


Dwyane Wade - He played a ton of three with coach Erik Spoelstra, but not so much here. There were some minutes with SG Isaiah Canaan and coach Fred Hoiberg did use a Rajon Rondo, Michael Carter-Williams and Wade combo on Thursday.


Jimmy Butler - He saw a lot of action at both wing spots last year, but that didn’t happen often in the preseason.


Michael Carter-Williams - He has the size to play multiple spots and he did get run next to Rondo on Thursday. His arrival kind of hurts Denzel Valentine and the other backup point guards.


Doug McDermott - The McBuckets four plan was basically shut down over the summer and it’s held up. He’s barely played any PF with the vast majority of his minutes coming at SF.


Nikola Mirotic - Like McBuckets, the Mirotic SF minutes were eliminated late last year. It’s all power forward all the time. He was a big loser in the preseason because coming off the bench hurts with a couple shooters in that group.


Taj Gibson - The Taj has helped himself bigly. Get it? Because of the Trump Taj Mahal? Anyway, he’s playing minutes at center and looks to have the starting job locked down. For DFS, he’s really going to have to crush on the boards and block shots.


Bobby Portis - Free Bobby Portis? Not so much. He’s played most of his minutes next to Cristiano Felicio, but did get a lot of run next to Mirotic. He needs a couple things to happen because Felicio looks like he’s next in line should something happen to Robin Lopez.




Position Flexibility Rating: 5


Kevin Love - The Cavs did use Love at the five in the preseason, which shouldn’t be too surprising given their lack of depth.


LeBron James - He can play any position he wants. The Cavs will use him at the four a bunch.


Iman Shumpert - He played at the one, two and three. Shump could get the boot and be dealt, though.


Mike Dunleavy - He played almost straight three, but a lot of those minutes figure to come with Bron at the four.




Position Flexibility Rating: 9


Avery Bradley - Just to get this out of the way, I like AB more than you. He is being used as a three-position guy with the IT-Smart-AB lineup as the most intriguing. Breakout coming.


Marcus Smart - He’s a “point guard” for Boston, but he plays both guards. He will likely be a “shooting guard” most of the time, especially with how awesome my man Rozier has looked. Get healthy, man.


Terry Rozier - Rozier is so, so good. He’s grown so much as a scorer and even Jae Crowder called him out as a player to step up while Smart is down. Ainge and Stevens both say he’s ready to go off. This dude can ball.


Jae Crowder - The IT-Smart-AB-Jae-Horford lineup might be the East version of the Death Lineup. Crowder was used at the four in his second-fifth most used lineup combo. Stevens is going to destroy people with small-ball this year thanks to Horford coming around.


Jaylen Brown - Lower-case Jae (or Jay?). Brown was used at the four and he was used next to Crowder for the forward spots. He’s firmly in the rotation after what looked like a shaky rotation position. A big preseason winner.


The bigs - We all know Stevens will mix up his bigs more than anyone. We’ll see a lot of combos of Jonas Jerebko, Tyler Zeller and Amir Johnson. Hey, Jordan Mickey was actually pretty good. Al Horford led the preseason in net rating at 38.4. Boston is a beast.




Position Flexibility Rating: 2


Malcolm Delaney - Hey, he did play some minutes at the two. He might be my favorite super deep pick. He’s also the backup PG, in case you missed it. Plus, the Hawks don't have a third PG.


Kent Bazemore and Kyle Korver - Everyone knows these two take care of the wing spots. We’ll see what the rooks can do. You can throw Thabo Sefolosha in here, too.


Tim Hardaway Jr. - A bad, bad preseason. He still has some leash left. He actually had some PG minutes, too.


Taurean Prince - He barely played some four. He’ll have a low usage rate, too.


DeAndre Bembry - He saw some minutes at 2-3, but not enough to care. Bembry did bring the ball up at times this month, as well.


Mike Muscala - He is likely the next man up on PF, but did play a lot of C next to Sapper.


Kris Humphries - Hump can play 4-5. I hope not because I want to see some Edy Tavares.




Position Flexibility Rating: 8


Tyler Johnson - The Heat cut up their backup PGs, so it’s all TJ behind the Dragon. He will also get minutes at SG. Watch him.


Dion Waiters - Perhaps no Eastern Conference coach likes going small more than Erik Spoelstra. D-Wait should be used like D-Wade with most of his minutes at the two and a decent chunk at the three.


Josh Richardson - We didn’t get to see J-Rich in the preseason due to injury. With Johnson set for all the backup minutes, we can assume Richardson would play almost all SG.


Justise Winslow - A minor surprise was Winslow playing almost all three in the preseason. He should slide over to the four at some point this year, especially when J-Rich is rolling again.


Derrick Williams - It looked like he was going to start, but now there’s a chance it’s Luke Babbitt sneaking in there. Both of these guys will play mostly four with a few minutes at the three while Winslow is on the bench. You could say the same for James Johnson, too.


Willie Reed - He played straight five and looks to be in the rotation. Awesome preseason for him.




Position Flexibility Rating: 7


Frank Kaminsky - He played more power forward than I thought. Kaminsky only played about seven minutes next to Marvin Williams in the preseason. If both are hurt, we might get a lot of Christian Wood.


Christian Wood - A fun player with a lot of athleticism. He played some five in the preseason, but that won’t happen in the regular season unless it’s garbage time.


Marvin Williams - All PF, all the time.


Michael Kidd-Gilchrist - He actually got a decent amount of run at PF, but that had a little to do with Marvin going down.


Nicolas Batum - He saw some good run at small forward next to guys like Marco Belinelli.


Ramon Sessions - He did get a little run with Kemba.


Marco Belinelli - He saw some run at small forward, but not enough to matter. Same with Jeremy Lamb.




Position Flexibility Rating: 4


Note: Hornacek usually loves to mix it up, but didn’t too much in October. That could change in the preseason. It might have been due to some starters missing action.


Kristaps Porzingis - Even with Joakim Noah dinged up, we didn’t see too much KP6 at the five. We only saw six minutes of the Melo-KP PF-C combo in the preseason. Also worth a mention that 35 percent of KP's FGAs were from deep.


Carmelo Anthony - He didn’t play nearly as much four as anticipated. It was basically the same story with Lance Thomas. Another quick side note: Knicks bumped their preseason pace to 103.6 from 95.8 last season.


Courtney Lee - He saw some three, but only a handful of possessions. In the game Derrick Rose played, coach Jeff Hornacek actually used a Lee, Rose and Brandon Jennings combo. Lee played a little next to Justin Holiday, too. Holiday saw even fewer minutes at the three.


Ron Baker - Saw minutes at both guard spots. Props to him for making the team and the Knicks cutting some guaranteed money to put him on the roster.


Maurice Ndour - The Forest Moon got minutes at both forward spots.




Position Flexibility Rating: 6


Serge Ibaka - It’s tough to call Serge a power forward or center next to Nikola Vucevic, but he is listed as power forward. He played a ton of minutes next to both Vooch and Bismack Biyombo. Heck, he even played 44 minutes in a preseason game! His usage should certainly rise, but his block rate is still slightly concerning due to it dropping in four straight seasons.


Serge, Vooch and Biz - Let’s look at the percentage of minutes these guys picked up next to one another:


Biz with Vooch: 26.9 percent

Biz with Serge: 32.1 percent


Serge with Vooch: 62.1 percent

Serge with Biz: 32.1 percent


Vooch with Serge: 67.4 percent

Vooch with Biz: 29.2 percent


Aaron Gordon - It was all small forward for AG. He played a good portion of his minutes next to Jeff Green and even a bit next to Damjan Rudez.


Jeff Green - It was mostly power forward, but he saw some run at the three next to the two bigs, as well.


Evan Fournier and Mario Hezonja - These two played together a ton in the preseason, so Mario looks like he’d get a decent bump should something happen to Gordon or Fournier.


D.J. Augustin and Elfrid Payton - We’ve seen both guys out there in two-PG sets, but no offensive possessions here.




Position Flexibility Rating: ?


I am stymied on this one, you guys. This is by far the hardest rotation to predict.


Jeremy Lin and Brook Lopez - Locked and loaded at PG and C.


Randy Foye - He has played PG in the past, but not in the preseason. Isaiah Whitehead and Greivis Vasquez actually saw some SG minutes, too.


Rondae Hollis-Jefferson - He’ll play both wings. 


Bojan Bogdanovic, Joe Harris, and Sean Kilpatrick - Call these guys SG or SF, but they saw a lot of time next to each other. Same with Rondae.


Justin Hamilton - He got a start at power forward and played 25 preseason minutes next to Brook Lopez. Hamilton also played a lot of center, too. Sneaky.


Trevor Booker - Cook Book saw some center minutes and the same goes for Scola. Booker will play mostly four and should start, too.


Chris McCullough - Colossal letdown in the preseason. He did see some center minutes.




Position Flexibility Rating: 2


Myles Turner - Even though he logged 29 starts at power forward last year, Turner is live at the five. Al Jefferson is right behind him.


Paul George - Also keeping it 100 percent with all of his minutes at SF. Glenn Robinson III also played right behind him while C.J. Miles (knee) was on the mend.


Thaddeus Young - Saw five minutes as a small forward.


Rodney Stuckey - He actually saw some burn at the point. Monta Ellis was a straight two while Joe Young was Jeff Teague’s backup.




Position Flexibility Rating: 3


Tobias Harris - With Marcus Morris dinged up, we saw a ton of Tobias at the three. He looks like he’s set for a big workload.


Marcus Morris - He was actually used at center for seven minutes. Crazy ol’ SVG is high of Diet Pepsi in the preseason.


Stanley Johnson - His foot issue stagnated his preseason a bit, but he did mix in a few SG minutes. With Morris and KCP set to see lighter playing time, Johnson could make a charge later.


Jon Leuer - Johnny Basketball saw some burn at the five in the preseason. Considering the depth at the five, that likely won’t happen in the regular season. The same for Henry Ellenson.




Position Flexibility Rating: 6


DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell and Terrence Ross - These guys will soak up most of the minutes at the two and plenty at the three.


Cory Joseph - He didn’t play too much SG, but he certainly will during the season.


DeMarre Carroll - Somewhat surprisingly, he only played five minutes at the four. With Jared Sullinger (foot) going down, I’d expect DC to play there quite a bit.


Pascal Siakam - He might be the starting power forward and also saw minutes at the five. Patrick Patterson was straight four, by the way.




Positions Flexibility Rating: 4


Otto Porter - Somewhat surprisingly, we didn’t see much of the Otto four lineup. Considering the Wizards are thin up front, I’d expect more of that.


Kelly Oubre - We saw some Oubre at the four last year and they did again in the preseason. He also saw some minutes at the two next to Otto.


Bradley Beal - He played a little three next to Tomas Satoransky. Beal looked really good and could blow up this year. Gotta stay healthy.


Tomas Satoransky - While Wall was out, he got some PG minutes.


Andrew Nicholson and Jason Smith - Both guys saw most of their run at the four, but losing Ian Mahinmi (knee) should put them behind Marcin Gortat

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