Adam Levitan

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DeAndre Decision

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


The idea of losing your starting job due to injury is nothing new. Made famous by Yankee Wally Pipp back in 1925, it now happens all the time in the NBA -- even to former All-Stars. On Monday night, Greg Monroe stuck in the starting five even though Ben Wallace (ankle) was healthy. Aaron Brooks still has not gotten his job back from Kyle Lowry even though Brooks has been healthy for two weeks.

NBA coaches are constantly tinkering, toying and yanking around with rotations. The effect this has on minutes played and thus statistical production is where we come in. Each week in this space, I'll explore the rotations of half the league's teams while attempting to get inside coaches' heads. The idea is not to tell you what Kevin Durant and LeBron James are going to do -- it's to decipher how much production we can get out of fringe players. Last week, I hit the East. Let's start this week off with the Clippers, where Chris Kaman is in danger of getting "Pipped."

* Note that lineups listed reflect the starters in the team's previous game. Stats are through Monday's game unless otherwise noted.

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
PG Baron Davis
SG Eric Gordon
SF Ryan Gomes
PF Blake Griffin
C DeAndre Jordan

Just two weeks ago, I thought Chris Kaman would get his starting job back once healthy. But with the Clippers winning 12 of their last 17 games, that's now a poor bet. There is no question that DeAndre Jordan has played well enough to keep the starting job -- he is averaging 8.4 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.6 blocks over his last 10 outings. More than that, Jordan does not demand touches in the post like Kaman does -- allowing Eric Gordon and Blake Griffin to get all the isolations. Kaman actually now fits better with the second unit.

Ideally, the Clips would trade Kaman for a small forward and allow Jordan to blossom as part of their core. But trades in the NBA are easier said than done, and we can not brush Kaman off as some scrub who makes $11.3 million. Just last season, Kaman averaged 18.5 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks on his way to the All-Star game. Once healthy, look for Kaman to get about 25-28 minutes off the bench with Jordan hovering around the 30-minute mark. That's enough for both to hold value in all formats.

Be careful not to get caught up in the Blake Griffin hype machine. He will continue to be among the league leaders in minutes, points and boards, but it's troubling from a fantasy perspective that he does not block, steal, pass, make 3-pointers or hit free throws at a plus-level. It sounds crazy, but guys like Elton Brand and Nene Hilario are better fantasy options.

Eric Gordon's health is certainly a concern, but there is no real way for owners to protect themselves. If Gordon were sidelined, Randy Foye, Al-Farouq Aminu and maybe even Rasual Butler would all chop up the minutes as an unappealing three-headed monster led by Foye. The real beneficiary would be Baron Davis, who would take on a larger scoring role with the first unit.

DALLAS
PG Jason Kidd
SG DeShawn Stevenson
SF Sasha Pavlovic
PF Dirk Nowitzki
C Tyson Chandler

Coach Rick Carlisle has become some kind of mad scientist as his team has floundered. They have lost seven of their last nine games, although it must be noted that four of those losses came with Dirk Nowitzki (knee) sidelined. Still, Carlisle appears panicked as he brings both Shawn Marion and Jason Terry off the bench.

Carlisle has started Sasha Pavlovic, a slow-footed journeyman on a 10-day contract in each of the last three games. That leads us to an obvious question -- will Peja Stojakovic start once his signing is completed? I suspect he eventually will. Stojakovic is still one of the best pure shooters around and the Mavs are in desperate need of floor spacing with their first unit. However, fantasy owners should only be adding Peja in very deep formats. Like Pavlovic is now, Stojakovic is likely to play just 18-22 minutes per game -- if his gimpy knees even allow that. And even when he was in his prime, the sharpshooter gave owners nothing in steals, blocks, assists, rebounds or free-throw attempts.

Meanwhile Marion's move back to the bench is a real downer. The fact that he can't separate from Sasha Pavlovic and DeShawn Stevenson in the rotation speaks volumes. There will be some sporadic big games from Marion, but his sudden inability to shoot treys or get his trademark defensive stats means you aren't missing much by leaving him on waivers.

Out of this entire mess, Jason Terry's role is perhaps the most secure. Whether starting or coming off the bench, he is going to play 31-34 minutes and get at least 14-16 shots up a night. Make sure you're there when he catches fire as he often does late in the season.

Editor's Note: Draft a hoops team just for tonight and win real cash in SnapDraft!

DENVER
PG Chauncey Billups
SG Arron Afflalo
SF Carmelo Anthony
PF Kenyon Martin
C Nene Hilario

We are exactly one month away from the NBA's trading deadline. The Nuggets could very well use that entire period to get the best deal for Carmelo Anthony, or Melo could even decide to stay in Denver during that time. My guess is that Denver will give Anthony one last chance to sign a three-year, $65 million extension with them. If he once again declines to do so, the Nuggets will trade him to a team willing to "rent" him, like Houston or Dallas.

In the meantime, however, we can only analyze this rotation as currently constructed. Kenyon Martin is on a minutes cap thanks to his balky knees and is a threat to be a late scratch nightly. It's not worth the headache. J.R. Smith and Al Harrington can only be considered 3-point specialists as bench players. Ty Lawson has not topped 28 minutes in a game since December. Until further notice, this rotation is set.

GOLDEN STATE
PG Stephen Curry
SG Monta Ellis
SF Dorrell Wright
PF David Lee
C Andris Biedrins

The concern over Stephen Curry's usage is overblown. Does anyone really think that Acie Law, who has been dumped by five different teams since 2007, is a real threat to Curry? In most of the games where Curry has seen limited minutes, the issue has been foul trouble. He's a poor defender, so that is going to happen. But the Warriors are ideally going to play Curry 34-40 minutes nightly, depending on how hot he is. With his elite steal, 3-point and free-throw skills, that is more than enough to make Curry a top-10 fantasy player. Stay the course.

HOUSTON
PG Kyle Lowry
SG Kevin Martin
SF Shane Battier
PF Luis Scola
C Chuck Hayes

As mentioned in the intro, Aaron Brooks still doesn't have his starting job back from Kyle Lowry even though the Rockets have lost nine of their last 14 games. The problem now is that Brooks simply is not shooting the ball well: He has made just 17-of-68 (25.0 percent) of his 3-pointers since coming off the shelf two weeks ago. I suspect that's a chicken-and-egg stat, meaning Brooks would play better with starter's minutes, but Rick Adelman is not showing any intention of finding out. I still think Brooks will eventually move past Lowry, but it's going to take a longer losing streak. Keep Brooks stashed.

Chuck Hayes is the preferred starter for Adelman even when Jordan Hill and Brad Miller are both healthy. A prototypical glue guy, Hayes is an underrated source of defensive stats and rebounds. He's a good bet for 25-30 minutes nightly the rest of the way.

Editor's Note: For weekly projections, daily pickup advice, exclusive columns and much more, check out Rotoworld's Season Pass!


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Adam Levitan is in his sixth season covering football and basketball for Rotoworld. He won the Fantasy Sports Writers Association award for Best Series in 2011 and 2009, and ESPN's overall fantasy football title in 2000. Find him on Twitter.
Email :Adam Levitan



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