Adam Levitan

Rotating Rotations

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Hibbert's Hop

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

An in-season coaching change can often have dramatic implications on rotations and strategy. We saw it in Charlotte with Paul Silas, who has turned D.J. Augustin into a top-40 fantasy player with a "hands off" style. We are already seeing it in Indiana, where Jim O'Brien's head-scratching decisions and public criticisms of his players got him fired.

NBA coaches are constantly tinkering, toying and yanking around with rotations. The effect this has on minutes played and 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 and rotations. 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 West. Let's start this week off with those new-look Pacers.

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

PG Darren Collison
SG Mike Dunleavy
SF Danny Granger
PF Josh McRoberts
C Roy Hibbert

Interim coach Frank Vogel had just one practice and one shootaround to make adjustments before Monday night's game against the Raptors. That was more than enough time to make an impact. Vogel chose to start Josh McRoberts at the fluid power forward spot and hinted that he likes Tyler Hansbrough as his low-post scorer off the bench. Hansbrough checked in for McBob with about five minutes left in the first quarter Monday, a rotation that makes sense. When it was said and done, McRoberts played 32 minutes while Hansbrough got just 15. That will be more even on most nights, but since neither have any blocks upside, I'm staying away in standard formats.

The other glaring adjustment was a focus on Roy Hibbert. Instead of receiving the ball at the elbow, the Pacers got the ball to the big man deep on the block. It resulted in 24 points and 11 rebounds in 30 minutes. Note that in Hibbert's previous 12 games, he averaged 8.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks. On Monday, he had 24 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks. Yes, most of that came against Andrea Bargnani, who very well may be the worst post defender in the NBA. But it's not a fluke that this breakout happened immediately following O'Brien's dismissal.

It's clear that one of the main reasons Jim O'Brien is gone is because of how he handled Hibbert. Vogel is already committed to relying on Hibbert in a big way. Before Monday, Hibbert had played 30-plus minutes just once in his last 12 games. Fans were chanting "double-double" as the clock wound down and Vogel could be audibly heard encouraging Hibbert even when the big man made mistakes.

As for Danny Granger, there is no real change. O'Brien was already playing Granger almost 37 minutes a night and encouraged his scorer to shoot 3-pointers at will. Vogel will do the same thing. Darren Collison has an up arrow because he won't be looking over his shoulder at O'Brien. The promising young point guard is now locked into a true starter's role and will be able to play more freely.

The Brandon Rush/Paul George/Mike Dunleavy situation is not all that exciting. George can definitely play and will be very good down the line, but he is not good bet to get 30 minutes a night at any point this season. Rush found himself in O'Brien's doghouse but is a better overall player than Dunleavy. Still, Dunleavy is too established to simply be phased out. It's a mess that I'd rather not deal with unless I'm in a deep league.

PG Mike Bibby
SG Joe Johnson
SF Maurice Evans
PF Josh Smith
C Al Horford

Two weeks ago, I mentioned how Marvin Williams' return combined with a natural regression in shooting percentage is trouble for Jamal Crawford. Over his last eight games, Crawford is averaging just 13.1 points on 35-of-100 (35.0 percent) shooting. He will get hot again, but for now must be considered a mere 3-point specialist.

Before Marvin Williams went Mike Tyson on Shawne Williams, his back looked pretty good -- good enough to start when the Hawks choose to go small. Still, Williams does not get plays run for him and is a poor bet to play more than 27-29 minutes nightly. In 29 starts this season, he has averaged 10.9 points and 4.6 rebounds with no defensive stats. We can do better.

PG Rajon Rondo
SG Ray Allen
SF Paul Pierce
PF Kevin Garnett
C Shaquille O'Neal

Kendrick Perkins' impressive return just seven months removed from an ACL tear throws a wrench into the big man rotation. It allows Shaquille O'Neal to rest on back-to-backs and sit out whenever he feels a nagging injury. It also cramps Glen Davis' minutes.

In the four games that Perkins has played this season, Davis is averaging 22.2 minutes. For the season, he is up at 30 a night. And this comes with Jermaine O'Neal (knee) sidelined. Barring another injury to Kevin Garnett or a setback for Perkins, Davis should only be used in the deepest of formats.

As for Perkins himself, I am not too excited. Last year, Perkins was completely healthy and did not have Shaq or Jermaine to fend off. He started 78 games and still averaged a meager 10.1 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. Perkins minutes are already ramped up around 27 quickly, but he remains a long shot to equal those numbers from last season.

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PG D.J. Augustin
SG Stephen Jackson
SF Gerald Wallace
PF Boris Diaw
C Kwame Brown

This rotation has become as rock solid as it gets under Paul Silas. Since Larry Brown stepped down on Dec. 22, the Bobcats have gone 11-7 (entering Monday) -- and the starting five is clearly locked in for the long haul. With no real questions about roles, note some January numbers in the 15 games entering Monday night:

D.J. Augustin: 17.9 points, 7.3 assists, 1.9 treys, 0.9 steals.
Kwame Brown: 9.2 points, 8.9 rebounds, 0.4 blocks, 56.2 percent from field.

We can confidently say that these numbers will hold over the final two-plus months.

PG Derrick Rose
SG Keith Bogans
SF Luol Deng
PF Carlos Boozer
C Kurt Thomas

Joakim Noah (hand) will be back sometime around the Feb. 18 All-Star game. Considering the injury was to Noah's hand and not his legs, he should be in fine physical condition -- and ready to play 34-plus minutes right out of the gate. Taj Gibson already is waiver-wire fodder and Kurt Thomas will be joining him very shortly as well.

Once Noah returns, Luol Deng's minutes figure to drop. He won't be needed at power forward anymore and badly needs a break. Deng is currently playing 39.2 minutes a night, trailing only Monta Ellis, Rudy Gay, Kevin Durant and Dorell Wright in that category.

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Adam Levitan is in his seventh 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.
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