Adam Levitan

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Timmy in Trouble

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

NBA teams don't care about stats or minutes played. The good ones -- and good players -- simply care about winning. So take a look at this statline and guess who the player is: 13.5 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.9 blocks in 29.1 minutes per night. If you guessed "beefed up Kris Humphries," you are wrong. If you guessed Tim Duncan, you are well aware of the future Hall of Famer's reduced role. And the bad news for owners is that it's only going to get worse.

Coaches are constantly tinkering, toying and yanking around with rotations. Sometimes it has to do with injuries. In other instances, it's a result of ineffective play from a certain player or team goals. 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 Spurs, where Gregg Popovich will soon be looking toward the playoffs.

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

PG Tony Parker
SG Manu Ginobili
SF Richard Jefferson
PF Tim Duncan
C DeJuan Blair

Tim Duncan played just under 13 minutes on Friday due to simple rest. With the Spurs seven games clear of the Mavs for the top seed in the West and just 32 games to play, look for much more rest down the stretch. Owners should be trying to sell high on name value at all costs, especially if you are in a head-to-head playoff league. Duncan is a threat to sit out the final week of the season and play sparingly on back-to-backs. Already playing just 29.1 minutes nightly, any more time off will be devastating.

The biggest benefactor of Duncan resting is DeJuan Blair. Blair has played 30 or more minutes six times this season. In those games, he is averaging 14.1 points, 12.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks.

Don't chase Tiago Splitter's stats from Friday. Matt Bonner (knee) is nearing a return and Splitter has played five minutes or less in 10 of the last 16 games. That offensive outburst was a fluke. … Richard Jefferson is out of his slump and back up around 32-34 minutes nightly. Owners could do worse for a 3-point specialist, but his 0.5 steals, 0.5 blocks and 1.4 assists make me stay away.

PG Jason Kidd
SG DeShawn Stevenson
SF Peja Stojakovic
PF Dirk Nowitzki
C Tyson Chandler

As expected, Peja Stojakovic's debut came in a starting role. He'll stay there, as coach Rick Carlisle is adamant about bringing both Jason Terry and Shawn Marion off the bench. Heck, he even started Brian "The Janitor" Cardinal at small forward last week before Peja was ready.

However, Stojakovic will be nothing more than a 3-point specialist. Even once 100 percent, the starting small forward in this scheme will not come close to 30 minutes. And as a shell of himself, Peja's numbers are capped. Even when Stojakovic started 55 games and played 32 minutes a night a year ago for the Hornets, he averaged just 13.1 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists.

Considering Rodrigue Beabois has not played since October, he sure is garnering a lot of hype. I am not buying it. Players coming off layoffs as long as this often need weeks to get up to speed and it's not like Roddy B was an established star anyway. He certainly has a ton of talent, but I do not think he will start over DeShawn Stevenson at any point this season. I would much rather be stashing Chris Kaman, Mo Williams, Ty Lawson etc.

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PG Chauncey Billups
SG Arron Afflalo
SF Carmelo Anthony
PF Kenyon Martin
C Al Harrington

Now just over two weeks away from the deadline, Carmelo Anthony remains a good bet to be traded. The Nuggets have seen what has happened to the Cavs and Raptors when they lost their superstars and can not afford to get nothing in return. Chauncey Billups may very go along with him, so Ty Lawson remains a must-stash to me. The upside with Lawson starting (17.0 points, 6.0 assists, 1.6 treys, 1.0 steals in five starts this year) is too high to give up on. UPDATE: Billups left Monday night's game with a knee strain and did not return. You should not need any more reasons to add Lawson.

Meanwhile, Kenyon Martin (knee) has finally been cleared to play in back-to-back games. It makes him worth owning in very deep formats, but realize that there is no upside here. Martin no longer has any explosion and is averaging just 1.3 blocks per 36 minutes. He will play more like 24 most nights and gets no plays run for him on offense.

PG Stephen Curry
SG Monta Ellis
SF Dorell Wright
PF David Lee
C Andris Biedrins

The Warriors have tightened their rotation of late, giving Stephen Curry, Monta Ellis and Dorell Wright around 40 minutes nightly. All three are young, fresh and can handle the workload. There is no real reason to think any will wear down.

Andris Biedrins was put on notice by coach Keith Smart a couple weeks ago: Either play better, or Ekpe Udoh is going to get the nod at center. Biedrins promptly responded with three straight double-figure rebounding games and his first double-double in two months.

Biedrins is safe for 27-29 minutes right now and considering his meager value on the fantasy trade market, you might as well ride this out. The odds of Biedrins regressing are strong, but not strong enough to warrant getting pennies on the dollar. Ideally, the Warriors want to bring the raw Udoh along as slow as possible.

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

It's hard to blame Aaron Brooks for being disgruntled. He is in the final year of his contract and lost his starting job due to injury. Yes, Brooks is playing bad -- but if he had his usual minutes and was playing with the first unit, he would likely be playing at last year's level.

So Brooks is angry that he is playing 21.8 minutes a night over the last six weeks and the situation reached a head Saturday night. The 3-point bomber was removed from the game late and simply walked off the court, resulting in a one-game suspension from the team.

Yes, the way Brooks is being treated is costing him millions. But by acting unprofessionally, he is now an extremely poor bet to ever get his starting job back. Coach Rick Adelman said Monday night that he doesn't know if Brooks will even get back in the rotation. Perhaps the Rockets have no plans to re-sign Brooks and therefore are giving Lowry much-needed experience. If so, a trade of Brooks could very well be in the works. Try to hold Brooks through the deadline -- if nothing happens then, he is safe to drop.

Brad Miller's return will not really affect Chuck Hayes' minutes. Hayes is simply playing at a high level. Entering Monday, he had earned 40-plus minutes in three straight games with hard work on the glass and on defense. Start 'em and expect contributions in blocks, steals and rebounds.

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 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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