Adam Levitan

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Embattled Augustin

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Coaches make far less money than players. They don't put fans in the seats like players and they take the blame when things go wrong. But coaches do hold one trump card -- they control the minutes.

So when a player's concentration or effort level dips, the most effective way to get that back is to threaten roles. We saw it in Golden State with Andris Biedrins, and we are seeing it now in Charlotte with struggling D.J. Augustin.

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 the battle for point guard minutes in Charlotte.

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

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

The controversy between D.J. Augustin and Shaun Livingston has seemingly erupted out of nowhere. Augustin was coasting along, averaging 18.1 points, 7.3 assists and 1.9 treys per game in 16 January contests. Then the bottom absolutely fell out on his shooting stroke. Entering Monday, Augustin was shooting 29.9 percent in his last seven games, got benched in favor of Livingston on Saturday and picked up a left wrist injury. Yikes.

Coach Paul Silas appeared to enter Monday night's game against the Lakers with a premeditated rotation. Augustin played the entire first quarter and Livingston played the entire second quarter. Augustin then played the first nine minutes of the third quarter and the final six minutes of the game. That kind of rotation, one used when a coach doesn't see a huge gap between his starter and backup, results in 27 minutes for Augustin and 21 for Livingston.

This kind of rotation also says that Silas is not willing to give up on Augustin. If he plays well, DJA will get back around 30-32 minutes. If he doesn't this value-killing timeshare will remain. Either way, Livingston does not project as a long-term starter in this league anymore. His injuries are just too severe and the Bobcats know it. Leave Livingston on waivers and stash Augustin -- he's a good bet to get back to that January form.

PG Mike Bibby
SG Joe Johnson
SF Josh Smith
PF Al Horford
C Jason Collins

Coach Larry Drew has been threatening lineup changes in an effort to put a jolt into his struggling team. The problem is that there is not much he can do. Jason Collins drew the start Monday night, but shuttling between the big man and Marvin Williams makes almost no difference. Marvin averages just 11.0/5.0/1.3 with no defensive stats or treys as a starter anyway. Ignore.

One adjustment that Drew has made is sitting Jamal Crawford down when the gunner is cold. Crawford has played 29 or fewer minutes in four of his last six games and he is shooting 37.2 percent over that span. Stash and wait for the sixth man of the year to get hot again.

PG Rajon Rondo
SG Ray Allen
SF Paul Pierce
PF Kevin Garnett
C Kendrick Perkins

With Kendrick Perkins healthy and looking as good as ever, Shaquille O'Neal can afford to rest his achy Achilles, hip and soul. And since both Semih Erden and Jermaine O'Neal are also out indefinitely, Perkins is back to being a force.

Over the last five games, Perkins is averaging 9.6 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 32.5 minutes per game. Those minutes will come down once all the bodies get healthy, but who knows when that will be. Owners might as well ride Perk into the ground.

Paul Pierce could certainly use a rest. Sunday's 0-for-10, the ensuing foot MRI and a right (shooting) hand tweak tell us that. Owners should be hoping he just lounges throughout All-Star weekend instead of exerting himself. Still, we need to be realistic about his first half. Pierce is a career 44.7 percent shooter. He shot 49.6 in the season's first 53 games. A natural regression in his shooting -- but not minutes -- can be expected.

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

Joakim Noah (hand) is targeting Feb. 23 -- the first game after the All-Star break -- for his return. He is reportedly in excellent physical shape and since his game does not rely on touch, we can safely expect instant production/minutes. Look for him to start the first or second game he dresses, sending Kurt Thomas to the waiver wire.

The Bulls do not want to pull the trigger on an Omer Asik for Courtney Lee trade. That tells me they are okay with Keith Bogans and Ronnie Brewer maintaining their timeshare. Stashing O.J. Mayo and hoping he becomes the Bulls' starting two guard is a desperate play.

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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