ROCKETSPosition: Small forwardChase Budinger
found himself just sitting in the corner waiting for the ball to come to him so he could shoot a 3-pointer. That’s not going to cut it, so he was demoted to the second unit last week.
Although many have not heard of new starter Chandler Parsons
, he’s not a nobody. Parsons was the SEC Player of the Year at Florida last season and is a 6’9/221 23-year-old athlete. He’s already jacked up 14 3-pointers in just 15.6 minutes of action this season and has the defensive skill set to contribute in steals and blocks. With Budinger and Terrence Williams
both in the doghouse, Parsons now has a chance to run with 26-30 minutes per game. SPURSPosition: Shooting guard
When Manu Ginobili
(hand) went down, Gary Neal
was still in the midst of recovery from an appendectomy. In fact, his D-League rehab stint was cut short by about a week thanks to a necessity from the major league club. Therefore, Neal is just getting up to speed now and it shows.
Neal’s minutes have risen in each of his four games, from 16 to 20 to 21 to 28. Last year, Neal made 1.6 3-pointers per game while playing just 21.1 minutes. This year, he’s making 1.8 treys in 21.3 minutes. Look for Neal’s minutes to settle in around 26-30 per night, leading to as many as 2.0 3-pointers per night until Ginobili returns. SUNSPosition: Power forwardChanning Frye
is the rare player whose fantasy game is actually much better than his real-life game. When he’s not making his jump shots, he’s not giving the Suns very much.
That’s led to an all-out battle for minutes between Frye, who is shooting 34.6 percent on the season, and Markieff Morris
, who is at 51.7 percent. Frye has played fewer than 20 minutes in four of the Suns’ eight games this season. Morris is a superior defender, athlete and shot-blocker. As the Suns enter rebuilding mode, the 28-year old Frye isn’t going to have much leash against the 22-year-old rookie. THUNDERPosition: Power forwardSerge Ibaka
has not topped 22 minutes in any of his last four games and has earned 30-plus minutes just twice all season. Don’t count on this rotation suddenly changing. Over the last few seasons, no one has been as consistent as Scott Brooks
with his minutes dispersal. Nick Collison
, averaging 21 minutes per game, was handed a four-year/$11 million deal with a $6.5 million signing bonus last year for a reason. And as talented as Ibaka is, he still only got 29.2 minutes per game over the final 28 games of last season. That’s the ceiling going forward thanks to all of the Thunder’s depth. He’s still blocking 2.2 shots per game, good for fifth in the league. TIMBERWOLVESPosition: Point guardRicky Rubio
could barely get on the floor for his own club team in Spain. He showed a poor jump-shot and little 3-point range. Well, that’s all changed during his first nine games in Minnesota. Rubio’s game clearly fits the NBA’s mold better.
Rubio averaging 7.4 assists off the bench while playing just 28.2 minutes. Starter Luke Ridnour
is averaging 3.4 assists while playing 29.2 minutes. Rubio has also shown a surprisingly capable 3-point shot, going 8-of-16 from beyond so far. That’s eight more than many thought he would make this season. Look for Rubio to ascend to true starter’s minutes by the time the All-Star break rolls around. TRAIL BLAZERSPosition: Point guard
The Blazers have successfully gone from a slow, half-court team to one of the more fast-paced and athletic units in the league. Raymond Felton
has been left behind.
Felton has played fewer than 30 minutes three times already this season. He’s averaging 0.6 steals, 0.4 3-pointers and 2.9 turnovers. Is his spot in the rotation in jeopardy? Not a chance. Felton is the only true NBA point guard on the roster and he always plays his way into shape during the season. A career 41.1 percent shooter, he’s shooting 34.8 percent so far this year. Things are going to get much better quickly, setting up 33-35 minutes per game and a nice buy-low candidate in fantasy. WARRIORSPosition: Small forward
We knew Dorell Wright
would come back to earth some this year. New coach Mark Jackson
is putting some level of emphasis on defense, unlike the previous regime. And players that break out in their seventh NBA season often end up as flukes.
But the start to Wright’s season defies any reasonable expectation. He’s shooting 32.7 percent from the field and 18.5 percent from 3-point range. He’s gone gun-shy, attempting just 6.5 shots per game after getting 14.0 up last year. Unless Wright can bust out this week, the Warriors will be forced to make a move.
Enter Brandon Rush
. Horribly underutilized in Indiana, Rush is a powerful defender and elite 3-point shooter. He’s making 1.4 3-pointers and getting 0.9 blocks and 0.9 steals so far this season despite playing only 24.5 minutes per night. Once promoted to the starting gig over Wright, there’s going to be a ton of upside here with 30-32 minutes per game. * The Clippers are not listed as they are the only Western Conference team without any true question marks in their rotation.