Adam Levitan

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Kobe's career arc

Tuesday, January 24, 2012




NUGGETS
Position: Shooting guard
Andre Miller doesn’t need a fountain of youth at age 35. He’s had the old man YMCA game his entire career.

Therefore, the issue with Miller isn’t his skill set or age. It’s his role. When Arron Afflalo (groin) is healthy, he’s the Nuggets’ starting shooting guard. Period. Coach George Karl loves Afflalo’s defensive presence and all-around floor game. And when Rudy Fernandez (Achilles) is healthy, he needs 22-25 minutes. The most we can expect out of Miller when everyone is healthy is 25-28 minutes.

THUNDER
Position: Power forward
Prior to Monday night, not much had changed with Serge Ibaka over the last two weeks. The Thunder clearly have no intention of giving him true starter’s minutes as the expense of Kendrick Perkins or Nick Collison. He’s averaging 24.9 minutes per game on the year.  

However, Ibaka may have finally found a short-term opening as Collison went down with an ankle injury Monday night. Over the final 28 games of last year, Ibaka averaged 28.8 minutes per game. Those extra four minutes were enough for him to average 10.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.0 blocks. In other words, top-30 fantasy numbers. We can still buy low on Ibaka as he can only go up.

ROCKETS
Position: Small forward
Since Chandler Parsons was promoted into the starting five 10 games ago, the Rockets are 8-2. He’s not going anywhere. The problem is that Parsons has fallen by the wayside in Houston’s offense. Despite playing 28.8 minutes over the last 10 games, he’s attempting just 7.8 shots per game. It’s the rare case of a highly athletic player getting major minutes, yet still not providing standard-sized owners with value. 

SPURS

Position: Shooting guard
Kawhi Leonard started on Monday night, left with 4:50 remaining in the first quarter, and didn’t return until there was 1.4 seconds left in the game. The reason? Leonard’s inability to make outside shots and his overall limitations as an offensive player.  

“I just wanted to give Gary (Neal) a chance to start (the second half),” coach Gregg Popovich said, “See if we could generate some offense.”

In his eight starts, Leonard is averaging a meager 7.5 points to go with 0.9 steals, 0.6 blocks and 0.6 treys. Manu Ginobili will be back at some point and Pop is clearly not prepared to treat his rookie as a true starter. We should be aiming higher.

SUNS
Position: Power forward
Since promoting Markieff Morris and Ronnie Price to the starting five, the Suns are 2-1. The two wins came at New York and at Boston. The loss was a narrow one at home to the Mavs. In other words, look for this new-look lineup to stick for now.

Channing Frye and Jared Dudley have no one to blame but themselves for their demotion. When Frye isn’t making shots, he’s not giving the Suns much of anything. Morris is a 3-point bomber in his own right, making 17-of-35 on the season despite playing just 21.5 minutes per game. He’s also a better rebounder and defender than Frye at 6’10/245.

Frye will certainly have some big games over the course of the season as a deadly shooter and capable shot-blocker. But the Suns have a younger, better model of him. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Markieff stick as the starter the rest of the way as part of a value-killing timeshare.

* Bonus note on the Suns: Ronnie Price is a third-string talent and Dudley is in the doghouse. So deep-leaguers need to watch the electric Shannon Brown, who would really be exciting if handed the starting shooting guard gig. Brown has played 25 minutes or more four times this year. In those games, he’s averaging 13.0 points, 1.2 steals and 1.2 3-pointers.

TIMBERWOLVES
Position: Center
There was some excitement last week when it looked like Nikola Pekovic might supplant Darko Milicic as the Wolves’ starting center. I’m not sure why.

Pekovic started 11 games a year ago, but averaged just 9.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 0.6 blocks. In order to get prized rookie Derrick Williams playing time at the “four” where they like him, Kevin Love needs to kick to the center spot often. And Milicic, as seen by his career block rate of 2.6 per 36 minutes, can be effective despite his wild inconsistency.

Once Michael Beasley gets back from his Darren McFadden-like foot injury, Brad Miller (knee) resurfaces, J.J. Barea (hamstring) sustains health and Martell Webster (back) gets going, it’s going to be even messier here. Pekovic and Milicic have no prayer at a breakout.

WARRIORS
Position: Small forward
Slowly but surely, Dorell Wright is finding a little groove. More importantly, rookie Klay Thompson isn’t ready yet and Brandon Rush has cooled off.

Over the last five games, Wright is averaging 12.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.6 treys in 32.0 minutes. That’s now the ceiling for him, but it’s sustainable. The Warriors certainly haven’t given up on Wright, playing him at least 30 minutes in eight of his 15 games and four of his last five. Lower expectations, but hold tight here.



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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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