Adam Levitan

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Position: Sixth man
When Jason Richardson has been healthy this year, J.J. Redick is averaging just 23.3 minutes per game. That’s just not enough, even for someone with an extremely fantasy-friendly game like Redick.

To make matters worse for Redick, Richardson has been surprisingly on fire in February. Over his last seven games, J-Rich is averaging 18.1 points and 3.7 3-pointers made on 48.9 percent shooting. The Magic are 5-2 during that span and playing their best ball of the season. Redick is just a stash while we wait for an injury.

Position: Small forward
MarShon Brooks is back in the starting five, but hasn’t topped 23 minutes since returning. It’s a concern after the Nets hinted at limiting the youngster’s minutes going forward due to nagging injuries.

"We want to try to keep this kid in a healthy place," coach Avery Johnson said back on Jan. 28, before Brooks went down with a fractured toe. "We’re trying to figure out how we’re going to monitor his minutes, and maybe he’s not gonna play 48 or 38 minutes again this year. Maybe it’s 28."  

With Anthony Morrow entrenched in 31-34 minutes and Jordan Farmar more than capable of playing 30 quality minutes nightly off the bench, the Nets can certainly use kid gloves with Brooks. Expect the rookie to settle in around 28-30 minutes.

Position: Power forward
The Pistons have shown their hand with their three-guard rotation. Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey will stick as starters, with Ben Gordon entrenched in his natural bench scorer role. The more interesting battle is being waged at power forward.

Jonas Jerebko started the first 13 games of the season. He averaged 9.8 points, 6.0 rebounds and 0.6 3-pointers while playing 29.2 minutes per game. The problem is that the Pistons went 3-10 during that span and Jerebko got demoted. The bigger problem is that current starter Jason Maxiell has been part of a 4-2 surge in his six starts. Jerebko is younger and the better offensive talent, but a promotion doesn’t appear close. Owners will have to settle for 22-25 minutes nightly.

Position: Shooting guard
Dwane Casey has nine healthy players right now that all hover around the same skill level. That’s going to lead to wildly unpredictable rotations.  

Since Andrea Bargnani aggravated his calf injury 10 games ago, DeMar DeRozan, Jose Calderon and James Johnson have started every night. Ride them. The other spots appear to be dependent on matchups.

When it’s been reasonable, Casey has gone small by starting Jerryd Bayless at shooting guard. However, Bayless is coming off an ankle sprain and the Raptors are 2-4 in his six starts this year. When Casey goes big, he shifts DeRozan to shooting guard and plays Aaron Gray/Amir Johnson up front. That lineup beat the Celtics on Friday and almost knocked off the Lakers on Sunday.

Add it up and we have a hairy situation for Bayless owners. He’s not at 100 percent, the team has arguably played better without him and he really struggles to defend most opposing shooting guards. Still, I’m holding in all spots. A Calderon trade remains possible and Bayless’ explosive game demands 25 minutes. In those six starts, he averaged 14.5 points, 3.3 assists, 2.0 3-pointers and 1.0 steals.

Position: Power forward
Jrue Holiday and Andre Iguodala are going to play 32-36 minutes every night. Everyone else is subject to game flow thanks to the Sixers’ depth.

Elton Brand is no exception as the “Old Chevy” is noticeably wearing down. His usually automatic jumper has been short of late, perhaps due to his thumb injury. Over the last four games, Brand is shooting just 38.6 percent and therefore playing just 26.3 minutes per night. He’s been outplayed by Thaddeus Young every night and even Nikola Vucevic over the last two games. Once Spencer Hawes (Achilles) gets healthy, perhaps as soon as Friday, Brand will be in an even bigger squeeze for minutes.

Still, Brand figures to use the upcoming All-Star break to recharge his batteries. And although he’ll likely hover around 26-28 minutes the rest of the way, there’s still value here. Only five NBA players are blocking 1.5 shots and getting 1.0 steals right now (Marc Gasol, Dwight Howard, Josh Smith, Marcus Camby and James Johnson). Brand is at 1.5 and 0.9.

Position: Center
JaVale McGee curiously averaged just 22.3 minutes in the first five games of February. Blame it on the asthma. That’s right, the insanely athletic yet often awkward McGee apparently has a pretty severe case of athletic asthma. Doctors told him he was breathing at 75 percent.

Now McGee has some new medicine and is feeling fresh. Over the last two games, he’s playing 35.2 minutes and is averaging 23.0 points, 12.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks. Whether the slump was related to the asthma or not, coach Randy Wittman recognizes McGee as a long-term building block and won’t bail on him.

* The Pacers aren’t listed as they are the only Eastern Conference team without any true question marks in their rotation.

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.
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