Adam Levitan

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Isaiah Thomas 2.0

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Position: Wings
With Wilson Chandler not yet signed, Danilo Gallinari (ankle) at least two weeks away, Nene (calf) sidelined and Rudy Fernandez (back) dinged up, the Nuggets’ rotation is clean. Arron Afflalo and Corey Brewer are going to log heavy minutes as starters and Al Harrington is going to beast off the bench.

But once everyone gets healthy, only two guys will be safe. Gallo because he’s the franchise’s go-to guy on offense and Harrington because he can play the power forward spot. All the other slashing wings are mere short-term fantasy plays that will eventually trend back down below the 30-mark.

Position: Shooting guard/center
Coach Kevin McHale is consistent about one thing: He doesn’t give a damn about the names on the back of the jersey.

No matter who you are, you better bring it every single night. There’s no leash whatsoever, even if you’re Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Sam Dalembert or Kevin Love (back in McHale’s Minnesota days). That’s going to lead to some heavy bumps in the road, some sitdowns between player/coach and some antsy fantasy owners.

The best thing owners can do is close their eyes and take solace that McHale recognizes Martin is his best scorer. That’s why Martin has played at least 34 minutes in four of the last six games. McHale rightfully doesn’t believe in Dalembert’s commitment/talent, so Sammy D has played 20 minutes or fewer in nine of the last 11. We have to have the stomach to sustain peaks and valleys here.

Position: Sixth man
Yes, I know Manu Ginobili (oblique) is out two weeks and then will be eased in slowly off the bench upon his return. And yes, I’m still ignoring the three-headed replacement monster that is Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and Gary Neal. Minutes there will simply depend on game flow.

What I’m not ignoring is the Red Rocket. That’s right, Matt Bonner has my full attention.

Tiago Splitter’s calf injury opens up a gaping hole for minutes in the frontcourt. Although Tim Duncan has played 37-plus minutes in two straight games, that’s something that coach Gregg Popovich hates to do. On most nights, Duncan will hover around 30, a slight boost from his season average of 28.1. Bonner and DeJuan Blair are Pop's only big-man options.

Bonner has played 28 minutes or more seven times this season. In those games, he’s averaging 10.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.5 3-pointers made. For the next couple weeks, Bonner is going to get at least those 28 minutes, meaning owners in need of treys must take notice.

Position: Power forward
We’ve talked plenty about how Channing Frye simply needed to get his shot going to earn consistent minutes. He’s done just that.

Frye shot 19.4 percent in four December games and thus played 20.0 minutes. He shot 38.6 percent in 16 January games and saw 21.9 minutes. But in 13 February outings, he’s shot 46.1 percent and played a healthy 27.5 minutes.

We know what kind of damage Frye can do with that kind of burn as a fantasy freak. Over the last 10 games, he’s averaging 14.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.3 3-pointers and 1.5 blocks. There are no NBA players averaging at least 2.0 3-pointers and 1.0 blocks on the year.

So where does that leave impressive rookie Markieff Morris? On the bench. As long as Frye has his shot going, Morris will be limited to a bench role. In those 13 February games when Frye has been hot, Morris is playing just 20.6 minutes per game. Owners stashing him will need to wait for the starter to go cold.

Position: Power forward
I understand all the angst over Serge Ibaka’s playing time. He’s a remarkable talent, combining all-time great shot-blocking ability with a feathery touch on the offensive end. Ibaka is also just 22 and part of a frontcourt that includes the extremely underrated Nick Collison and enforcer Kendrick Perkins.

Ibaka averaged 24.5 minutes per game in December, 26.3 in January and 30.4 so far in February. In other words, he’s trending toward more and more playing time. And most importantly, Ibaka has responded to the increased role with ridiculous play. Over the last 12 games, he’s averaging 9.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 4.8 blocks. Scary.

Position: Sixth man
As long as beastly Nikola Pekovic’s ankle injury proves to be minor, this rotation is set. And that’s not good news for Michael Beasley.

Since Beasley started coming off the bench, on Jan. 27, the Wolves are 2-6 when he plays 25 minutes or more. They are 6-1 when he plays fewer than 25 minutes. Owners are kidding themselves if they don’t think coach Rick Adelman and the Wolves’ front office has noticed this. Beasley is just a stash while we await a possible trade at the deadline.

Position: Small forward
Coach Mark Jackson has finally, and rightfully, run out of patience with Dorell Wright.

Last year’s fantasy superstar is averaging 27.3 minutes in his last 10 games and has topped the coveted 30-minute mark just once in the last 11. Brandon Rush is proving to be a better option when the Warriors need scoring and Dominic McGuire is the defensive specialist. Simply put, Wright’s talent level is not that high. There’s little reason to expect a midseason turnaround as he’s right around last year’s numbers in field-goal percentage, free-throw percentage and rebounding rate.

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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