Who will get the minutes? It’s a simple question that rarely has a simple answer.
Coaches are constantly tinkering and toying with their rotations. Sometimes it has to with injuries and in other instances, it’s a result of ineffective play from a certain player. The impact this has on minutes played and thus statistical production is where we come in.
Every Tuesday for the rest of the season, I’ll explore a certain aspect of half the league’s rotations while attempting to get inside coaches’ heads. The idea isn’t to tell you what Kevin Love and LeBron James are going to do -- it’s to decipher how much burn fringe players are going to get.
Here’s last week’s look at the East. Let’s kick this week off in Northern California, where a young shot-blocker has earned a promotion.
The only question left here is what in the world took coach Mark Jackson so long?
Andris Biedrins started 29 games this year, averaging 2.1 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 16.7 minutes. Biedrins started 55 games last year, averaging 5.2 points, 7.6 rebounds and 0.9 blocks in 24.3 minutes. Ekpe Udoh has started three games this year, averaging 14.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 32.3 minutes. The talent gap here is severe and Jackson knows it.
Jackson said Monday night that Udoh will start for the rest of the season “unless he completely falls off the map.”
Here are Udoh’s per-36 minute extrapolations for this season: 9.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.8 blocks and 1.2 steals. Now that he’s locked in as the starter, we can safely expect 26-31 minutes nightly. There’s plenty of upside here in a 24-year-old developing raw talent that’s playing in an uptempo offense. Udoh’s elite shot-blocking ability keeps the floor high.
Position: Shooting guard
For a take on DeAndre Jordan that still holds, bang it here for the Feb. 24 Dose.
For reasons why Randy Foye is struggling, look no further than his talent level. Simply put, Foye has had plenty of chances to be an average shooting guard in this league. He just hasn’t been able to do it.
In 20 starts this year, Foye is averaging 10.7 points, 3.1 assists and 2.4 rebounds while shooting 36.9 percent and playing 29.6 minutes. Over the last four games, coach Vinny Del Negro has seen enough. Foye is playing 21.8 minutes while Mo Williams is at 30.7. The Clippers are also rumored to be interested in starting shooting guards at the trade deadline. Owners are going to have to wade through a ton of duds to get to Foye’s handful of big games.
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Position: Shooting guard
We all know what‘s going to happen as soon as Zach Randolph (knee) gets cleared: Marreese Speights will fall almost completely off the radar.
What’s more interesting is the way Tony Allen has seized and run with the starting shooting guard job. He played 20.5 minutes in three December games, 24.9 minutes in 18 January games and then 30.3 minutes in 11 February contests.
While other Grizzlies players will take a hit in attempts and minutes once Randolph returns, Allen doesn’t have to worry about that. He gets his 10.6 points per game without any plays being run for him and almost all his fantasy value lies in his steal rate. Deep-leaguers using Allen as a glue guy shouldn’t be concerned.
Position: Power forward
Chris Kaman is among the players most likely to be traded by March 15. Jason Smith’s concussion has lingered long enough that it can be considered severe. Emeka Okafor’s knee injury is being described as a “strange situation.” Carl Landry (knee) is a bench player. In other words, the party is far from over for Gustavo Ayon.
In 14 starts this year, Ayon is averaging 8.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.1 blocks while playing 28.8 minutes. As long as the Kaman deal doesn’t net a useful big man, that’s sustainable usage. Deep-leaguers need to hold on.
Bonus position: Point guard
I thought that coach Monty Williams might be willing to use Greivis Vasquez at shooting guard once Jarrett Jack got back up to speed. After all, when Vasquez plays 25 minutes or more, the Hornets are 6-10. When he plays less than 25 minutes, they are 3-19. Apparently, that doesn’t matter to Williams. I was wrong.
Since Jack returned to the starting lineup three games ago, he’s averaging 33.9 minutes. Vasquez is 21.1. Additionally, Vasquez hasn’t topped 24 minutes in any of his last five games. We’re entering mere handcuff territory here.
Position: Small forward
Gordon Hayward played his way out of a starting job due to a lack of aggression on the offensive end. In his last 10 starts, he averaged 6.3 field-goal attempts per game. For a starting swingman of Hayward’s pedigree and caliber, that’s unacceptable.
Of course, coach Tyrone Corbin looks like a genius after Hayward went for 23 points, five assists and four rebounds in his first game off the bench Monday night. I’m not buying it. Hayward was dominant, making 8-of-11 field goals Monday -- and he still only played 27 minutes. That’s just not enough burn to sustain consistency and the minutes will take a hit when he isn’t on fire.
Meanwhile, Josh Howard is locked in as a starter until he gets hurt. The veteran is averaging 12.8 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 0.9 steals and 0.4 3-pointers in that role this year. There’s not much upside, but the floor is decent.
Position: Point guard
The Kings have lost four straight games, but three of those came in tough road spots and the fourth was a home loss to the Clippers. Isaiah Thomas should not be taking the blame here. The reasons that he took over the starting point guard job nine games ago still hold true. Tyreke Evans isn’t a point guard and John Salmons is a bench player at this point.
Is the league starting to get a book on Thomas, like they are on Jeremy Lin? Probably. They are making him go right more and closing out airspace on 3-pointers. Still, there’s a defined role for Thomas here and he’s still getting 28.3 minutes over the last four games. I’m riding the rookie until the wheels fall off.
Position: Small forward
Yes, Metta World Peace has been hot over the last week or so. No, it’s not going to continue and it shouldn’t stop the Lakers from shopping hard for a small forward at the trade deadline.
Over the last two games, World Peace is averaging 16.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 2.0 3-pointers while playing 35.1 minutes. In his previous 13 games -- all starts -- he averaged 5.0 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 0.8 3-pointers while playing 24.8 minutes.
This Lakers depth chart is a good bet to get shaken up by March 15. They’ve been linked to Michael Beasley, Raymond Felton, Ramon Sessions and Rajon Rondo over the past few weeks. The first three would get a major boost if they land next to Kobe Bryant.