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 Houston, where a defensive-minded veteran has earned a promotion.
Throughout his 11-year career, Samuel Dalembert has frustrated even the most player-friendly of coaches. His basketball IQ is among the worst in the league, he’s often unfocused and his shot selection is questionable. That drives coaches insane because as a true 7-footer with unique athleticism, Dalembert could be a real difference-maker -- especially defensively.
Rockets coach Kevin McHale is the latest to get fed up with Dalembert’s antics. By swinging a surprising trade for Marcus Camby at the deadline, he got his hands on the anti-Sammy. Camby is one of the smartest, most professional veterans in the game. And McHale loves what he’s seeing.
Camby has started three straight games, averaging 9.6 points, 12.0 rebounds, 3.3 blocks and 2.3 steals in 34.4 minutes. Dalembert has seen just 11.3 minutes during that span.
“[Camby] brings a nice presence to the whole team,” McHale said. “He’s just a very savvy defender and does a good job. You’re just trying to figure out ways to make your team the most effective it can be, and I just think that Marcus in that spot is solid for us.”
At age 38, Camby certainly can’t sustain 34 minutes per night in this condensed schedule. Dalembert is going to get back in the mix at some point. But for now, both McHale and fantasy owners are ready to ride the Camby Man until the wheels fall off.
Position: Shooting guard
The Mo Williams’ toe injury really shook things up here. After the Nick Young trade, coach Vinny Del Negro’s intentions were pretty clear. Young was his starter, Williams was the backup and Randy Foye was an afterthought. Foye even took a DNP-CD on March 20 when Williams and Caron Butler were both healthy.
But since Williams’ injury, Foye has gotten the starter’s role back and played really well. He’s started six straight games and the Clippers have won all six, marking their longest winning streak in 20 years. Foye also popped off for 28 points in an impressive win at Dallas on Monday night.
So even though Williams says he’ll be back “soon,” Foye isn’t going anywhere now. The Clippers are just too hot to shake things up. We’re looking at 35 minutes for Chris Paul, 25-29 for Foye and Williams/Caron Butler/Young battling for the scraps.
Position: Power forward
The Zach Randolph situation is really strange. If his knee is completely healthy, why can’t he start and play his usual 35-37 minutes? If it’s not healthy, then why is he even out there at all? Randolph has now been back for 10 games, but is averaging just 26.8 minutes.
Even with Dante Cunningham (ankle) down, the Grizz haven’t strayed from their plan of limiting Z-Bo. It’s a sign that they have a long-term goal here, perhaps not raising Randolph’s minutes until the week before the playoffs start. That’s left the talented yet wildly inconsistent Marreese Speights as the starter.
Over the last five games, Speight’s minutes have ranged from 12 to 32. He’s scored two points during that span and also scored 13. For owners riding Speights, tracking him game-to-game is a recipe for insanity. Just know that his season averages as a starter are 9.0 points, 6.7 rebounds and 0.6 blocks in 23.3 minutes. When the dust settles, that’s what we’re likely to have.
Position: Power forward/Center
Coach Monty Williams finally snapped on Sunday, publicly calling out players that aren’t playing through pain. You can’t blame him as the team has often had seven or eight available guys this season. You also can’t blame players for not risking further injury for a dead-end franchise in a dead-end season.
Regardless, the public rant should snap some life into the Hornets’ hurt folks. And that means it’s about to get crowded up front. Chris Kaman (bronchitis) and Gustavo Ayon (personal) returned Sunday. Jason Smith is over his concussion playing at an NBA-caliber level. Carl Landry’s ankle injury is not considered serious.
So assuming all four are healthy, look for Kaman and Smith to start up front. The 33-36 minutes Kaman was playing around the trade deadline is no longer realistic, but 30-32 is. Smith projects around 27-29 as a foul-prone guy with lesser talent. Ayon and Landry will fill in the gaps and are off the fantasy radar.
Position: Small forward/Power forward
Coach Tyrone Corbin did something very interesting on Monday night. He played Paul Millsap at small forward for most of the game, thus allowing uber-talent Derrick Favors to get on the floor for 35 minutes at power forward. Al Jefferson logged his usual 39 minutes at center. It worked, as Millsap went off for 31 points as the Jazz won at Portland.
Of course, Corbin won’t be able to do this every night. Millsap can’t guard smaller, quicker threes in the league. But it’s a sign that the coach recognizes the need to get Favors on the floor and get C.J. Miles off it. When Favors plays 25 minutes or more this season, the Jazz are 9-3. In all other games, they are 19-23. Deep-leaguers need to get the second-year beast on their radars quickly.
Position: Shooting guard
As a highly-touted Nets rookie back in 2009-10, Terrence Williams averaged 8.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 0.4 treys while playing just 22.6 minutes per game. It’s the kind of line that gets fantasy owners juices flowing.
But from there, everything fell apart for Williams. He clashed with multiple coaches, took long strings of DNP-CDs and moped over the lack of playing time.
Now on the Kings, Williams’ luck is changing. With John Salmons (hip) and Marcus Thornton (calf) down, Williams is set up for major minutes. He’s logged 22 minutes or more in three straight games and coach Keith Smart likes what he sees.
“Now he's in the right situation at the moment where he can utilize his skills, and he's blending in with the team,” Smart said.
Andrew Bynum’s ankle sprain is not considered serious. He didn’t need an MRI, a walking boot or crutches. That said, Troy Murphy is an intriguing deep-league handcuff option thanks to his roto-friendly style.
In just 26 minutes on Sunday, Murphy grabbed eight rebounds and got three 3-point attempts up. His per-36 numbers on the season are 6.9 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.2 treys and 0.6 blocks. If Bynum sits, Murphy won’t come close to 36 minutes while sharing time with Josh McRoberts. But 30 is certainly well within reach.