Adam Levitan

Rotating Rotations

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Isaiah Thomas Reloaded

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

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 do with injuries or trades and in other instances, it’s a result of ineffective or outstanding 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 some of the league’s most interesting rotations while attempting to get inside coaches’ heads. The idea isn’t to tell you what LeBron James and Kevin Durant are going to do – it’s to decipher how much burn fringe players are going to get.

For last week’s look at the East, bang it here. This week, the focus is on the Western Conference. We’ll start in Sacramento, where the rotation is finally sustaining some clarity.

Position: Point guard
Keith Smart has a lot of problems as a coach, but his mangling of the rotation is perhaps his most glaring weakness. No one knew who was going to play when on a night-to-night basis – especially at the point guard spot.

Well, at long last, Smart finally cleaned up his act. Isaiah Thomas has won the clear-cut feature job, starting 26 straight games and playing 30.7 minutes per night over the last 10 games. During that 10-game span, backup Jimmer Fredette has played 14.8 minutes. And Aaron Brooks has completely fallen out of the rotation.

“I couldn’t play all three of them,” Smart said. “[So I’m going to] try to play two guys and keep it consistent.”

Thomas has responded to that consistency, averaging 16.0 points, 4.0 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.1 3-pointers over his last 10 games. With Smart finally acting smart, IT2 can sustain those numbers the rest of the way.

Position: Shooting guard
Chauncey Billups caught the eye of fantasy owners on Thursday night by scoring 16 points, making five 3-pointers and picking up four steals. It’s a tremendous line, but we can ignore it.

Since returning from his foot injury on Feb. 8, Billups has sat out one game and averaged 18.7 minutes in the other four. He hasn’t topped 21 minutes in any of his seven appearances this season. Billups is also 36, coming off an Achilles’ tear and playing on perhaps the deepest team in the league. With Jamal Crawford, Caron Butler, Matt Barnes and defensive stopper Grant Hill all wanting for minutes on the wing, there’s just no room. Billups will not see any point guard minutes with Chris Paul/Eric Bledsoe forming the best 1-2 punch in the league there.

Billups can only be viewed as a 3-point specialist in deep formats.

Position: Center
We’ve covered the possibilities of Utah trading Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap away multiple times. I first mentioned it in this space way back on Jan. 22.

However, most of the rhetoric has been centered on Derrick Favors, who is owned in just about every league at this point. We need to be aware of Enes Kanter as well.

Let’s say that a trade does go down and everyone moves up a spot on the depth chart. Favors gets the 30-32 minutes as new starter. Kanter gets the 22.0 minutes Favors was playing as the first big off the bench and could even get a couple more since the Jazz would have three bigs in the primary rotation. Now we would have something in Kanter.

Quietly, the fun-loving Turkish behemoth has posted per-36 minute numbers of 16.0 points, 10.2 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 1.0 steals while shooting 54.1 percent from the field and 75.0 percent from the line. With 24 minutes, he Kanter would be well worth owning. He’s another stash candidate.  

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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.
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