Adam Levitan

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Off the bench in a Flash

Tuesday, March 05, 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 Utah, where a sixth man is making waves.

Position: Shooting guard
Oftentimes, the best players on a team don’t start. That’s certainly the case in Utah, where Gordon Hayward is establishing himself as one of the game’s premier sixth men.

Since returning from a shoulder injury six games ago, Hayward is averaging 32.5 minutes per game. That’s led to 17.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.6 3-pointers a night.

“This notion that you have to start to be a good player,” Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey said. “Everyone needs to look at Manu Ginobili, who I think is a Hall of Famer, and the notion that you need to speed up development – for us, it doesn’t fit with our standards.”

Getting minutes with the second unit certainly has its advantages. Hayward gets to go against second-rate defenders and he has the ball in his hands more. He won’t be affected by Mo Williams’ impending return because Randy Foye and Earl Watson are playing themselves out of the rotation anyway. The four-headed monster of Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors doesn’t affect the wings.  

As an aggressive talent locked into 28-33 minutes a night, Hayward is a must-start in fantasy even if he’s a bench player for the Jazz.

Position: Center
If centers such as Tiago Splitter and Larry Sanders are among the most improved big men in the game this year, DeAndre Jordan has to be the least improved.

Given a plum opportunity to just board, block and dunk on one of the best teams in the league, he’s often more of a liability than anything else. It’s resulted in a decrease in minutes to borderline unusable levels:

DeAndre Jordan Minutes Per Game:
November: 25.9
December: 24.6
January: 22.5
Last 10 Games: 20.9

Making matters worse is Jordan’s hesitancy to leave his feet to block shots. In his last 24 games, he’s blocked more than two shots once. That’s just unacceptable for owners that are already eating his mind-numbing 41.3 free-throw percentage.

Position: Shooting guard
Memphis has really adjusted to the Rudy Gay trade well, and a big part of that has been handing more responsibility to Tony Allen.

In 32 games played before the Gay trade, Allen played 26.4 minutes per night. In 23 games since, he’s at 28.7 minutes. That two minute increase is big, but having the ball in his hands more is bigger. Over his last 10 games, Allen is averaging 11.8 points – well up from his season average of 8.9 and last year’s average of 9.8.

We know that Allen is going to be among the league leader in steals, making him a sneaky asset in standard formats.

Position: Small forward
I’ve talked about Al-Farouq Aminu in this space before, but I wanted to highlight his consistent role once again.

Since re-entering the starting five on Jan. 5, Aminu has played fewer than 25 minutes just seven times. Over his last 10 games, he’s played 30-plus minutes six times and has predictably been a defensive monster. During that span, he’s averaging 1.8 blocks, 1.6 steals and 9.2 rebounds per night. Again, category specialists are key at this time of year – especially in roto formats.

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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.
Email :Adam Levitan

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