Adam Levitan

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Off the bench in a Flash

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Position: Shooting guard
Marcus Thornton has certainly earned more minutes with his play of late. Over the last five games, he’s averaging 22.2 points on 58.1 shooting and making 3.2 treys per game.

But make no mistake, this isn’t going to translate into a starting gig. Coach Keith Smart has pegged him as a pure sixth man.

“He’s playing good basketball and obviously that’s what I envisioned that’s how’d he’d play on our team and give us a boost with our second unit,” Smart said.

Over the last 10 games, Thornton has played less than 20 minutes just once. Settling into a regular rotation, he checks into the game with roughly eight minutes into the first quarter every night. There’s enough reliability here to ride out the bumps.

Position: Center
Chris Kaman went from the doghouse to an extended concussion absence and now back to the starting five. Yawn.

Kaman’s defensive woes make it nearly impossible for coach Rick Carlisle to play him next to fellow defensive liability Dirk Nowitzki. Although Kaman has started the last three games, he’s averaging just 19.1 minutes a night. Backup – but better defender – Elton Brand is averaging 22.7 minutes during that span.

I wouldn’t want to own either, but if forced Brand would be the guy I’d trust more on a week-to-week basis.

Position: Power forward
Prior to the Marcus Morris/Thomas Robinson trade, Donatas Motiejunas had played more than 20 minutes in a game ZERO times. He was the definition of buried on the depth chart, only appearing in 20 games and exclusively playing in garbage time. Apparently, the Rockets saw much more in practice.

Motiejunas played 30 minutes on Sunday, and didn’t even play in the fourth quarter due to the lopsided score. Since the trade, he’s averaging 25.6 minutes a night and making 1.5 3-pointers despite standing 7’0/222.

Coach Kevin McHale continues to work hard with the raw Robinson in practice, but this is surprisingly Motiejunas’ job to lose. The lack of shot blocking and poor free-throw shooting are concerns owners need to weigh.

Position: Point guard
Tony Parker has missed five games so far this season. Here are the average minutes per game during those contests for each of the relevant backups:

Gary Neal: 24.1
Nando De Colo: 22.4
Patty Mills: 18.6
Cory Joseph: 11.0

As expected, Gregg Popovich has taken a committee-based approach that’s often based on matchups. Note that Gary Neal leads the way here even though he played just eight minutes in Sunday’s ravaging of the Pistons. That probably had more to do with the fact it was his first game off a hamstring pull than anything else.

If Neal can sustain health, he’s the sneaky candidate to be the biggest beneficiary of Parker’s one-month absence. In 25 career starts as a Spur, the sweet-shooting Neal averages 11.6 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.7 treys per game. Deep-league owners in need of 3-pointers should take a flier.

Position: Power forward
In previous stints when the Wolves were racked by injuries, Derrick Williams failed to produce. This time, he’s turned a corner.

With Kevin Love (hand), Andrei Kirilenko (calf) and Nikola Pekovic (abdominal) all sidelined, Williams has stepped up. Over the last 10 games, he’s averaging 17.9 points and 9.0 rebounds per night while playing 33.9 minutes.

However, there’s a ton of downside here. During this 10-game run, Williams has barely blocked (0.8), stole (0.6), passed (0.7) or made 3-pointers (0.9). Love says he wants to play in the final 15-20 games and there’s no reason to doubt him. Pekovic is one of the game’s true tough guys and is a threat to return as well. Williams will prove to be more trouble than he’s worth.

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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