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 James Harden are going to do – it’s to decipher how much burn fringe players are going to get.
For last week’s look at the West, bang it here. This week, the focus is on the Eastern Conference. We’ll start in Boston, where a veteran injury is going to have big implications.
Position: Power forward/Center
Courtney Lee’s ankle injury is not serious and he could be back as soon as Tuesday night. At that point, Jason Terry and Jordan Crawford will go back to their inconsistent, unusable selves.
The real ailment to watch in Boston is at center, where Kevin Garnett’s ankle injury is going to cost him roughly two weeks. The Celtics know they can’t win without Garnett in the playoffs, so he’ll be handled with extreme caution.
Garnett has missed four games in the last month. Here’s a look at the notable production in his absence.
Jeff Green: 24.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.5 apg, 2.7 blks, 2.2 3PM, 1.2 stls, four starts, 38.6 minutes.
Brandon Bass: 7.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.2 blks, four starts, 30.7 minutes.
As you can see, Green is an absolute monster as a do-everything power forward when KG is out. He’s going to be a difference-maker in the fantasy playoffs. Bass is nothing more than waiver-wire fodder.
Position: Power forward
The severe ankle sprain Byron Mullens sustained on Dec. 22 was not the death blow to his season. When he finally returned on Feb. 4, he was playing well and appeared locked into a huge role on an awful team. In Mullens’ first eight games back, he averaged 17.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.0 3-pointers per game while playing 33.7 minutes. Dynasty owners should take note of that.
The death blow to re-draft value actually came on March 4, when Mullens tweaked his knee. He didn’t miss any games, but it’s clear he’s laboring. In the 10 games since March 4, Mullens has started just three times and has averaged a mere 6.3 points, 2.8 rebounds and 0.8 3-pointers while playing 17.4 minutes. That’s not him.
So now the question is what we can squeeze out of Josh McRoberts. It’s a tough situation to evaluate because McBob is not much of a player. I’m confident that Nick Collison would average a double-double and be a top-60 fantasy player if he was playing 30 minutes a night for the Bobcats. But McRoberts isn’t Collison.
The strain to his left (non-shooting) shoulder is a concern. His lack of blocks (0.6 through 10 starts) is as well. McRoberts is an impending unrestricted free agent, while Mullens is two years younger and under club control through next season. I don’t love either one as a starter right now, and I’d expect a timeshare once McRoberts gets healthy. Most owners should be able to find better situations to exploit down the stretch.
Position: Shooting guard/small forward
As predicted in the weeks leading up to the trade deadline, J.J. Redick’s value has taken a massive hit now that he’s out of Orlando. Even with injuries to Ersan Ilyasova and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Redick is playing just 27.8 minutes per night in 15 games with the Bucks. He was at 31.5 through 50 games in Orlando.
However, all hope is not lost here. Redick is shooting just 32.9 percent from 3-point land over those 15 games. For his career, he’s never shot worse than 37.4 percent for a season. His career average is 39.4 percent. In other words, Redick is in a shooting slump from beyond the arc. He’ll get hot and provide some value down the stretch despite the capped minutes upside.
Position: Point guard
As we’ve discussed in this space many times before, coach Tom Thibodeau prefers to play Kirk Hinrich over Nate Robinson. But given the way Hinrich has been playing since returning from his latest injury, even Thibs has had to ride with Nate.
In the three games since Hinrich’s foot injury, he’s averaged just 21.6 minutes per game despite starting each time. That’s because he’s shooting 4-of-24 (16.6 percent), turning it over 2.3 times per game and not making plays (3.6 assists a night).
Meanwhile, Nate Robinson got ejected during the third quarter on Saturday night – but is still averaging 28.4 minutes during that three-game span. He’s at 8.0 assists and 3.0 turnovers, a far better ratio. It also helps that Marco Belinelli, Richard Hamilton, Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose are all hurt right now. There’s enough good evidence here for owners to keep riding Robinson’s explosive fantasy ability until Thibs shows us otherwise.
Position: Point guard/Shooting guard
The Cavs aren’t shutting the door on Kyrie Irving (shoulder) and Dion Waiters (knee) for the season, but the reality is that neither are expected to play again this season. The injury-prone Irving is two weeks into a 3-4 week timetable and doesn’t sound close. Waiters could need a clean-out procedure on his knee.
That leaves an already thin team scraping the bottom of the barrel. We know that Shaun Livingston is going to play 30-32 minutes nightly because his backup is Chris Quinn – who had been out of league since 2010-11 before getting the call last week. Over his last nine starts, Livingston is averaging 13.3 points, 4.2 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game. It’s a reasonable expectation the rest of the way.
The off-guard spot is a little shakier because Wayne Ellington isn’t a clear-cut upgrade over C.J. Miles or Daniel Gibson. Waiters has missed four games in March, and each time Ellington has started. In those games, he’s averaged 14.0 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.7 treys, 1.5 assists and 0.5 steals in 31.8 minutes. That’s on the high end of what I’d expect Ellington to be able to sustain.