Adam Levitan

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Going Down Meekly

Tuesday, April 02, 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 Laker Land, where a new starter is getting overrated in fantasy circles.

Position: Shooting guard
Metta World Peace (knee) is done for the regular season and Steve Nash (hamstring) is hobbled. Enter Jodie Meeks, a Mike D’Antoni favorite thanks to his reputation as a 3-point bomber.

The problem here is two-fold.

A) D’Antoni overrates shooting ability in the context of the whole game. In Meeks’ 118 career starts, he’s managed just 2.6 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.8 steals and 0.1 blocks despite playing 28.4 minutes. Meeks struggles to play off the dribble, can’t create shots for others and is overmatched athletically by just about every other starting two-guard in the league.

B) Meeks really isn’t that great of a shooter. I mean, he’s not the Steve Novak, Kyle Korver or Ray Allen D’Antoni treats him as. For Meeks’ career, he shoots 40.8 percent from the field and 36.9 percent from 3-point range. That’s just not good enough when it’s all you do.

All this has added up to predictable disappointment for Meeks’ spot-starters in fantasy. He’s gotten an absurd 34.8 minutes per game in five starts, but he’s averaging just 8.8 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.4 steals, 1.2 treys and 1.2 assists. Unless we’re absolutely desperate for 3-pointers, we can do better.

Position: Shooting guard
The Hornets’ handling of Eric Gordon can be frustrating, but at least it’s consistent. Over the last month, the only time he has sat out for rest is on the second half of back-to-backs. When he plays, he goes 28-32 minutes. Gordon owners need to note that there’s one more back-to-back on the season (April 9/10) and adjust accordingly.  

Position: Power forward
There will be plenty of time to complain and dissect how badly Ty Corbin and the Jazz front office have bungled their assets this season. For now, the fantasy question is if it’s still worth owning Derrick Favors.

Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson have each been healthy for the last ten games. During that span, Favors has averaged just 23.5 minutes. But he’s still producing 10.1 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 1.1 steals and shooting 53.5 percent. With all the injuries and rest going on right now, that’s more than enough for owners.

Position: Shooting guard
O.J. Mayo is dealing with a painful sprained AC joint in his left shoulder, the kind of injury that can only heal with rest. The problem is that the Mavs are fighting for the final playoff spot in the West, so there’s no time for days off. The good news for owners is that coach Rick Carlisle isn’t going to limit Mayo’s minutes.

“Here’s a guy who is banged up, and I just thought he was totally engaged in the game and did a lot of things even though he didn’t shoot the ball well,” Carlisle said Saturday. “If we’re going to get where we want to get in the next nine games, the example that he set out there today is really important.”

As predicted, Mayo’s production has waned as Dirk Nowitzki has returned to form. Over the last 16 games, Mayo is averaging just 11.8 points, 4.5 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 0.8 steals. He’s more of a 3-point specialist that gets big minutes now.

Position: Center
If you’re wondering what’s going on with Kenneth Faried’s minutes, check out my notes from two weeks ago. In short, it’s a matchup thing.

Let’s move on to the center spot, where the Kosta Koufos/JaVale McGee platoon continues. Here are the numbers over the last 15 games:

Kosta Koufos: 9.2 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, 60.4 FGP, 22.3 minutes
JaVale McGee: 8.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, 60.0 FGP, 16.2 minutes

It’s been this way for months now and there’s no reason to think it will change down the stretch.

Position: Small forward
As we hit April, we know there are going to be plenty of nights like Monday when the Spurs rest guys. I’m not keen on spot-starting Boris Diaw or Matt Bonner when Tim Duncan sits, but there is an opportunity when Kawhi Leonard rests his sore left knee.

Over the last two months, Leonard has missed three games. Stephen Jackson is averaging 10.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 1.6 treys in 26.7 minutes. There’s spot-start appeal to watch for here.

Position: Shooting guard
It’s hard to get a read on the Suns right now. There’s legitimate suspicion they’re tanking, especially when they bench Goran Dragic for “rest.” It just so happened that rest game came against the Jazz, who the Suns need to win to keep their lottery pick.

“If you ask me personally, I would play,” Dragic said when he got sat down last week. “That’s why they make the decision.”

Anyway, Dragic should be fine the rest of the way. His new backcourt mate is the one that’s making some waves we can act on.

Wes Johnson was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2010 draft, a smooth shooter at 6’7/215. The Suns are either tanking, or they want to find out if he’s part of the future. Johnson has started 13 straight games, with the team going 2-11 during that span. Bench him? Nah.

Johnson is averaging 13.7 points, 1.6 treys and 1.2 steals while playing 30.4 minutes during this 13-game stint. It’s sustainable the rest of the way. 

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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