A few weeks ago we ushered in 2013 and many people like to take this opportunity to make “New Year’s Resolutions”. Some people will vow to lose 10 pounds, while others will guarantee that this will FINALLY be the year they will learn how to quilt. For me, I just want to win my Fantasy Basketball leagues, and to do so I’ll have to make some resolutions of MY OWN…
“In 2013 I RESOLVE to avoid any players mired in a coach’s rotation carousel”: Messing with players who play for teams where the coach likes to tinker with lineups and minutes is about as frustrating as it can get for a fantasy owner. The No. 1 culprit for these scenarios was former Milwaukee Bucks coach Scott Skiles. For weeks on end we would pull out our hair while struggling to understand why $40 million man Ersan Ilyasova was losing minutes to guys like Marquis Daniels and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (say that five times fast!).
Last week, to the delight of the fantasy world, Skiles was exiled from the Badger State and assistant coach Jim Boylan was handed the reins on an interim basis. Boylan vowed that he would immediately put Ilyasova into the starting lineup, which he did, but this switch hasn’t necessarily paid dividends for owners yet. While he IS seeing much more consistent minutes (26, 27, 27, 26) in the four games under Boylan, they are not light years more than the 23.2 he was already averaging for the season.
Skiles always seemed to have a player “in his doghouse”. This usually meant he’d either get a DNP-CD or very limited and erratic minutes, which would wreak havoc on fantasy owners, especially ones who had to set weekly lineups ahead of time. Coach Boylan has obviously not gone this route, but the point remains that Milwaukee is a team that is deep in the forward and center positions and the “hot-hand approach” may be used at any given time. The only players that are safe are Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, both guards. Their last game on Sunday against Toronto is a perfect example of Boylan’s distribution of minutes, excluding Jennings and Ellis:
Mike Dunleavy: 30 minutes L. R. Mbah a Moute: 18 minutes
Larry Sanders: 28 minutes Beno Udrih: 16 minutes
Ersan Ilyasova: 26 minutes Marquis Daniels: 14 minutes
John Henson: 22 minutes Samuel Dalembert: yet another DNP-CD
Epke Udoh: 20 minutes
You can see how a rotation like this saps any heavy minute potential from any of these players. A great example of this is rookie John Henson’s recent production/minutes. Having not played much of the season, the North Carolina product burst into the scene right after the New Year, tallying either double digit rebounds or double digit points in four consecutive games. The final game of that run, versus Phoenix, was Boylan’s first game as the head coach. He logged only 5 first half minutes and only ended up playing 19 total, but still managed a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. This kind of production in limited minutes would almost ALWAYS guarantee a boost in playing time, but he actually received one minute LESS the next time out vs. Chicago, which produced a rather tepid five point, six rebound line.
Unfortunately for fantasy owners the Bucks are 3-1 under their new coach, and as long as they are winning games this nightmare should continue for the unforeseen future. My adage towards certain coaches’ rotational fickleness also deserves monitoring in regards to any fantasy players in the Keith Smart Sacramento debacle as well as the new developments in the Hawks’ backcourt and the inconsistent minutes Tom Thibodeau is handing out to his guards. So whatever you have to do, avoid these kinds of situations like the plague, unless you plan on making the same New Year’s Resolution in 2014!
“In 2013 I RESOLVE to keep in mind that this is Fantasy, not ‘real life’”: The All-Star break is right around the corner, marking the unofficial midway point of the NBA season, and just because a team is up by 10 games in their division it doesn’t mean that all their players are worth owning in fantasy. Around this time teams are getting a better idea of whether they will be playoff contenders or pretenders. Teams like the Bobcats, Wizards, Cavs, Hornets, Suns and Kings, among others, have all but punched their ticket to this summer’s Draft Lottery. While these teams may want to just give up now, they are in fact required to play all 82 games of their schedule, which means lots of garbage time for the stars on these teams as well as opportunities to showcase trade bait and give their young talent some extra run.
On the other side of the spectrum are players on teams that ARE going to the playoffs, but will most likely have reduced minutes in the stretch run in order to save their strength for when it matters. Swapping players like this could help you win your league. The top players I’d try to acquire from the aforementioned “lottery” teams would be the Cavs’ Kyrie Irving, the Bobcats’ Kemba Walker and the Wizards’ John Wall. The key with making trades or picking up free agents that are on these teams is making sure that they are in fact staying put and won’t be traded to a contender, which would most likely result in lost minutes and production. Those three players aren’t going anywhere and are still very young, meaning that the heavy minutes they are logging will not budge and may actually increase.
Wall’s situation is a little harder to gauge because he just made his season debut, but once his minutes limit is lifted he should be back to his normal career average of 37 minutes per game. Since these guys are on bad teams and have relatively no national media exposure they may be easier to land in a trade than a higher profile player on a top-tier team. If you have faith in Wall’s knee holding up he may be the guy to snag immediately before he goes on a tear and an owner will have a larger asking price.
Now as far as the players you might want to dangle, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Garnett, Steve Nash, Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki are guys that come to mind. They are still big names and may intrigue a rookie owner enough to part ways with a younger guy.
On the opposite side of the spectrum are guys that you will most likely find on the waiver wire that could either see a huge bump in minutes if a team that is out of contention trades one of their stars or if they themselves are traded to a contender and will assume a lesser role in that particular offense. Some players will also be impacted when injured players come back to action.
Here is my list of such player that you may find on the waiver wire, and as always all players are owned in less than 60% of ESPN and Yahoo! leagues, respectively:
Players with speculative minutes increase:
Ed Davis-PF/C, Raptors: An imminent Bargnani trade will make his already expanded role much larger (21% ESPN, 30% Yahoo!)
Amir Johnson-PF/C, Raptors: see Davis, Ed. (22% ESPN, 32% Yahoo!)
Jae Crowder-F, Mavericks: Trading Marion, Vinsanity not out of the question (0.4% ESPN, 1% Yahoo!)
Markieff Morris-F, Suns: Dudley and Beasley could be on their way out (0.6% ESPN, 4% Yahoo!)
Gerald Henderson-SG/SF, Bobcats: Ben Gordon’s almost a lock to be traded (32% ESPN, 33% Yahoo!)
Eric Bledsoe-PG, Clippers: Though LA has vowed not to trade him, if he is sent to a bottom feeder his Per 36 Minute stats of 16.8 points, 5.2 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 2.9 steals will make him a must own player(4% ESPN, 13% Yahoo!)
Thomas Robinson-PF, Kings: Everything in Sac-Town is tumultuous right now, but a DeMarcus Cousins trade still remains likely. T-Rob, as well as Jason Thompson, would be the main benefactors (6.5% ESPN, 21% Yahoo!)
Players with speculative minutes decrease:
C.J. Miles-SG/SF, Cavs: 30 min/gm over last 16 will decrease a bunch if traded (14% ESPN, 19% Yahoo!)
Anyone on the Spurs not named Duncan, Parker or Ginobili: an already crowded bench will only get more crowded if they make any trades for the playoff run
Ayon, McRoberts, Nicholson-Big men, Magic: Big Baby’s return spells the end of their recently increased minutes (avg 3% ESPN, avg 0.3% Yahoo!)
Harrison Barnes-SF, Warriors: Though he’s been playing well of late, they won’t balk at the opportunity to acquire a veteran inside presence with a chance to make the playoffs (14% ESPN, 46% Yahoo!)
Nate Robinson-PG/SG, Bulls: Return of D-Rose will chop his minutes (9.5% ESPN, 21% Yahoo!)
Emeka Okafor-C, Wizards: A $14 million salary almost guarantees he’ll be traded to a contender where he’ll likely assume a backup role (22% ESPN, 53% Yahoo!)
Sticking with this is going to take a lot of will power and dedication, but now that I have come up with my Fantasy Basketball resolutions, it’s time to hit the gym and buy some yarn! Wishing everyone a joyous and prosperous 2013!!
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