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Category Strategy: Coaching Tiers

James Anderson

James Anderson

James Anderson is a University of Minnesota graduate, with allegiances to the Packers, Brewers, Bucks (sigh) and Gophers (double sigh). He is an editor and scribe at Rotowire.com, primarily focused on basketball and baseball. In 2013 he was a FSWA finalist for Fantasy Basketball writer of the year.

It’s often said that the most important stat in fantasy basketball is minutes. By taking a look at the tendencies of head coaches, we hope to help fantasy owners get a good idea of what they can expect from each coach in the 2012-13 season in terms of playing time distribution. For each coach, we looked at their past 1-5 years as a head coach and calculated how many players played 30 or more minutes per game, and how many players played 24 or more mpg. We then split the coaches into four tiers, based on how many players on average received the all-important 30-plus mpg, with the fourth tier consisting of first-year coaches.

*Note: In 99 percent of cases we calculated all players that played in one-third of a team’s games, but in scenarios where players with identical roles were traded for one another halfway through the season (think Jason Kidd and Devin Harris in 2007-08) we only counted one of players toward the coach’s mean average. When possible we also avoided taking into account seasons when a coach took over or got fired by a team halfway through the season.

First Tier: 4.0-4.5 Players Receiving 30-Plus MPG

Terry Stotts, Trail Blazers, fifth season, first with Trail Blazers
Rotation trend over last 1-5 seasons as head coach:
30-plus mpg: 4.5 players per season; 24-plus mpg: 6.3 players per season
Most minutes in 2011-12: LaMarcus Aldridge (36.3 mpg)
Stotts tops the list of coaches for the most players 30-plus minutes per season over his head-coaching career. He coached for a couple seasons in the 2000s with both the Hawks and the Bucks, and never posted a .500 season with either team. Stotts’ hiring should be good for the fantasy value of Wesley Matthews, Damian Lillard and J.J. Hickson. LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum were always going to get big minutes, but Stotts’ background suggests that the other guys who earn starting jobs on the Blazers’ underwhelming roster will see plenty of minutes.

Mike Woodson, Knicks, eighth season, second with Knicks
Rotation trend over last 1-5 seasons as head coach:
30-plus mpg: 4.4 players per season; 24-plus mpg: 6.6 players per season
Most minutes in 2011-12: Carmelo Anthony (34.1 mpg)
Woodson has been a great friend to fantasy owners over the years, giving his key players plenty of minutes. This track record is skewed a little by just how vast the drop-off in talent was on those Hawks teams he coached. But we’re still encouraged by what this says about the prospects for players like Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith given the lack of a notable backup at the two while Iman Shumpert (knee) is sidelined. It should be noted that for three-straight seasons, Woodson gave Joe Johnson 40-plus minutes per game. Could Anthony see a similar amount of minutes this season? It’s possible, considering that after Woodson took over the head coach position last season, Anthony went on to average almost 37 mpg in the last month of the season.

Rick Adelman, Timberwolves, 22nd season, second with Timberwolves
Rotation trend over last 1-5 seasons as head coach:
30-plus mpg: 4.2 players per season; 24-plus mpg: 5.8 players per season
Most minutes in 2011-12: Kevin Love (39.0 mpg)
Adelman traditionally favors giving heavy minutes to a select group of players, and last season three of his top-five minute-earners qualified at point guard (Ricky Rubio, Luke Ridnour, JJ Barea). This should quell any doubts that Ridnour and Barea will see heavy minutes while Rubio is out for the first 4-6 weeks of the season. Given Adelman’s trust in the Rubio/Ridnour backcourt - both were in the Timberwolves’ two most used five-man units last season – and newcomer Brandon Roy’s fragility, we expect Roy to see limited minutes off the bench. Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic (down almost 10 pounds from last season) should be two of Adelman’s most used players, with Rubio (once healthy), Ridnour and Andrei Kirilenko rounding out the most obvious potential 30-plus minute players.

George Karl, Nuggets, 25th season, ninth with Nuggets
Rotation trend over last 1-5 seasons as head coach:
30-plus mpg: 4.0 players per season; 24-plus mpg: 6.0 players per season
Most minutes in 2011-12: Ty Lawson (34.8 mpg)
Karl’s 2012-13 Nuggets could very well be the most fantasy relevant team in the NBA, as they should have no problem leading the league in scoring for the third-straight season. Despite this team’s depth, Karl’s track record suggests that Lawson, Andre Iguodala and Danilo Gallinari should all see 30-plus minutes. The great thing for fantasy owners is that Karl plans for the Nuggets to run even more in 2012-13 than they did last season. So even players who may not crack the 30-mpg plateau like Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried, JaVale McGee and Andre Miller, will still produce as if they had.

Rick Carlisle, Mavericks, 11th season, fifth with the Mavericks
Rotation trend over last 1-5 seasons as head coach:
30-plus mpg: 4.0 players per season; 24-plus mpg: 5.8 players per season
Most minutes in 2011-12: Dirk Nowitzki (33.5 mpg)
Last season Carlisle had to try a lot of new things because of the team’s age and the compressed schedule, but this year expect him to return to riding his top guys, primarily Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo. We would include Chris Kaman and Elton Brand on that list, but it would be near impossible to play both of them at the same time with Dirk, and we know Carlisle will give Nowitzki plenty of minutes.

Tyrone Corbin, Jazz, third season, all with Jazz
Rotation trend over last 1-5 seasons as head coach:
30-plus mpg: 4.0 players per season; 24-plus mpg: 5.0 players per season
Most minutes in 2011-12: Al Jefferson (34.0 mpg)
Corbin hasn’t displayed any overwhelming trends in his young coaching career; he’s done what his roster has dictated. With Jefferson and Paul Millsap the clear class of his roster, they’ve received 30-plus minutes, but Derrick Favors being such a capable backup at the four and the five has kept their minutes relatively down at times. Mo Williams is a pretty lateral move from Devin Harris, and with capable backups available, we’d expect him to receive close to the 27.6 mpg Corbin gave Harris last season. Gordon Hayward may once again see the third-most minutes for the Jazz.

Lionel Hollins, Grizzlies, sixth season, fifth with Grizzlies
Rotation trend over last 1-5 seasons as head coach:
30-plus mpg: 4.0 players per season; 24-plus mpg: 5.2 players per season
Most minutes in 2011-12: Rudy Gay (37.3 mpg)
Hollins consistently allows 4-5 players to be very valuable in fantasy, with an extreme drop-off in value for the rest of his roster. Look for this to be the case again with all of Memphis’ starters holding a firm grip on their starting jobs. Either Jerryd Bayless or Josh Selby could take on a lesser version of O.J. Mayo’s role from last season, but just know that Hollins has the talent on his roster and past tendencies that point to him riding his main guys once again.

Second Tier: 3.2-3.8 Players Receiving 30-Plus MPG

Doc Rivers, Celtics, 14th season, ninth with Celtics
Rotation trend over last 1-5 seasons as head coach:
30-plus mpg: 3.8 players per season; 24-plus mpg: 5.2 players per season
Most minutes in 2011-12: Rajon Rondo (36.9 mpg)
Rivers’ rotation trends are perhaps the most consistent of any coach over the past five years, not necessarily because of a style of his, but because of his personnel and stable core of players. Last season, Rondo, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass and the departed Ray Allen all averaged more than 31 minutes, even with the compressed schedule. There’s no reason the four remaining Celtics would lose much playing time this year, and new additions like Jason Terry and Courtney Lee should be able to step in for Allen.

Alvin Gentry, Suns, 13th season, fifth with Suns
Rotation trend over last 1-5 seasons as head coach:
30-plus mpg: 3.8 players per season; 24-plus mpg: 5.8 players per season
Most minutes in 2011-12: Marcin Gortat (32.0 mpg)
Gentry will be in charge of one of the most overhauled rosters in the league, with three new starters in Goran Dragic, Michael Beasley and Luis Scola. For the first time in his career, Dragic has no competition at point guard, so we see him passing Gortat for the team’s leader in minutes. Gentry tinkered a bit with his starting roster throughout last season, and we’d expect him to do the same this year, especially at the two and the three. However, Scola and Gortat should be shoe-ins for big minutes in the frontcourt.

Kevin McHale, Rockets, fourth season, second with Rockets
Rotation trend over last 1-5 seasons as head coach:
30-plus mpg: 3.7 players per season; 24-plus mpg: 5.7 players per season
Most minutes in 2011-12: Kyle Lowry (32.1 mpg)
McHale is close to the league average in the way he doles out minutes, but this situation in Houston is fairly unique. We can assume that Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin will see starter’s minutes all season, but the rest of the roster screams inconsistency. There might not be anyone on this team as talented or deserving as Lowry was last season of 32-plus mpg, making McHale’s Rockets a team to be wary of from a fantasy perspective.

Dwane Casey, Raptors, third season, second with Raptors
Rotation trend over last 1-5 seasons as head coach:
30-plus mpg: 3.7 players per season; 24-plus mpg: 5.7 players per season
Most minutes in 2011-12: DeMar DeRozan (35.0 mpg)
The Raptors added depth at in the two positions the team’s leading minutes man, DeRozan, plays – the two and the three. This may not bode well for him to repeat as minutes-leader, but Casey’s history dictates he’ll be comfortable trusting Kyle Lowry and Andrea Bargnani to see heavy minutes in addition to DeRozan and anyone who might impress at the three or the five.

Byron Scott, Cavaliers, 13th season, third with Cavaliers
Rotation trend over last 1-5 seasons as head coach:
30-plus mpg: 3.6 players per season; 24-plus mpg: 6.4 players per season
Most minutes in 2011-12: Antawn Jamison (33.1 mpg)
Scott’s rotation last season was distorted by injuries to Anderson Varejao and Kyrie Irving as well as an absence of starting NBA-level talent at some positions. He should be able to stabilize his rotation now that Dion Waiters can hold down the two, with Alonzo Gee and Tristan Thompson free to play their natural positions at the three and four respectively with Jamison no longer in town. Who will step up and lead the Cavs in minutes? There can be no other answer than Irving.

Larry Drew, Hawks, third season, all with Hawks
Rotation trend over last 1-5 seasons as head coach:
30-plus mpg: 3.5 players per season; 24-plus mpg: 6.0 players per season
Most minutes in 2011-12: Joe Johnson (35.5 mpg)
After two years of playing the same old faces, Drew will be forced to devise a rotation where four of his six best players play the one and the two. Of course Josh Smith and Al Horford will see big minutes with nobody to threaten them for playing time, but it’s hard to say how Drew will handle going from having barely one legitimate point guard to now having three in Jeff Teague, Devin Harris and Lou Williams.

Tom Thibodeau, Bulls, third season, all with Bulls
Rotation trend over last 1-5 seasons as head coach:
30-plus mpg: 3.5 players per season; 24-plus mpg: 5.0 players per season
Most minutes in 2011-12: Luol Deng (39.4 mpg)
Thibodeau’s frontcourt remains almost identical to previous years, minus Omer Asik, who never saw significant minutes anyway. The backcourt will be a mess until Derrick Rose returns two months into the season, but Thibodeau has proven over his first two years that he won’t give average-to-below average players 24-plus minutes just because there’s an opening at a position. Instead he’ll probably spread out the minutes at the one and the two over the first couple months.

Scott Skiles, Bucks, 13th season, fifth with Bucks
Rotation trend over last 1-5 seasons as head coach:
30-plus mpg: 3.4 players per season; 24-plus mpg: 6.6 players per season
Most minutes in 2011-12: Monta Ellis (36.0 mpg)
It will be interesting to see how Skiles uses his youngsters. He typically doesn’t give much playing time to rookies or second year players unless they’re on the level of a Brandon Jennings. This means it will be Samuel Dalembert, Drew Gooden and Mike Dunleavy Jr., not Ekpe Udoh, John Henson, and Tobias Harris who see fantasy-relevant minutes in the frontcourt. Ellis, Jennings, and Ersan Ilyasova are the only locks for big-time minutes.

Keith Smart, Kings, fourth season, second with Kings
Rotation trend over last 1-5 seasons as head coach:
30-plus mpg: 3.3 players per season; 24-plus mpg: 6.0 players per season
Most minutes in 2011-12: Marcus Thornton (34.9 mpg)
Smart showed last year that he had no problem letting second-round draft pick Isaiah Thomas run the show, which could bode well for rookie Thomas Robinson. If we assume that Thornton, Evans, Thomas and DeMarcus Cousins see significant minutes, Smart’s tendencies suggest that two more players will get 24-plus mpg, and the roster dictates that Robinson has a good shot to be one of them.

Randy Wittman, Wizards, seventh season, second with Wizards
Rotation trend over last 1-5 seasons as head coach:
30-plus mpg: 3.2 players per season; 24-plus mpg: 5.6 players per season
Most minutes in 2011-12: John Wall (36.2 mpg)
Wittman traditionally keeps a relatively small rotation of key players, and everyone on the Wizards would appear to have a pretty firm hold on their starting job once John Wall returns from his injury four weeks into the season. Only two players (Wall and Trevor Ariza) on the Wizards roster played 30-plus mpg on their respective teams last season, so someone is likely to see an increase in playing time. Nene and Emeka Okafor are certainly possibilities, but don’t count out rookie Bradley Beal, who should start at the two from day one.

Lawrence Frank, Pistons, ninth season, second with Pistons
Rotation trend over last 1-5 seasons as head coach:
30-plus mpg: 3.2 players per season; 24-plus mpg: 5.0 players per season
Most minutes in 2011-12: Tayshaun Prince (33.1 mpg)
Prince, Brandon Knight, Greg Monroe and Rodney Stuckey are the only guys we’d consider locks to see 24-plus minutes from Frank, who has always played a limited number of guys fantasy-significant minutes. It also seems logical we’ll see Monroe’s minutes increase in his third season, especially since he’s clearly Frank’s best player and the franchise’s main building block.

Mike Brown, Lakers, seventh season, second with Lakers
Rotation trend over last 1-5 seasons as head coach:
30-plus mpg: 3.2 players per season; 24-plus mpg: 5.0 players per season
Most minutes in 2011-12: Kobe Bryant (38.5 mpg)
To a certain extent, we can throw out Brown’s past tendencies here. He never plays 4-5 guys 30-plus minutes, because he’s never had that many deserving players. Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard will all see the minutes that owners have come to expect, though Bryant should see a slight decrease, since he will no longer have to kill himself every night on the offensive end, and Jodie Meeks is a definite upgrade over Andrew Goudelock as a backup two guard. Metta World Peace and Antawn Jamison will test Brown’s track record of playing five players 24-plus mpg, and given Jamison’s ability to play the three and the four, we expect both to see enough minutes to be relevant in fantasy.

Third Tier: 1.5-3.0 Players Receiving 30-Plus MPG

Doug Collins, 76ers, 11th season, third with 76ers
Rotation trend over last 1-5 seasons as head coach:
30-plus mpg: 3.0 players per season; 24-plus mpg: 5.8 players per season
Most minutes in 2011-12: Andre Iguodala (35.6 mpg)
Only two players (Iguodala and Jrue Holiday) saw 30-plus mpg for Collins last season, but he has usually given that many minutes to three players in seasons past, so we’ll chalk last season up to the compressed schedule and Collins’ volatility towards Evan Turner’s playing time. The only problem with expecting Collins to revert back to giving three players 30-plus minutes, is that the natural third candidate, Turner, has three new teammates with track records (Jason Richardson, Nick Young and Dorell Wright) who also play his wing position. Andrew Bynum played 35.2 minutes last season for the Lakers, and considering that Collins gave Elton Brand 34.7 mpg in 2010-11, Bynum should see at least that much floor time this season.

Monty Williams, Hornets, third season, all with Hornets
Rotation trend over last 1-5 seasons as head coach:
30-plus mpg: 3.0 players per season; 24-plus mpg: 6.5 players per season
Most minutes in 2011-12: Eric Gordon (34.4 mpg)
Williams hasn’t traditionally given more than three of his players the coveted 30-plus minutes, but he’s been good to fantasy owners in the sense that he gives plenty of players enough minutes to be of some use. He doesn’t have a track record of coaching a rookie as highly touted as Anthony Davis, but few coaches do. If we assume Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson each see 30-plus minutes, the most logical choice to be the third player to reach that plateau would be Davis. After that, Williams should give guys like Greivis Vasquez, Austin Rivers, Jason Smith and Robin Lopez enough minutes to be interesting.

Avery Johnson, Nets, seventh season, third with Nets
Rotation trend over last 1-5 seasons as head coach:
30-plus mpg: 3.0 players per season; 24-plus mpg: 5.8 players per season
Most minutes in 2011-12: Deron Williams (36.3 mpg)
Johnson’s track record is at odds with his roster. Typically stingy with big minutes, Johnson now has a team with possibly the five clearest starters of any team in the league. Could Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries or Brook Lopez possibly see less than 30 mpg to ensure that guys like Reggie Evans, Andray Blatche and Josh Childress get plenty of run? We don’t think so, and we know that Deron Williams and Joe Johnson’s minutes are safe.

Vinny Del Negro, Clippers, fifth season, third with Clippers
Rotation trend over last 1-5 seasons as head coach:
30-plus mpg: 3.0 players per season; 24-plus mpg: 7.0 players per season
Most minutes in 2011-12: Chris Paul (36.4 mpg)
Del Negro has typically had one of the deepest rotations in the league, while giving just three players 30-plus mpg. He should have no problem once again living up to that billing, with an array of mid-level talent on the wing and in the backcourt. Paul and Blake Griffin are locks to once again see 30-plus mpg for Del Negro, but after that, it’s anybody’s guess, just know that there will be plenty of minutes to go around. This is good news for players like Grant Hill and Lamar Odom, who will be coming off the bench, but it’s not ideal for guys like Caron Butler and Jamal Crawford, who would typically have a firm hold on close to 30 mpg.

Scott Brooks, Thunder, fifth season, all with Thunder
Rotation trend over last 1-5 seasons as head coach:
30-plus mpg: 3.0 players per season; 24-plus mpg: 5.5 players per season
Most minutes in 2011-12: Kevin Durant (38.6 mpg)
Nothing has really changed on Brooks’ roster, so we’d expect his rotations to remain the same. Fantasy owners should proceed with confidence about the roles of the players on the Thunder.

Greg Popovich, Spurs, 17th season, all with Spurs
Rotation trend over last 1-5 seasons as head coach:
30-plus mpg: 2.8 players per season; 24-plus mpg: 4.8 players per season
Most minutes in 2011-12: Tony Parker (32.1 mpg)
Last season, Popovich flipped the script and went from a post-oriented high-low attack to a spread three-point shooting attack. In doing so, Parker became the only player on the Spurs to receive 30-plus mpg last season. Of course, we would attribute some of that to the compressed schedule, but it should be noted that Popovich hasn’t given anyone 35-plus mpg since the 2003-04 season, when Tim Duncan was in his absolute prime, so it’s clear that Popovich likes to spread out his minutes. This isn’t very helpful from a fantasy perspective, because unlike Del Negro, who likes to give seven players 24-plus mpg, Popovich likes to give ten players 18-plus mpg. This means that after Parker, Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard, it’s possible that nobody else on the Spurs will see enough minutes to be a good option in standard leagues.

Erik Spoelstra, Heat, fifth season, all with Heat
Rotation trend over last 1-5 seasons as head coach:
30-plus mpg: 2.8 players per season; 24-plus mpg: 5.0 players per season
Most minutes in 2011-12: LeBron James (37.5 mpg)
Spoelstra’s tendencies give us cause for concern when it comes to the newly acquired Ray Allen. The sharpshooter has always seen minutes in the mid-30s, but considering Spoelstra has never given four players 30-plus minutes, we see Allen’s value declining this season. Allen’s addition could cut slightly into Mario Chalmers’ minutes too, since there will be more instances when James or Dwyane Wade play the point to make room for Allen at the two.

Mark Jackson, Warriors, second season, all with Warriors
Rotation trend over last 1-5 seasons as head coach:
30-plus mpg: 2.0 players per season; 24-plus mpg: 7.0 players per season
Most minutes in 2011-12: David Lee (37.2 mpg)
Jackson’s rotation stats represent one season that was full of turmoil, including blockbuster trades, Stephen Curry’s inability to stay on the court and a complete lack of a competent center. What we did learn last season is that Jackson loves giving Lee big minutes; Klay Thompson was given the chance to emerge as the starting shooting guard; and Curry might not be able to handle a workload befitting of his talent. From this we can assume that rookie Harrison Barnes will be given the same chance Thompson was given last year to establish himself, while Jarrett Jack should see more minutes than a typical backup point guard. Given how subpar the Warriors’ centers were last season, we expect Jackson to have Andrew Bogut on the floor as much as possible.

Frank Vogel, Pacers, third season, all with Pacers
Rotation trend over last 1-5 seasons as head coach:
30-plus mpg: 1.5 players per season; 24-plus mpg: 5.5 players per season
Most minutes in 2011-12: Danny Granger (33.3 mpg)
Vogel has perhaps the most interesting and telling rotation stats of any active coach. The only player other than Danny Granger that Vogel has ever given 30-plus minutes to is Darren Collison, who is no longer on the team. This means that despite their talent, fantasy owners cannot assume that Paul George, David West and Roy Hibbert will receive playing time in the 30-mpg range. In fact, the player who might have the best chance to join Granger with 30-plus mpg on the Pacers is George Hill, who assumes the starting point guard duties.

Fourth Tier: First-Year Coaches

Jacque Vaughn, Magic, first season
Not only do the Magic have a new coach, they almost have a brand new team. Vaughn will likely take some of Greg Popovich’s rotation philosophies with him after serving as an assistant coach with the Spurs from 2010 to 2012. This leads us to believe that Jameer Nelson, much like Tony Parker, is the best bet to lead the Magic in minutes. Vaughn was also a point guard in his playing days, so that’s another reason he might favor Nelson. We also assume that Vaughn will have a very deep bench like Popovich and give only a select group of players enough minutes to be relevant in fantasy – perhaps Arron Afflalo, Hedo Turkoglu and Glen Davis in addition to Nelson.

Mike Dunlap, Bobcats, first season
Dunlap’s only NBA coaching experience was as an assistant coach for George Karl in Denver from 2006 to 2008. Karl’s rotations have always been very fantasy-friendly, so that’s encouraging. What is less encouraging is the Bobcats’ roster, which leaves fantasy owners little to choose from. Of the players remaining from last season’s roster, only Gerald Henderson (33.3) and Kemba Walker (27.2) saw 24-plus mpg. Rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist figures to step right in and get plenty of floor time at the three, and we’d expect players like Bismack Biyombo, Ramon Sessions, Ben Gordon, Byron Mullens and Brendan Haywood to all get decent run.