COACHING TIERS REVISITED
The first article I wrote this year was a coaching tiers breakdown that showed which current NBA head coaches favor a deeper rotation with minutes spread out across the roster (think Gregg Popovich) and which coaches like to lean heavily on their key players (Terry Stotts led the way here). We are now at the halfway point of the season, and the Lakers, Nets, Bucks and Suns have all made coaching changes, which gives us the opportunity to explore how the new head coaches impact the value of the players on their roster from a fantasy perspective. For the purpose of this article, and since Terry Porter has a head coaching background, we'll throw the Timberwolves into that group as well, although Rick Adelman is expected to return in the short term. For each coach, I 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.
Coach: Mike D'Antoni, Lakers, 11th season
Rotation trend over last five full seasons as head coach:
30-plus mpg: 5.0 players per season
24-plus mpg: 6.6 players per season
D'Antoni would have finished at the top of the coaching tier, ahead of Stotts, had he started the season as a head coach. He is historically as friendly to fantasy players as any coach in the league, giving at least five players on his roster enough minutes to be fantasy relevant in standard leagues, and his top reserves usually see enough run to be relevant in most leagues as well. It's been well documented that this current Lakers roster is not tailored to D'Antoni's style. His offense is all about spacing, with one player inside and four outside, but he can't get that spacing while Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard are on the floor at the same time without asking one of the best offensive post players in the league (Gasol) to play out on the perimeter, which to this point has been an epic underutilization of talent. Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Metta World Peace, and Howard have all been comfortably in the 30-plus mpg range under D'Antoni, while Gasol has lately been hovering right at 30 mpg. Those five players are owned in the vast majority of leagues, and D'Antoni's history tells us that it's safe to expect all five to continue to see big minutes (although that's little consolation to Gasol's ravaged owners). We can also assume that one or two other players should see more than 24 mpg under D'Antoni, and it would appear that Earl Clark and Antawn Jamison fit that bill, making them interesting in 12-team leagues.
Coach: Terry Porter, Timberwolves, 4th season
Rotation trend in his two full seasons as a head coach:
30-plus mpg: 3.0 players per season
24-plus mpg: 6.5 players per season
This is noteworthy because Adelman was near the top of the coaching tiers, giving 4.2 players per season 30-plus mpg. The T-Wolves have been devastated by injuries, but in any case, as long as Porter is at the helm, look for only Luke Ridnour and Andrei Kirilenko to be locks for 30-plus mpg, with Alexey Shved and Nikola Pekovic candidates to join them once they're healthy. Once Adelman (whose wife is currently hospitalized) returns, players like Derrick Williams and J.J. Barea will be safer bets for 30-plus minutes on occasion.
Coach:P.J. Carlesimo, Nets, 9th season
Rotation trend over last five full seasons as head coach:
30-plus mpg: 2.8 players per season
24-plus mpg: 6.4 players per season
Carlesimo has an inconsistent past, running Popovich-like rotations in Seattle in 2007-08 and his last full season in Golden State in the late 1990s while running tighter rotations in Portland in the mid-1990s. His 2.8 players per season in the 30-plus mpg range would have put him in the bottom five of the preseason coaching tiers, right next to Popovich and Erik Spoelstra, meaning that he is no friend to fantasy owners. Avery Johnson wasn't much better, averaging three players per season in the 30-plus mpg range, so theoretically there shouldn't be a significant change in minutes between the two coaches. Joe Johnson and Deron Williams are seeing closer to 40 mpg than 30 mpg under Carlesimo, and even though Brook Lopez's 30 mpg leaves much to be desired, he's still being uber-productive for his owners. Where Carlesimo begins to hurt fantasy owners is with guys like Gerald Wallace. In the eight full games Wallace has played under Carlesimo, he's seeing just 28 mpg. Reggie Evans has been the big fantasy winner under Carlesimo, seeing almost 27 mpg in January, compared to the 20 mpg he received in November under Johnson. MarShon Brooks and Andray Blatche have received comparable run under both Nets coaches, while Kris Humphries has been the big loser in the regime change, as he's struggling to see 15 mpg recently.
Jim Boylan took over as head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks two weeks ago, after being a long-time assistant for Scott Skiles. Boylan moved Ersan Ilyasova into the starting lineup, but Ilyasova still isn't seeing 30-plus mpg. Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis are still the only Bucks who can be counted on for big-time run, though Larry Sanders is productive enough in his 25 mpg that he's still universally owned. Boylan's style is quite similar to his mentor, Skiles, who was middle of the pack on the coaching tiers, giving 3.4 players per season 30-plus mpg. It's not likely that we'll see significant rotation changes as the Bucks are in line for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
Lindsey Hunter will be the interim head coach for the Phoenix Suns after the team mutually agreed with Alvin Gentry to part ways over the weekend. Hunter has no prior coaching experience, so our best bet is to assume he will model his style after Gentry, who gave 3.8 players 30-plus mpg on average.
Each week, this article highlights players who are widely available in standard leagues that can help in specific roto categories. However, the information is still highly relevant in points leagues and deeper leagues. While each player we highlight can help in a specific category, there's no guarantee for production in other areas.
Shannon Brown, SG, Suns - Brown is averaging 16.8 points per game over his last four contests and still led the Suns in scoring in Jared Dudley's first game back from a wrist injury. He will probably continue to come off the bench, but he's still a solid source of scoring and steals and is owned in just 19 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Reggie Evans, PF, Nets - As I noted in the coaching tiers addition, Evans has been the biggest benefactor of P.J. Carlesimo's tenure in Brooklyn. He's averaged 12.7 boards per game over the past two weeks, making him a legit option in most roto leagues for those desperate for rebounding.
Beno Udrih, PG, Bucks - This is a deep league play, as Udrih sees around 20 mpg, but he's averaged 4.7 dimes over the past two weeks while shooting almost 60 percent from the field. Will Bynum, Jamaal Tinsley and Earl Watson are also good deep league plays, while Luke Ridnour and Andre Miller should be looked at in standard leagues.
Wilson Chandler, SF, Nuggets - Since returning to the Nuggets' rotation, Chandler has averaged two steals per game while seeing 20 minutes per night. Chandler has struggled with his shot (37.5 percent), but he's still scoring in double figures, and in mid-sized leagues, he should be targeted as his minutes only stand to increase as he gets better acclimated in the second half of the season. He's available in 58 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Tyler Zeller, C, Cavaliers - Somehow Zeller is owned in less than 15 percent of Yahoo! leagues, even though over the past two weeks he's seeing almost 35 mpg and blocking two shots per game while being a double-double threat on a nightly basis. Andre Drummond is another great option here.
Randy Foye, SG, Jazz - Foye is averaging 3.8 treys per game over his last five contests and that has translated into 16 ppg over that span while also contributing 1.6 thefts, making him one of the top pickups this week in roto leagues.