If you listen to talking heads sound off about the dynamics of a franchise, you'll often hear recycled league maxims like, It's a player's league, or You need a superstar to win, or better yet, You need at least TWO superstars to win.
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The behavior of front offices certainly backs up this rationale, but owners and general managers also seem to care a great deal about who coaches their players. So much so that 14 of the league's 30 franchises will begin the 2013-14 season with a different head coach than the one they had at the start of last season. The motivation for changing leadership at the coaching level varies on a case-by-case basis, and examining it really does little to answer the question of how important a team's head coach is. For all we know, a good chunk of the owners simply wanted to fire someone, and it's a lot more practical to fire a coach than to fire, say, DeMarcus Cousins.
Luckily, when it comes to fantasy basketball, we can get a much better handle on the value a team's head coach will add or subtract from the players they are charged with coaching. Our NBA Coaching Tiers article debuted last season, highlighting rotation trends by coaches and ranking the coaches based on the average number of players they played 30-plus minutes per game.
The top ranked coach heading into 2012-13 was Terry Stotts, who gave an average of 4.5 players 30-plus mpg. On queue, Stotts doled out 30-plus mpg to Damian Lillard, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge and Wesley Matthews, with J.J. Hickson finishing fifth at 29 mpg. Thus, if you invested in Blazers' starters last season, you were well rewarded.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, eight of the nine coaches in the third tier (the worst tier) gave three or fewer players the coveted 30 mpg we're looking for in fantasy. The only coach who didn't conform to his tier, Avery Johnson, was fired after 28 games.
We often say that the most important stat in fantasy basketball is minutes, which is why examining the 30 guys with the power to dole out the minutes can be so beneficial. This year, not only are we looking at past tendencies in setting rotations, but we're also going to note how many field goals and three-pointers each coach allows their team to attempt per game. Hustle stats such as rebounds, steals and blocks, along with rate stats like field-goal percentage and free-throw percentage are generally determined by the player, but a coach's system can have an effect on points and three-pointers. I've also predicted whether the coach will ascend up or down the coaching tiers this season, based on his current roster.
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. The coaches were then split 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: Only players that played in one-third of a team's games were factored in, and when possible, I avoided taking into account seasons when a coach took over or got fired by a team halfway through the season.
TIER ONE: 3.8-5.0 Players Receiving 30-Plus MPG
Jacque Vaughn, Magic, second season, all with Orlando
Rotation trends over last 1-5 seasons as head coach: 30+ mpg: 5.0 players per season, 24+ mpg: 6.0 players per season
Most minutes in 2012-13: Tobias Harris (36.1 mpg)
Offensive trends over last 1-5 seasons as head coach: FG attempted per game: 84.2 (84.2 last season), 3Pt FG attempted per game: 18.7 (18.7 last season).
Projected movement: Slightly down
After one season, Vaughn vaulted to the top of the coaching tier pyramid. The sample is obviously small, but his rotation fit his roster. He gave 30-plus mpg to Harris, Arron Afflalo (36.0), Jameer Nelson (35.3), Nikola Vucevic (33.2), J.J. Redick (31.5) and Glen Davis (31.3). Harris didn't quite play one third of his games with the Magic, so he didn't factor into Vaughn's ranking, but I think we can expect him to pick up where he left off, with a fine chance at leading the team in minutes. He was getting his big minutes in the absence of Davis, but considering how well he played, it would be hard for Vaughn to justify cutting perhaps his best player's minutes simply to make way for a veteran like Davis who isn't a big part of Orlando's long-term plan. They will certainly give Big Baby significant playing time to boost his trade value, but it shouldn't come at the expense of Harris. Maurice Harkless, who is part of Orlando's big picture, earned 26.0 mpg last season, but since Harris and Afflalo are both going to see big minutes, it's hard to see Harkless seeing a major up-tick, without Afflalo or Davis getting dealt. The most interesting battle for minutes will be between Nelson and first-round pick Victor Oladipo. Because of his elite athleticism, Orlando is attempting to mold Oladipo into a Russell Westbrook-esque point guard. This means that the ideal lineup of the future would be Oladipo, Afflalo, Harkless, Harris and Vucevic. Knowing this, it's difficult to envision Oladipo not seeing close to 30 mpg, since he'll need reps to adjust to playing the point. The lineup doesn't fit quite as perfectly as it did last year from a fantasy perspective, so it's doubtful five guys will see 30-plus mpg again, but in general, look for Vaughn to once again be a friend to your fantasy team.
Mike D'Antoni, Lakers, 12th season, second with Los Angeles
Rotation trends over last 1-5 seasons as head coach: 30+ mpg: 4.8 players per season, 24+ mpg: 6.6 players per season
Most minutes in 2012-13: Kobe Bryant (38.6 mpg)
Offensive trends over last 1-5 seasons as head coach: FG attempted per game: 83.6 (81.0 last season), 3Pt FG attempted per game: 25.1 (24.6 last season).
Projected movement: Down
The Lakers' five best players all saw 30-plus mpg last season when healthy. This came as no great surprise, as D'Antoni is notorious for riding his best players hard, hence his No. 2 ranking on this list. However, it's hard to say who the five best players on this year's team are after the departure of Dwight Howard (35.8 mpg) and Metta World Peace (33.7 mpg) in the offseason. It's even more difficult to predict how many games the combination of Bryant (questionable to start the season coming off an Achilles' tear), Pau Gasol (49 games in 2012-13) and Steve Nash (50 games in 2012-13) will play this season. Then there's the news that D'Antoni plans on using an 11-man rotation, which flies in the face of everything we've seen from him over the years. Still, after Bryant, Gasol and Nash, there aren't two more clear starters, so a massive rotation makes a bit of sense, although it's something winning teams almost never employ. With a minutes cap likely for Nash, Steve Blake (26.1 mpg) might be as good a bet as any of the second tier players to approach 30 mpg, but even that seems unlikely. D'Antoni's No. 2 ranking on this list should be taken with a grain of salt this year, and it's quite possible that Bryant and Gasol are the only two players to see 30-plus mpg this season, with Nash, Blake, Chris Kaman, Jordan Hill, Nick Young, Wesley Johnson, Jodie Meeks and Jordan Farmer left to fight for the remaining playing time.
Terry Stotts, Trail Blazers, sixth season, second with Portland
Rotation trends over last 1-5 seasons as head coach: 30+ mpg: 4.4 players per season, 24+ mpg: 6.0 players per season
Most minutes in 2012-13: Damian Lillard (38.6 mpg)
Offensive trends over last 1-5 seasons as head coach: FG attempted per game: 80.4 (81.9 last season), 3Pt FG attempted per game: 17.3 (23.2 last season).
Projected movement: Down
Stotts, who entered last season at No. 1 on this list, will have a difficult time not slipping further next season, given the new makeup of his roster. As I noted in the intro, he gave four guys 30-plus mpg last season, with a fifth player, J.J. Hickson, just missing the cut at 29.0 mpg. But a large part of that reliability from a fantasy standpoint wasn't just Stotts' rotation theology; it was the complete lack of depth on Portland's bench. Hickson's no longer around to get the bulk of the minutes in the post, and after a busy offseason, Robin Lopez and Thomas Robinson were brought in to share minutes with LaMarcus Aldridge and sophomore Meyers Leonard in the frontcourt. Throw in Dorrell Wright and Victor Claver on the wing and C.J. McCollum and Mo Williams adding depth to the backcourt, and all of a sudden the Trail Blazers appear to be one of the deepest teams in the Western Conference. With all of this added depth, look for Portland's fantasy stalwarts from last season Aldridge, Lillard and Nicolas Batum to see a modest reduction in minutes this season, with Wesley Matthews (34.8 mpg) a candidate to see a more noticeable drop in playing time.
Mike Woodson, Knicks, ninth season, third with New York
Rotation trends over last 1-5 seasons as head coach: 30+ mpg: 4.32 players per season, 24+ mpg: 6.3 players per season
Most minutes in 2012-13: Carmelo Anthony (37.0 mpg)
Offensive trends over last 1-5 seasons as head coach: FG attempted per game: 80.2 (81.6 last season), 3Pt FG attempted per game: 18.5 (28.9 last season).
Projected movement: Slightly down
The four players who averaged 30-plus mpg last season Anthony, Raymond Felton (34.0), J.R. Smith (33.5) and Tyson Chandler (32.8) are all returning and seem like solid bets to retain most of their fantasy value from a year ago. Of newcomers Andrea Bargnani and Metta World Peace, the latter seems like the better bet for big minutes, considering Amar'e Stoudemire still figures to be the next option in the frontcourt after Anthony and Chandler. World Peace was brought in to attempt to slow down guys like LeBron James and Paul George and will allow Woodson to continue to be creative with his rotations, giving both Anthony and World Peace minutes at the four. The Knicks led the league in three-pointers attempted last season, and the construction of the team should lead to more of the same, so Anthony, Felton, Smith and even Bargnani and World Peace should all be expected to contribute near career-high levels in three-pointers.
Maurice Cheeks, Pistons, ninth season, first with Detroit
Rotation trends over last 1-5 seasons as head coach: 30+ mpg: 4.0 players per season, 24+ mpg: 5.6 players per season
Most minutes in 2012-13: Greg Monroe (33.2 mpg)
Offensive trends over last 1-5 seasons as head coach: FG attempted per game: 79.4 (81.1 last season), 3Pt FG attempted per game: 12.4 (11.6 last season).
Projected movement: None
On paper the Pistons seem like a contender for the most fantasy-friendly team in the league, and thankfully, Cheeks seems like the perfect coach to run the show. With a clear drop-off in talent after Monroe, Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings and Andre Drummond, and Cheeks' tendency at his previous stops in Portland and Philadelphia to give an average of four guys 30-plus minutes per game, the Pistons could be this year's Trail Blazers. That is to say, we should be able to count on significant fantasy value from at least four of their starters. The team's first-round pick, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, is the only natural two-guard on the roster, but given his inexperience, it doesn't seem likely that this is the year he sees enough minutes to be a touted fantasy commodity.
Rick Adelman, Timberwolves, 23rd season, third with Minnesota
Rotation trends over last 1-5 seasons as head coach: 30+ mpg: 3.96 players per season, 24+ mpg: 5.8 players per season
Most minutes in 2012-13: Andrei Kirilenko (31.8 mpg)
Offensive trends over last 1-5 seasons as head coach: FG attempted per game: 82.6 (81.7 last season), 3Pt FG attempted per game: 20.9 (18.0 last season).
Projected movement: Down
Adelman's 2012-13 numbers (only three T-Wolves qualifying at 30-plus mpg) don't tell the whole story, since Kevin Love (18 games) didn't qualify and Ricky Rubio (29.7 mpg) will almost surely eclipse the 30-mpg threshold this season. But at the same time, two of the three T-Wolves who did qualify at 30-plus mpg last year Kirilenko and Luke Ridnour (30.2) departed in the offseason. The absence of Kirilenko opens up a big hole in the rotation, with Corey Brewer (24.4), Chase Budinger (22.1), Dante Cunningham (25.1) and Derrick Williams (24.6) all options to take his minutes. Rubio and Jose Barea (23.1) should be the primary benefactors of Ridnour's exit. Meanwhile, Alexey Shved and new addition Kevin Martin figure to split time at the two. Adelman has historically been at the forefront of NBA coaches in terms of incorporating the three-pointer, despite the team's middling 18.0 attempts last season. Now, with Martin (42.6 percent three-point shooting in 2012-13) on the team, Adelman has a player worthy of 300-plus long-range attempts, making him someone to target in later rounds for three-pointers. Despite Adelman's recent trend of almost four players per season earning big minutes, it's likely that only Love, Rubio and Nikola Pekovic (31.6) get there this season.
Rick Carlisle, Mavericks, 12th season, sixth with Dallas
Rotation trends over last 1-5 seasons as head coach: 30+ mpg: 3.8 players per season, 24+ mpg: 5.6 players per season
Most minutes in 2012-13: O.J. Mayo (35.5 mpg)
Offensive trends over last 1-5 seasons as head coach: FG attempted per game: 82.0 (84.0 last season), 3Pt FG attempted per game: 20.4 (19.9 last season).
Projected movement: Slightly up
After giving only three players 30-plus minutes last season, Carlisle's rotation should be more fantasy friendly in 2013-14, with newcomers Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon joining Dirk Nowitzki (31.3) and Shawn Marion (30.0) as a potential foursome in 30-plus mpg territory. Of those four, Marion seems like the potential odd man out, given how close he was to not making the cutoff last season, but he shouldn't drop too far below 30 mpg, given his defensive prowess. Ellis has cleared 36 mpg in each of the past four seasons, and while Carlisle is the best and most demanding coach he's ever played for, the Mavs will still need his scoring, and 35 mpg shouldn't be a problem. As for Calderon, he saw 31.7 mpg in 28 games for the Pistons last season, and if Darren Collison could garner 29.3 mpg for the Mavs last season, Calderon should have no problem getting there. Samuel Dalembert figures to begin the season as the starting center, but he hasn't played 26-plus mpg since the 2007-08 season, so he probably won't top that in 2013-14. Vince Carter, Wayne Ellington, Jae Crowder, Brandan Wright and Devin Harris will all be players in the rotation, but they should share minutes to the point where none are very relevant in standard fantasy formats.
TIER TWO: 3.2-3.78 Players Receiving 30-Plus MPG
Kevin McHale, Rockets, fifth season, third with Houston
Rotation trends over last 1-5 seasons as head coach: 30+ mpg: 3.78 players per season, 24+ mpg: 5.8 players per season
Most minutes in 2012-13: James Harden (38.3 mpg)
Offensive trends over last 1-5 seasons as head coach: FG attempted per game: 82.5 (82.7 last season), 3Pt FG attempted per game: 20.5 (28.9 last season).
Projected movement: Up
McHale's bench was in constant flux in 2012-13, but Harden, Chandler Parsons (36.3), Jeremy Lin (32.2) and Omer Asik (30.0) saw fantasy-friendly minutes all season. Enter Dwight Howard, who should be up around 36 mpg this season, and there remain four quality fantasy options from a playing time perspective. Asik gets a bit of a raw deal here after his stellar year last season, and he seems destined to be a Taj Gibson/Andrew Bogut-esque option that will remain tempting because of his per-minute production, but it's hard to envision a scenario where he gets enough minutes to keep his fantasy value high, barring an injury to Howard. At power forward, Greg Smith, Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas will duke it out for playing time, but McHale's history makes it unlikely that he will reward a fifth player on the roster with significant playing time. The Rockets were second in the league last season in three-pointers attempted, and the well-known blueprint for success around Howard is to play one in, four out, with a bevy of attempts from downtown. This means that once again, Harden and Parsons should be excellent sources of three-pointers.
Larry Drew, Bucks, fourth season, first with Milwaukee
Rotation trends over last 1-5 seasons as head coach: 30+ mpg: 3.66 players per season, 24+ mpg: 6.0 players per season
Most minutes in 2012-13: Monta Ellis (37.5 mpg)
Offensive trends over last 1-5 seasons as head coach: FG attempted per game: 80.1 (81.0 last season), 3Pt FG attempted per game: 20.3 (23.2 last season).
Projected movement: Down
It's hard to find a more unpredictable rotation than the one Drew will have to put together in Milwaukee. Ellis, Brandon Jennings (36.2) and J.J. Redick (28.7) were the three most heavily used players on the Bucks last season, and they have all moved on. Ersan Ilyasova (27.6) played the most of the returning players, and O.J. Mayo (35.5) played more minutes than any current Buck last year, but those minutes came on the Mavericks. Larry Sanders, and Brandon Knight are part of the team's long-term plan, and figure to see plenty of run, but with veterans like Carlos Delfino, Caron Butler, Luke Ridnour and Zaza Pachulia, along with high upside youngsters like John Henson and Giannis Antetokounmpo all on the roster, the rotation is likely to be ever-changing. There are a lot of minutes up for grabs in Milwaukee, with Sanders and Ilyasova figuring to be the two reliable options in terms of fantasy value, but it's buyer beware after that.
Tyrone Corbin, Jazz, fourth season, all with Utah
Rotation trends over last 1-5 seasons as head coach: 30+ mpg: 3.66 players per season, 24+ mpg: 5.0 players per season
Most minutes in 2012-13: Al Jefferson (33.1 mpg)
Offensive trends over last 1-5 seasons as head coach: FG attempted per game: 82.8 (81.8 last season), 3Pt FG attempted per game: 14.9 (16.9 last season).
Projected movement: Slightly up
The theme for the Jazz this year will be freedom. As in, free Derrick Favors, free Enes Kanter and free Alec Burks. Jefferson, Mo Williams (30.8), Paul Millsap (30.4) and Randy Foye (27.4) have all moved on, opening the door for a youth infusion. Favors is the first option fantasy owners will turn to as a breakout candidate, given his excellent per-minute defensive numbers, and the fact that he's a shoe-in to see about a 10-mpg jump from the 23.2 he saw last season. Kanter is one of my favorite sleeper options this season, as he displayed an extremely polished offensive game for his age, especially considering his lack of playing time (15.4 mpg) last season. Given the lack of competent frontcourt options remaining on the roster, Kanter could see an even bigger jump in playing time than Favors. In theory, it makes the most sense for Burks to jump into the starting role at the two, taking Foye's minutes from last season, and rookie Trey Burke should do the same at point guard, taking Williams' minutes. The one constant will be Gordon Hayward (29.2), who should remain around 30 mpg, playing both the two and the three. Utah is clearly making a play at Andrew Wiggins with their current roster, and that includes keeping Corbin on as head coach. Despite having a dominant post player in Jefferson, who required a double team, Corbin rarely opted to play inside-out, finishing near the bottom of the pack with 16.9 three-point attempts per game last season. Knowing this, significant three-point totals from Burks, Hayward and Burke seem unlikely.
Doc Rivers, Clippers, 15th season, first with Los Angeles
Rotation trends over last 1-5 seasons as head coach: 30+ mpg: 3.44 players per season, 24+ mpg: 5.8 players per season
Most minutes in 2012-13: Chris Paul (33.4 mpg)
Offensive trends over last 1-5 seasons as head coach: FG attempted per game: 77.3 (79.7 last season), 3Pt FG attempted per game: 15.9 (17.0 last season).
Projected movement: Down
There are a lot of disturbing trends here with Doc most notably his 2012-13 numbers (just two players with 30-plus mpg and eight players with 24-plus mpg) are awfully similar to Vinny Del Negro's career averages of three players with 30-plus mpg and seven players with 24-plus mpg. The Clippers' former coach was a constant thorn in the side of fantasy players with his ridiculously deep rotations and his refusal to give big minutes to more than a few players, and Rivers was even worse last year in Boston. There were some extenuating circumstances, like Kevin Garnett (29.7) failing to get to 30 mpg because the Celtics were taking a cautious approach due to the miles on his body, and the fact that the rotation was constantly in flux because of underwhelming seasons from Avery Bradley, Brandon Bass, Jason Terry and Courtney Lee. However, when looking at the Clippers roster, the outlook for 2013-14 becomes even darker from a fantasy perspective, as it's really tough to make a case for a third player (besides CP3 and Blake Griffin) reaching 30 mpg. J.J. Redick, Matt Barnes, Jamal Crawford, Jared Dudley and DeAndre Jordan should all receive 24-plus mpg, but the logjam on the wing will make it tough for anyone to get to 30 mpg, and Jordan's free-throw shooting and proclivity for bone-head plays make him a dubious candidate as well. Rivers gave Rajon Rondo 37.4 mpg last season, but given Paul's age and with capable ball handlers in Darren Collison and Crawford, it's more likely CP3 remains the team's leader in minutes at a touch under 35 per game.
Tom Thibodeau, Bulls, fourth season, all with Chicago
Rotation trends over last 1-5 seasons as head coach: 30+ mpg: 3.33 players per season, 24+ mpg: 5.7 players per season
Most minutes in 2012-13: Luol Deng (38.7 mpg)
Offensive trends over last 1-5 seasons as head coach: FG attempted per game: 81.6 (81.7 last season), 3Pt FG attempted per game: 16.5 (15.4 last season).
Projected movement: Up
Only Deng, Joakim Noah (36.8) and Carlos Boozer (32.2) played more than 30 mpg last season, but of course the elephant in the room is that we would have expected a fourth Bull to join them, had he not spent the entire season recovering from ACL surgery. We can safely assume a healthy Derrick Rose will make four Bulls in 30-plus mpg territory, although it will be interesting to see where Jimmy Butler fits in after his breakout performance last postseason, considering he plays the same position as Deng, one of the NBA leaders in mpg. The Bulls, as currently constructed, will never be as reliant on the three-pointer as other similarly successful franchises, because the only player with an above average stroke from distance who figures to see big minutes is Butler (38.1 percent last season). Still, they are a pretty fantasy-friendly team because their lack of major roster turnover means we know what to expect from their key players, who all figure to see big minutes from Thibodeau, who likes to keep a tight rotation.
Dwane Casey, Raptors, fifth season, third with Toronto
Rotation trends over last 1-5 seasons as head coach: 30+ mpg: 3.28 players per season, 24+ mpg: 6.0 players per season
Most minutes in 2012-13: DeMar DeRozan (36.7 mpg)
Offensive trends over last 1-5 seasons as head coach: FG attempted per game: 79.1 (81.5 last season), 3Pt FG attempted per game: 15.4 (20.3 last season).
Projected movement: Up
The Raptors return their top-three minute-earners from 2012-13 in DeRozan, Rudy Gay (34.7) and Kyle Lowry (29.7), with the only really notable addition being Steve Novak, who is just a 20-mpg three-point marksman. Terrence Ross still doesn't have an obvious avenue to significant playing time, as Gay and DeRozan block him. With Andrea Bargnani (28.7) out of the picture, Jonas Valanciunas (23.9) looks poised to have the breakout campaign many expected from him last season, and with no one to challenge him at center, he should get 30-plus mpg this season. The mid-season departure of Jose Calderon (28.3) makes Lowry a strong candidate to get over the 30-mpg marker this season as well. Power forward is a bit of a mess, with Amir Johnson the likely starter, and Tyler Hansbrough backing him up, with neither being worth much attention on draft day. Casey's teams haven't averaged a high number of three-point attempts, but two of his four seasons were in Minnesota when the T-Wolves had K.G., and literally nobody else (Rashad McCants easily led the team in three-point attempts). Those teams averaged 12.4 attempts from downtown over two seasons, which really brought down Casey's average. Novak, Gay, Ross and Lowry should all be solid sources of three-point shooting. With four likely candidates to get to 30-mpg, Casey looks poised to rise up the coaching tier ranks, but he's far from a lock to be on next year's list.
Mike Brown, Cavaliers, eighth season, first with Cleveland
Rotation trends over last 1-5 seasons as head coach: 30+ mpg: 3.2 players per season, 24+ mpg: 5.0 players per season
Most minutes in 2012-13: Anderson Varejao (36.0)
Offensive trends over last 1-5 seasons as head coach: FG attempted per game: 80.0 (80.6 last season), 3Pt FG attempted per game: 18.5 (16.9 last season).
Projected movement: Down
There appear to be plenty of log-jams on the roster for Brown to figure out, but I think the frontcourt will be the primary bog for fantasy owners. Despite the acquisition of Jarrett Jack, I expect Kyrie Irving (34.7) and Dion Waiters (28.8) to continue to see significant minutes, possibly even more than they each saw last season. Look at what Golden State did with Jack last season, he received 29.7 mpg, and Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson both still saw 35-plus mpg. Alonzo Gee (31.0) is listed as the starting small forward, but it's hard to see him getting that much playing time again this season, with the likelihood of a lot of three-guard rotations, and when he can get away with it, we could even see rotations with three big men from Brown. Talk of Varejao and Andrew Bynum playing together and possibly even starting together seems unpractical, at least with any regularity. Tristan Thompson will have a hard time getting close to 31.3 mpg again this season, at least until Varejao and/or Bynum get hurt. No. 1 overall pick, Anthony Bennett is a real wild card as far as playing time is concerned, since Brown has said he doesn't want to play him at the three. Bennett has more upside than Thompson, but I wouldn't recommend taking either one until the later rounds because of the uncertainty surrounding the rotation. Brown has never been a fantasy owners' best friend, and he should dip into the third tier after this season, as it's entirely possible that only Irving receives 30-plus mpg.
TIER THREE: 2.0-3.0 Players Receiving 30-Plus MPG
Monty Williams, Pelicans, fourth season, all with New Orleans
Rotation trends over last 1-5 seasons as head coach: 30+ mpg: 3.0 players per season, 24+ mpg: 6.3 players per season
Most minutes in 2012-13: Greivis Vasquez (34.4 mpg)
Offensive trends over last 1-5 seasons as head coach: FG attempted per game: 78.6 (80.4 last season), 3Pt FG attempted per game: 14.9 (18.0 last season).
Projected movement: Up
Given the talent surrounding him on the roster, it may come as a surprise that Vasquez led the team in minutes, but it becomes more obvious when we look at the other point guards on the roster. Replace Vasquez with Jrue Holiday (37.5 mpg with Philadelphia last season), and the Pelicans point guard should once again lead the team in minutes in 2013-14. After Holiday, there is a pretty clear top-five, in terms of a rotation, with Eric Gordon (30.1), Al-Farouq Aminu (27.2), Ryan Anderson (30.9), Anthony Davis (28.8) filling out the rest of the starting lineup, and Tyreke Evans (31.0) coming off the bench as a super sixth man. This runs contrary to Williams' past tendencies, but to be fair, he's never had close to this much top-tier talent on a roster before. With Robin Lopez gone, Davis should easily eclipse 30 mpg, and assuming Williams manages the roster correctly, we could see at least four players with 30-plus mpg. It's even possible that Evans makes it five players to cross that threshold, as I'd expect him to play more than Aminu, even if he comes off the bench. If this all comes to fruition, and Gordon can stay healthy, the Pelicans might have the most legitimate fantasy options of any team in the league.
Scott Brooks, Thunder, sixth season, all with Oklahoma City
Rotation trends over last 1-5 seasons as head coach: 30+ mpg: 3.0 players per season, 24+ mpg: 5.6 players per season
Most minutes in 2012-13: Kevin Durant (38.5 mpg)
Offensive trends over last 1-5 seasons as head coach: FG attempted per game: 80.4 (79.3 last season), 3Pt FG attempted per game: 16.6 (19.4 last season).
Projected movement: None
Brooks has always had a pretty strict three-player max when it comes to 30-plus mpg, and that's close to a lock to happen again this season. Durant, Russell Westbrook (34.9) and Serge Ibaka (31.1) will all be taken very early in fantasy drafts, and in many leagues, the rest of that roster will end up on waivers to start the season. Thabo Sefolosha (27.5) is a logical choice to finish fourth in minutes, but he's never been much of a fantasy contributor. Reggie Jackson might be the fourth most talented player on the roster, but considering he backs up Westbrook and isn't a threat from long-range, he won't see the minutes to make him a consideration in most fantasy leagues.
Randy Wittman, Wizards, eighth season, third with Washington
Rotation trends over last 1-5 seasons as head coach: 30+ mpg: 2.96 players per season, 24+ mpg: 5.9 players per season
Most minutes in 2012-13: John Wall (32.7 mpg)
Offensive trends over last 1-5 seasons as head coach: FG attempted per game: 81.3 (81.6 last season), 3Pt FG attempted per game: 14.2 (18.2 last season).
Projected movement: Down
Wittman saw fit to give Bradley Beal 31.2 mpg as a rookie, which leads me to believe that all the breakout hype surrounding the second year shooting guard is completely justified. He will join Wall as the two Wizards fantasy owners will be able to count on for big minutes in 2013-14. After that, Martell Webster (28.9), Trevor Ariza (26.3) and rookie Otto Porter will all split time to the point that none are very useful for fantasy purposes. Emeka Okafor (26.0) and Nene Hilario (27.2) will get significant time in the frontcourt, but there are production concerns with Okafor and health concerns with Hilario. Kevin Seraphin (21.8) and newcomer Al Harrington will both be looking for minutes at the four, and it's likely that neither will get enough playing time to be very useful, at least right away. Wittman is trending down on the coaching tiers, as only his stud backcourt should be expected to see 30-plus mpg.
Erik Spoelstra, Heat, sixth season, all with Miami
Rotation trends over last 1-5 seasons as head coach: 30+ mpg: 2.84 players per season, 24+ mpg: 5.2 players per season
Most minutes in 2012-13: LeBron James (37.9 mpg)
Offensive trends over last 1-5 seasons as head coach: FG attempted per game: 78.7 (77.4 last season), 3Pt FG attempted per game: 18.6 (22.1 last season).
Projected movement: Slightly up
Like the Thunder, the Heat run a pretty tight three-player 30-plus mpg ship. The big three will all get plenty of minutes, though not as many as you might expect, considering both Dwyane Wade (34.7) and Chris Bosh (33.2) saw less than 35 mpg, even though they are pretty widely regarded as All-Star caliber players. Given the amount of blowouts the Heat are in, and the fact that they only play for rings, Spoelstra will once again be willing to rest his studs during the regular season. The big three would have played even fewer minutes per game last season, had they not got caught up in their midseason 27-game winning streak. Mario Chalmers (26.9) and Ray Allen (25.8) will both be ownable in most formats because of their contributions in specialized categories, but after that, there's not much to see here.
Gregg Popovich, Spurs, 18th season, all with San Antonio
Rotation trends over last 1-5 seasons as head coach: 30+ mpg: 2.84 players per season, 24+ mpg: 4.8 players per season
Most minutes in 2012-13: Tony Parker (32.9 mpg)
Offensive trends over last 1-5 seasons as head coach: FG attempted per game: 81.2 (81.4 last season), 3Pt FG attempted per game: 20.5 (21.5 last season).
Projected movement: Down
Pop is one of the more infamous coaches when it comes to not caring about your fantasy team. Not only will he occasionally sit his stars when the schedule calls for it to keep them fresh, but he is so wise when it comes to monitoring his players' minutes, that even a guy like Tony Parker (32.9), isn't going crack 35 mpg. Kawhi Leonard (31.2), because of his youth and his impressive performance in the postseason last year, will get drafted pretty early this year, and rightly so. He is a candidate to push Parker for the most minutes on the team. Tim Duncan (30.1) is probably going to finally dip below 30 mpg this season, especially since Tiago Splitter (24.7) was retained in free agency. This should make Duncan slightly less valuable, while Splitter should see a minor up-tick in minutes. Danny Green (27.5) is the last guy worth serious consideration on draft day, and were it not for the acquisition of Marco Belinelli in the offseason, he might have been in line for an increased role. As always, Pop's teams can be counted on for plenty of attempts from downtown, and with the amount of shooters on this team, topping the 21.5 attempts from 2012-13 is a real possibility. Manu Ginobili (23.2), who probably should have retired in the offseason, is a name only at this point in standard fantasy leagues, and should hover around 20 mpg.
Mark Jackson, Warriors, second season, all with Golden State
Rotation trends over last 1-5 seasons as head coach: 30+ mpg: 2.5 players per season, 24+ mpg: 6.5 players per season
Most minutes in 2012-13: Stephen Curry (38.2 mpg)
Offensive trends over last 1-5 seasons as head coach: FG attempted per game: 83.0 (82.5 last season), 3Pt FG attempted per game: 20.2 (20.5 last season).
Projected movement: Up
After only one Warrior, David Lee, saw 30-plus minutes in Jackson's first season, he upped it to three in 2012-13, with Curry, Lee (36.8) and Klay Thompson (35.8) all seeing major playing time. The addition of Andre Iguodala in the offseason, makes it highly likely that Jackson will induct a fourth Warrior into the 30-plus mpg club this season, making him one of the coaches on the rise for fantasy. For the first time in his life, Harrison Barnes, will come off the bench quite the reward for a breakout performance in the postseason (16.1 points per game). With options like Thompson and Iggy ahead of him, a significant jump from the 25.4 mpg Barnes saw as a rookie is unlikely. Starting center, Andrew Bogut, went from seeing 24.6 mpg in the regular season to 27.3 mpg in the postseason, and given his injury history, it's likely that he'll fall somewhere in between those two numbers this season.
Frank Vogel, Pacers, fourth season, all with Indiana
Rotation trends over last 1-5 seasons as head coach: 30+ mpg: 2.0 players per season, 24+ mpg: 5.3 players per season
Most minutes in 2012-13: Paul George (37.6 mpg)
Offensive trends over last 1-5 seasons as head coach: FG attempted per game: 81.6 (80.6 last season), 3Pt FG attempted per game: 18.7 (19.7 last season).
Projected movement: None
A complete lack of depth forced Vogel to break from tradition and actually be of some assistance to fantasy owners in 2012-13, giving George, George Hill (34.5) and David West (33.4) 30-plus mpg. Lance Stephenson (29.2) and Roy Hibbert (28.7) weren't far behind, but after a flurry of solid offseason acquisitions, we should see a slight dip in everyone's minutes, except for George, who's a budding superstar. Newcomer Chris Copeland and Stephenson should man the wing off the bench, with Danny Granger (finally healthy) back in the starting lineup. The addition of Luis Scola, a much more skilled offensive option than Tyler Hansbrough (16.9) was last season, should take minutes from West, and it's quite possible that C.J. Watson will earn more minutes off the bench than D.J. Augustin (16.1) did last season. The chances are greater that only one Pacer (George) will get 30-plus mpg than the chances of seeing a repeat of last year's distribution of minutes, which should keep Vogel at the very bottom of the coaching tiers.
TIER FOUR: First-Year Coaches
We have nine brand new head coaches! In comparison, there were only two newbies last year (Vaughn who was generally considered pretty good in Orlando and one and done Mike Dunlap in Charlotte). There's a bit more guesswork here, with some guys who we know a lot about from their time as assistants, and others that are a bit more of a mystery.
Brett Brown, 76ers, first season
Most minutes in 2012-13: Jrue Holiday (37.5 mpg)
Brown comes from the Gregg Popovich coaching tree (this is becoming a common theme for guys in the fourth tier), serving as an assistant coach in San Antonio from 2007 to 2013. Like Vaughn (also hired from under Popovich), Brown comes to a team that is starting a complete rebuild. Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes would look better as a strong bench unit than a core of a team, but with Philadelphia making a push for the No. 1 pick in next year's NBA Draft, those three, plus rookie Michael Carter-Williams and (gulp) Tony Wroten might make up the Sixers' starting five. With Holiday's departure, Turner (35.3) returns as the leading minute-earner from 2012-13, and Young (34.6) isn't far behind him. Popovich, is well known for keeping his starters under the 35-mpg threshold, but like we learned last year with Vaughn, it's a strategy that can only be implemented if there are competent players on the bench. Given the makeup of the roster, Brown will have little choice but to ride his veteran starters, and he'll likely throw Carter-Williams right into the fire, giving him as many minutes as he can justify, depending on MCW's play. This makes both Turner and Young pretty appealing from a fantasy standpoint, with Carter-Williams and Hawes (27.2 mpg in 2012-13) also worth consideration later in drafts.
Mike Budenholzer, Hawks, first season
Most minutes in 2012-13: Al Horford (37.2 mpg)
Like Brown, Budenholzer learned under Popovich, and if there's anyone that should be expected to follow Popovich's style to a T, it's Budenholzer. He spent 18 seasons in San Antonio, starting as a video coordinator for two seasons, working his way to the bench, and eventually becoming the Spurs' number one assistant in 2007-08. The problem is he doesn't yet have the talent to be able to follow a Popovich-style rotation blueprint, with a gulf in talent after Horford, Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver and Lou Williams. Horford, Teague and Millsap should have no problem earning 30-plus mpg, and Kover and Williams are also possibilities. Budenholzer could eventually become a thorn in the side of fantasy owners, but as of now, his roster dictates that the studs will all see plenty of playing time.
Steve Clifford, Bobcats, first season
Most minutes in 2012-13: Kemba Walker (34.9 mpg)
Both Jeff and Stan Van Gundy mentored Clifford. He served as an assistant coach under Jeff from 2001 to 2007 and under Stan from 2007 to 2012. He was an assistant coach for the Lakers last season, but it's safe to say he models his coaching style after the brothers Van Gundy and not Mike D'Antoni, as he has a reputation as a defensive expert.
Assuming he will preach defense, guys who play hard on both sides of the ball, like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, should have no problem earning minutes. Walker will be a good bet to once again lead the team in mpg, as he has improved in each of his first two seasons. Newly acquired Al Jefferson will play as much as his conditioning allows, given that he is the new face of the franchise, and is easily the most skilled offensive player on the team. Gerald Henderson (31.4) and Josh McRoberts (30.8) were the only Bobcats besides Walker to earn 30-plus mpg last season, and while it's likely that Henderson reaches that mark again, McRoberts will probably see his role change with Jefferson, Bismack Biyombo and rookie Cody Zeller in the mix.
Jeff Hornacek, Suns, first season
Most minutes in 2012-13: Goran Dragic (33.5 mpg)
Hornacek should take some things he learned under Jerry Sloan, both as a player and an assistant coach from 2007 to 2011, and under Tyrone Corbin after Sloan's departure. He didn't become a full assistant coach until Sloan's departure opened up a spot on the staff, so it's hard to say which coach he'll be more comparable to. Regardless, a coach can only work with the lineup he's given, and like most of these first-time coaches, Hornacek wasn't dealt a great hand. Clearly rebuilding, the Suns will struggle to incorporate their future Eric Bledsoe and Alex Len with their past Goran Dragic and Marcin Gortat. It will be easier to play Bledsoe and Dragic together than to put Len and Gortat on the floor at the same time, so I'd expect Len to suffer the most as far as playing time is concerned. Corbin always favored his frontcourt veterans Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap over the talented youngsters Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, so I'd expect Hornacek to do the same. After Dragic, Bledsoe and Gortat, it's hard to find a player on the Suns who looks like a lock to get fantasy-significant minutes. The Morris twins, Shannon Brown and Len will all see some degree of minutes, but they should be scattered, and none of these players are talented enough to really be fantasy assets without a lot of playing time.
Dave Joerger, Grizzlies, first season
Most minutes in 2012-13: Rudy Gay (36.7 mpg)
Joerger has been an assistant coach with Memphis since 2007, so I'm not expecting much to change here, other than the fact that he might be more open to listening to management when it comes to using analytics to determine playing time. Still, it doesn't take an expert to figure out to do with this lineup. Marc Gasol (35.0), Mike Conley (34.5) and Zach Randolph (34.3) will all see big minutes. However, bringing in Kosta Koufos means that they now have one of the best backup big men in the league, so it's possible Gasol and Randolph could both see slight dips in playing time. Last season, before being traded, Gay led the team in minutes per game, but Conley is a good bet to take that honor this season, with Jerryd Bayless likely to play off the ball quite a bit. Tayshaun Prince (31.7) and Tony Allen (26.7) will round out the rotation, but neither contributed a ton in fantasy last season despite seeing solid playing time.
Jason Kidd, Nets, first season
Most minutes in 2012-13: Joe Johnson (36.7 mpg)
Kidd will be learning on the job, and head assistant coach Lawrence Frank will probably play a big part in advising Kidd on setting the rotation. Frank's rotation trends over his previous five seasons as a coach were in the middle of the pack, but Brooklyn's roster is pretty unique. Not only are the Nets' top six players incredible, they're also quite deep, so keeping that many players happy could end up being one of the more challenging coaching jobs in the NBA this season. With four hands in the cookie jar, Johnson, Deron Williams, Paul Pierce and Brook Lopez could all see their scoring numbers take a dip this season. Andrei Kirilenko, while an excellent player, has never been this buried on a team from a talent perspective. Even though he will play a key role on the Nets, his fantasy value should take a hit as he comes of the bench, with very little chance (barring an injury) of reaching the 31.8 mpg he saw last season in Minnesota. Kevin Garnett might be in line for an even bigger fall from fantasy grace, as he won't play both games of back-to-backs, and will probably fall short of the 29.7 mpg he received in Boston last season, as the Nets will be less reliant on Garnett to be competitive. Williams (36.4) should at least get close to 36 mpg again this season, with Shaun Livingston as the lone backup at point guard. Reggie Evans, Jason Terry and Andray Blatche have all been useful in the past from a fantasy perspective, but that should change this year, as they represent the back of Brooklyn's rotation.
Mike Malone, Kings, first season
Most minutes in 2012-13: Tyreke Evans (31.0 mpg)
Malone's calling card is defense. He came up under Mike Brown in Cleveland, and helped drastically improve the Hornets defense in 2010-11 and did the same with the Warriors defense last season, when he was named the best assistant coach in the NBA by the league's general managers. It's a testament to how bad the Kings' lineup was last season that Evans led the team with a meager 31 minutes per contest. Now that Evans has moved on, DeMarcus Cousins (30.5 mpg) looks to step in as the team's leader in minutes. However, Malone comes with a reputation as a no-nonsense coach, and it seems that he will have the backing of ownership if he feels the need to discipline Cousins for the Cousins-like behavior that we've grown accustomed to. The point guard position, which was a disaster last season, has some new blood, Greivis Vasquez, who should start and see solid minutes from day one. As a result, Isaiah Thomas (26.9) will struggle to see fantasy-relevant playing time for most leagues. On the wing, rookie Ben McLemore will battle for minutes with John Salmons (30.0) and Marcus Thornton (24.0), while newcomer Carl Landry will be in the frontcourt mix with Cousins, Jason Thompson (27.9) and Patrick Patterson (23.2). McLemore, like Bradley Beal last season in Washington, should jump right in and start, seeing heavy minutes at the two. This will make him one of the few appealing late-round options on the Kings come draft day.
Brian Shaw, Nuggets, first season
Most minutes in 2012-13: Andre Iguodala (34.7 mpg)
Shaw is one of the better-known assistant coaches to get promoted to head coach in recent memory. He served under Phil Jackson as an assistant from 2005 to 2011 and under Frank Vogel in Indian from 2011 to 2013. Ty Lawson (34.4) should have no problem leading the team in minutes in 2013-14 with Iggy out of the picture. Kenneth Faried (28.5) was perfect for what former coach George Karl wanted to do last season and he still couldn't crack 30 mpg. Now, the Nuggets have a very capable backup in Darrell Arthur, and they also have J.J. Hickson, who can play the four and the five, making Faried's prospects for 2013-14 somewhat dubious. JaVale McGee will be given the starting center gig finally, and while it may not always be pretty, he should be a blocks machine, after averaging two per game last year despite playing just 18.1 mpg. With Danilo Gallinari coming back from ACL surgery, there are no safe bets on the wing for Denver from a fantasy perspective. Shaw has a very good chance of ending up near the bottom of the third tier next season, as Lawson is the only safe bet to see 30-plus mpg.
Brad Stevens, Celtics, first season
Most minutes in 2012-13: Rajon Rondo (37.4 mpg)
Stevens, given his intelligence, willingness to think outside the box, and lack of experience at the pro level is probably the toughest coach to predict on this list. With Paul Pierce (33.4) and Kevin Garnett (29.7) gone, there will be plenty of minutes to go around. Jeff Green (27.8) will be expected to carry the load as the go-to scoring option, but after he and Rondo, it's hard to say with any certainty what the roles will be. Kris Humphries has always been a good rebounder, but he, Jared Sullinger and Brandon Bass are all pretty comparable talents. After Avery Bradley's growth as a player appeared to stall last season, he could be bound for a bounce-back campaign, but he's always been a better real life basketball player than fantasy basketball commodity. Kelly Olynyk will probably get some attention in the later rounds, but it's hard to imagine someone who fell that far in such a weak draft could be a fantasy asset in his first season as a pro. However, the roster's current construction dictates that a few guys who haven't had fantasy value before emerge as legitimate options. I think the one thing I'd predict out of Stevens is that he will reward production, and past NBA accomplishments won't carry much weight, which gives Olynyk as good a shot as anyone.