By Alex Barutha, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
Typically, there are some rotational switch-ups after the All-Star break, and this season is no exception. The Bulls and Knicks have already motioned to change their starting five, resulting in younger players seeing more run. Aside from that, Kawhi Leonard (quad) is likely to miss the remainder of the season, which cements the roles of players like Kyle Anderson and Rudy Gay.
Below are a number of available players to keep an eye on as rotations continue to ebb and flow over the next month-and-a-half.
Kyle Anderson (27 percent owned) or Rudy Gay (42 percent owned), Spurs
Coach Gregg Popovich broke the news Wednesday that he would be surprised if Leonard played again this season, despite being medically cleared. That opens up what will essentially be permanent roles for the likes of Anderson and Gay, who had previously been treated as placeholders, at the two forward spots.
Anderson has made my waiver wire articles before in large part due to how under-owned he is relative to his production. He’s the 90th-ranked player on the season, due in large part to his efficiency (51.6 percent from the field) and defensive prowess (2.2 combined steals/blocks). He’s averaging 9.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game when given at least 24 minutes. Those numbers don’t make him a must-start in standard formats, but can be a quality addition to most benches.
Gay hasn’t played since Dec. 28th as the result of right heel bursitis, but he was the 142nd-ranked player in just over 22 minutes per game prior to being sidelined. He may be eased back into action at first but could see an expanded role with Leonard out of the picture. In the 16 games this season in which he’s played at least 24 minutes, Gay posted 14.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and a combined 1.7 steals/blocks per game on an efficient 52.1 percent from the field. Similar to Anderson, Gay isn’t a must-start, but can bolster nearly any standard-league bench.
The loss of Kristaps Porzingis for the remainder of the season has prompted coach Jeff Hornacek to switch up his rotations in favor of younger players. In the team’s first game following the All-Star break, various veterans saw reduced run. Michael Beasley played 23 minutes, while Courtney Lee saw just 14 minutes and Jarrett Jack caught a DNP-Coach’s Decision. On the flip side, Frank Ntilikina saw 30 minutes, Trey Burke garnered 30 minutes and Emmanuel Mudiay received 23.
Burke has seen his minutes fluctuate since joining the Knicks in mid-January but has proven to be a sparkplug when given significant run. In the five games when Burke has seen at least 18 minutes, he’s averaged 17.0 points and 4.8 assists . Despite shooting an unsustainable 58.5 percent in those contests, his 22 shots Thursday demonstrate that coach Hornacek is comfortable giving him the green light.
Ntilikina didn’t do much offensively in his 30 minutes, posting seven points and two assists on six shots. However, as has become his calling card, Ntilikina stepped up on defense, collecting two blocks and one steal. He’s not a must-own in standard leagues by any means, but Ntilikina is especially useful in categorical formats if you’re looking for a boost to the defensive categories.
Despite drawing the start, Mudiay saw just 23 minutes Thursday. He still provided a decent fantasy return, however, recording eight points, five rebounds, four assists and a steal. If he continues to see minutes in the mid-20s, he may not provide consistent enough fantasy value to warrant ownership in most leagues. It could be worth the risk in deeper formats, however.
David Nwaba (15 percent owned), Bulls
Nwaba was awarded the starting small forward role following the All-Star break, responding with an impressive performance in 33 minutes Thursday. He registered 21 points, nine rebounds, two assists, one steal and a block. That said, Nwaba took 14 shots and made all three of his three-point attempts, which is out of character considering he shoots just 26.3 percent from beyond the arc on the season and attempts just 7.8 field goals per 36 minutes. Even still, he has the upside to be an impactful fantasy asset in standard formats, especially as a rebounder and defender, posting 7.1 rebounds and a combined 2.0 steals/blocks per 36 minutes.
Nerlens Noel, Mavericks (37 percent owned)
Noel has been sidelined since late November with a broken thumb, but the expectation is that he’ll be back in the mix sometime in the near future.
Over the Mavs’ first eight games of the season, Noel averaged 7.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and a combined 1.8 steals/blocks across 19.6 minutes. However, things began to go downhill fast, as he posted just 1.6 points and 2.6 rebounds in 7.8 minutes per game over the ensuing nine contests, with coach Rick Carlisle stating that Noel needed to “earn” his minutes. Shortly thereafter, Noel broke his thumb and opted for surgery in early December.
Since then, Dallas has rapidly fallen out of playoff contention and holds one of the league’s worst records. It’s no a guarantee that Noel will trend back up toward the roughly 20 minutes per game he was averaging at the beginning of the season, as much of it may depend on if Carlisle feels that Noel has improved in the necessary areas. Even so, he may be worth a flier in deeper formats as the fantasy playoffs draw closer, especially since Carlisle noted recently that he’ll be looking to reduce the workload of some of his veterans, which would likely include Dirk Nowitzki.