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Short Rotations a Growing Trend

As anyone that's ever played an NBA video game can attest, playing without subs makes a world of difference. Playing only your top five guys often masks the weaknesses of your roster, making it possible for lesser teams to compete with the league's best.

In the real world, it's impossible to play with just five guys. But some NBA teams are doing the next-best thing, using playoff-style seven and eight-man rotations. For fantasy owners, this is a trend worth watching.

The Knicks were the first to really go to the short rotation in a big way. For the last two weeks, Mike D'Antoni has been using just seven players -- a starting five of Al Harrington, Jared Jeffries, David Lee, Wilson Chandler and Chris Duhon, with Danilo Gallinari and Larry Hughes coming off the bench. Other than the occasional cameo from Eddy Curry or Toney Douglas, that's it.

It's hard to argue with the results -- before last night's road loss to the Bobcats (in which the Knicks blew a late 12-point lead), New York was riding a four-game winning streak. From a fantasy perspective, the increased minutes have made players like Duhon, Chandler and Hughes a lot more valuable... and made Nate Robinson a fixture on the "most dropped" lists.

Miami has experimented with a short rotation as well. On December 6th, in their game against the Kings, coach Erik Spoelstra used just eight players -- starters Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, Quentin Richardson, Michael Beasley and Joel Anthony and Udonis Haslem, James Jones and Dorell Wright off the bench. Wright, in particular, was a revelation in that game, scoring 19 points on 9-of-13 shooting, racking up five assists and playing excellent perimeter defense on Tyreke Evans (he was a healthy +18 for the night).

Miami has used more bench players in the three games since, but injuries (to Richardson) and blowouts have been a major reason why. And Wright continues to be a factor -- he scored 17 points on 7-11 shooting and chipped in eight boards, three assists, a steal and a block in last night's 115-95 win over the Raptors.

The latest team to shorten up the rotation is Denver; George Karl used just three bench players in Monday night's win over the Thunder. Fewer subs used means more minutes for the subs that do play -- and on Monday, that led to Chris Andersen's first double-double of the season. Usually a one-category guy, "Birdman" had 15 points, (including 9-of-10 from the free-throw line), eleven boards and three steals to go with his usual blocks (three on the night).

Will this continue? That all depends on the team. The Knicks' ability to play just seven guys has a lot to do with the fact that D'Antoni's roster is loaded with 'tweeners who play multiple positions. But this really isn't anything new for D'Antoni -- he's been playing seven and eight man rotations for years.

For teams like Miami and Denver -- squads with legitimate playoff aspirations -- going to a short rotation for extended periods makes much less sense. Why burn out your key guys before the postseason? But the trend is still worth watching, particularly in leagues with daily transactions. If you know George Karl will shorten up his bench when he's facing a big game, you can slide Chris Anderson into your starting lineup with a lot more confidence.

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