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Playing time is the key

Andray Blatche averaged 37 minutes, 22.1 ppg, 8.3 rpg and 3.6 apg over the final 32 games.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - In the NBA, almost everybody can shoot the ball. They can also rebound and dish the rock with regularity. So the key to finding a "diamond in the rough" is often as simple as knowing who will get the most playing time.

With all the player movement this off-season, predicting playing time could be your most valuable tool. Find the former backup who will get 30 minutes and you could be looking at next year's fantasy bargain.

That's because in the NBA, one minute of playing time equals 0.415 points, 0.172 rebounds, 0.088 assists, 0.029 steals, 0.02 blocks and 0.026 three- pointers.

For the average NBA player, certainly not Kobe Bryant or Kevin Durant, that means a 30-minute effort is worth 12.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 2.6 apg, 0.9 steals and 0.6 blocks. Those are "Tayshaun Prince-type" numbers...borderline fantasy worthy.

But the numbers also include every defensive specialist, 12th man and 10-day contract player last season. Therefore 30 minutes from a starter should yield even better results and possibly a fantasy star.

Let's see if we can find some of the future "diamonds in the rough." This list won't include rookies like John Wall and Evan Turner who will obviously get plenty of playing time. This is just about veterans who will jump to a new level in 2010-11.

Andray Blatche, Washington - Blatche is a perfect example of more playing time equaling more fantasy value. After the Wizards traded Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison, Blatche averaged 37 minutes, 22.1 ppg, 8.3 rpg and 3.6 apg over the final 32 games. Compare that to 21 minutes before the trade and averages of 8.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.1 apg. His "post-trade" statistics would put him around Amare Stoudemire, Al Jefferson, Chris Kaman, Antawn Jamison and Brook Lopez in next year's rankings.

D.J. Augustin, Charlotte - Augustin should get most of the minutes that Raymond Felton, now in New York, got last season, around 32-34 minutes-per- night. Given that kind of opportunity, Augustin will match or better Felton's numbers, which were 12.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 5.6 apg, making him fantasy-worthy.

Yao Ming, Houston - Yao didn't play a single minute in 2009-10 and as frequently happens when a player isn't listed in the year-end statistics, he gets forgotten by fantasy owners, particularly the ones who just study the numbers. Don't be that guy. Yao averaged 19.7 ppg and 9.9 rpg in 2008-09, which should put him just above Lopez and Kaman in your rankings.

Jamario Moon, Cleveland - Well...somebody will have to play in LeBron James' position on the floor and get his minutes. Moon certainly won't be a 29.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 8.6 apg type guy, but he could average 14-6-2 and be borderline fantasy-worthy.

Anthony Randolph, New York Knicks - Randolph should get plenty of court time in New York alongside Stoudemire. We should be able to project his statistics using his Golden State numbers because both teams run an up-tempo offense. A 40-percent increase in playing time should yield the following statistics - 16.3 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 1.8 apg and would make him a solid fantasy option.

Hakim Warrick, Phoenix - Warrick signed a big four-year, $18 million deal with Phoenix to play the power forward spot vacated by Amare Stoudemire, but it remains to be seen if he will get the majority of the minutes there because the Suns also have former first-round pick Earl Clark. You will have to watch this battle closely to determine who wins the starting role, but it's likely that both players will see around 20-plus minutes per game and neither will be a great fantasy option like Stoudemire.

Paul Millsap, Utah - Millsap is a special situation in that he already averaged 27-plus minutes last season, but will still be much improved from a fantasy point of view because of the departure of Carlos Boozer. While Millsap averaged a respectable 11.6 ppg and 6.8 rpg last season, to get a glimpse of what he will be like in 2010-11 as a starter, simply look back to 2008-09, when Boozer was injured for half the season. As a starter, Millsap posted numbers of 16.0 ppg, 10.3 rpg and 2.4 apg. Those numbers project out like Andrew Bogut (15.9 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 1.8 apg). Beware that if the recently acquired Jefferson is completely healthy, he could cut into some of Millsap's playing time, although he'll likely play more center (Mehmet Okur is trying to come back from a ruptured Achilles tendon) than power forward.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.

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