Like many others on this blog, I don't really believe so much in starting lineups and depth charts. Instead, I think playing time and most effective / most used lineups are the true determining factors for a player's value to a team. With that in mind, and since I'm bored and there's nothing going on here in France, I decided to make (purely based on my own opinion) some wild guesses about playing time for the good guys next year (barring injury and trade). Feel free to criticize or provide your own opinion - that's kind of the point, I guess.
Here goes, in order of most to least playing time:
1) James Harden - 39 minutes
James was one of the most durable and highly-used players in the NBA last year. He averaged 'only' 38.3 minutes a game, but I bet blowouts had a lot to do with most of his rest. We all know McHale doesn't like to give his main guys a lot of rest, and the team is just better with Harden out there. His style doesn't put him at risk of injury or fatigue as much as some other guys, so he can handle long minutes. I expect to see Harden on the floor a lot next season.
2) Chandler Parsons - 37 minutes
This may be a bit of an overestimate, but just a bit. Like Harden, Parsons is effective in long minutes because he contributes in a lot of areas of the game, knows how to help his team without being the center of attention, and doesn't play a game predicated on athleticism. This is only a slight increase from last year.
3) Dwight Howard - 35 minutes
I would personally argue for fewer minutes for the big man, since keeping him healthy is going to be a major concern, but given the fact that he just got paid big time, he's going to be expected to produce. Like Harden and Parsons, Howard is one of those guys that consistently makes the team better, even if he's not playing his best, just because he's so much better than others at his position. Unlike the previous two players, Howard's play depends on athleticism and power, so asking for more than 35 minutes on a regular basis is going to be really stretching it.
4) Jeremy Lin - 34 minutes
I'm solidly in the camp of Lin playing more minutes next season. I love Beverly's energy, defense, and spot-up shooting as much as the next guy (and I think he'll get his minutes too) but his skill set is really best suited for playing with non-traditional lineups and coming off the bench. Lin's defense, even if not improved from last year, will be less of a liability with the two big men behind him, and by all accounts his offensive control, shooting, etc. should be one step better than last year. Expect his box score to creep forward in points and assists, not enough to really make him a star but enough to go from league average starting PG to significantly above average.
5) Omer Asik - 27 minutes
Asik will come in and do his thing whenever asked. The way I calculated his minutes, 13 of those 27 minutes are strictly backing up Dwight and 14 are playing with him. If somehow the twin towers becomes a highly effective option, this could change, but I think this is a middle ground between being a pure backup and being a starter at power forward. I saw one good-looking midrange jumper in the last week of the season last year. If Asik has developed that shot this offseason to the point that he makes it 50% of the time when he's unguarded (ala Scola light) he'll get more minutes than this.
6) Terrence Jones - 23 minutes
Before you jump on me for picking Jones over D-Mo, I just think his game is more compatible with the starters. If I'm wrong and D-Mo starts / is the first option off the bench, I think their minutes switch as well. One of the guys is going to play about twice as much as the other simply because that's how McHale does things. I think he'll be effective as a 5th man in whatever lineup, playing good defense and cutting hard to the basket.
7) Patrick Beverly - 20 minutes
Bev basically plays whenever Lin or Harden are out. There may be some Lin-Harden-Bev lineups too, in which I take the minutes away from Jones or D-Mo as Parsons tends to slide over to the 4 in those lineups. Beverly meshes with everyone, since he can shoot and play defense and doesn't hog the ball. However, he doesn't really run the offense like Lin, so I don't expect to see him playing PG against the opposing teams' starters as much as last year - I think Lin has improved enough to close out games.
8) Francisco Garcia - 14 minutes
He's listed as the backup SG, but again lineups are funky and he really comes in for Parsons a lot, or slides to the 3 while Parsons moves to the 4. Garcia will be a utility man and play good minutes whenever he's asked to, which is great and makes me feel a lot better than Delfino (class act, but slow as molasses).
9) Donatas Motiejunas - 11 minutes
This isn't so much a condemnation of D-Mo's skill as the facts of life on a team that is going to be alternately playing Asik or Jones at PF in traditional lineups and Parsons at PF in small-ball lineups. Gone are the days that Donatas can log some minutes at the 5. If he's playing behind Jones, he's not playing much. If he's playing in front of Jones, expect more like 20 minutes and plenty of post-ups on the second team. This one's really a grey area, as we've seen flashes from both of them this summer against lesser competition.
That's the full 240 minutes, I didn't pencil in guys like Omri Cassipi for any meaningful time because I know McHale likes to go 9 deep. Who knows, maybe things change. I don't count blowout minutes in this kind of prognostication. Anyway, I hope someone enjoyed reading this and I'd love to hear your opinions on what the most used/most effective lineups will be this year.
My vote for most effective:
AKA the devastating small ball / in-and-out lineup. It won't work against everyone, but it sure as hell will destroy the Suns.