Fantasy basketball - Look at minutes and efficiency this time of year

Otto Porter Jr. is playing more minutes and taking more shots as a member of the Bulls. Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

You've spent the better part of five months learning the ins and outs of your roster.

Maybe you've made a trade or two. Maybe you've treated your final roster spot like a streamer, shuttling players in and out via the waiver wire. But by and large, you're about to confront the fantasy playoffs with the roster you assembled on draft night.

You know this team. You have five months' worth of statistics with which to shape your roster for the playoffs.

The problem? Your whole season is about to come down to a very small sample size of games: a one-week playoff series. And the smaller the sample size, the more unstable statistics become. When its statistics are compressed to 3-5 game spurts? Fantasy basketball becomes a very streaky enterprise.

At this stage of the campaign, it's best to develop your short-term memory.

When it comes to molding my playoff rotations, and considering late-season additions from the wire, I tend to look at just what a player has done over the past two weeks. By just focusing on a player's most recent 8-10 games, you get a more accurate snapshot of who's hot and who's cold heading into the fantasy endgame.

At the same time? You still should (always) stick to the two main dynamics governing fantasy hoops: volume and efficiency.

When it comes to gauging short-term volume, I like to look at minutes. Specifically, which players' minutes are getting a late-season boost.

One of the chief ironies of fantasy basketball: the fact that Winning Time (March) also occurs during the outbreak of the NBA's Silly Season. The point on the NBA calendar where playing time begins to assume a heightened bipolarity.

Look at the Lakers for example. Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram are already shut down. Josh Hart (knee) could join them at any minute. LeBron James' minutes are being "scaled back." Reggie Bullock just became a starter (again). They just called up Andre Ingram. Rookie Moritz Wagner just got his first NBA start.

And that's just one team.

Given the league-wide rotational fluctuation, it's helpful to monitor whose minutes have undergone a recent spike, and see if any of those players are hanging out on your wire.

What about the other side of the fantasy equation? What about efficiency?

When it comes to tabulating who's hot (and who's not), I still like to stick to True Shooting percentage. It's a beneficial metric to employ when taking the temperature of individual players...especially to see who's heating up as your squad enters the playoffs.

Here are some players that are rising in terms of playing time and shooting efficiency at the fantasy season's most crucial period.

Marcus Smart, PG/SG, Boston Celtics
Last Two Weeks: 29.6 MPG, 78.7 TS%

Since Smart entered the league in 2016, his fantasy prospects have been consistently downgraded due to inconsistent shooting. This season, he's quietly reversed the trend, posting a career high 41.9 FG%. That may not seem that impressive, but he's coupled that with a career high 37.0 3PT% and 79.5 FT%, good for a better-than-average 57.2 TS%. (The league-average True Shooting percentage tends to hover around 55.0 percent).

Over his past seven games, Smart has been on one of the better tears of his career, averaging 30.4 MPG, 12.7 PPG, 3.9 APG, 2.4 SPG and 2.1 3PG.

In a short playoff matchup? Smart can win you steals singlehandedly, sports the rare PG/SG qualification, and is available in over 80 percent of leagues. He's compiled 9.47 Player Rater points over his PR15. (He's getting over an illness at present, so don't be surprised if he doesn't play tonight).

Otto Porter Jr., SF, Chicago Bulls
Last Two Weeks: 35.9 MPG, 56.5 TS%

The Porter-Jabari Parker/Bobby Portis swap goes down as the rare in-season deal that boosted the fantasy fortunes of everyone involved. Long heralded for his efficiency, Porter was badly in need of a change of scenery and increase in volume, and got both when he was shipped to Chicago.

Porter's TS% is actually a click beneath his season average of 56.9 percent, but he gets on this list due to his huge increase in minutes and possession (21.8 Usage Rate over the past two weeks).

Harrison Barnes, PF, Sacramento Kings
Last Two Weeks: 36.7 MPG, 64.7 TS%

Over the course of his career, Barnes has been the poster child for the "empty points" player: a fantasy player that contributes points and precious little else. But since his trade to the Kings, Barnes' statistical portfolio has undergone a number of subtle positive changes...enough to nominally lift him out the "empty points" classification.

Although Barnes' Usage Rate and FGA have dropped post-trade, he's made up for it with increases in minutes, rebounds, free throw attempts, and field goal percentage. What happened? Two things: Barnes reshuffled his game (admitting he's focused more on rebounding and defending), and Marvin Bagley III's injury (which has forced him inside to rebound more).

Bam Adebayo, C, Miami Heat
Last Two Weeks: 24.6 MPG, 72.8 TS%

Adebayo has taken over the starting job from Hassan Whiteside, and has responded with top-50 production. Over his past nine games, Adebayo has averaged 12.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 3.0 APG, and 1.9 STL+BLK. The assists are a nice hidden bonus to his fantasy production. Currently rostered in only 16.5 percent of leagues, Adebayo is doing everything but hitting 3s.

Jonas Valanciunas, C, Memphis Grizzlies
Last Two Weeks: 25.1 MPG, 66.2 TS%

Since his trade to the Grizzlies, Valanciunas has been putting up career-best numbers across the board: 17.5 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 1.4 BPG, 2.0 APG, plus the great percentages. (Don't let last night's anemic 20-minute, 8-point line dissuade you. He sat due to the blowout loss).

Dwight Powell, PF/C, Dallas Mavericks
Last Two Weeks: 33.0 MPG, 64.8 TS%

Dallas has proven extremely fertile fantasy ground since the trade deadline. Since entering the starting lineup eight games ago, Powell has been executing a low-fi Kristaps Porzingis impression: 17.1 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.6 STL+BLK.

This kind of production isn't sustainable (he's hitting 60.0% of his 3-pointers over the same span), but Powell is scorching hot entering the fantasy's playoffs.

Jalen Brunson, PG, Dallas Mavericks
Last Two Weeks: 31.0 MPG, 63.7 TS%

Rostered in only 5.7 percent of leagues, Brunson personifies the late-season fantasy addition that can power a deep playoff run. While Luka Doncic struggled Tuesday, Brunson stepped in with a career night (34 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 3-pointers).

As with Powell, Brunson's success may not seem sustainable, but Brunson is shooting with confidence, averaging 11.4 FGA and 4.4 3PA over his last seven games. His response to the increase in volume (with increased efficiency) tells me he's liable to keep it up throughout your playoffs.

Rodions Kurucs, SF, Brooklyn Nets
Last Two Weeks: 23.7 MPG, 67.7 TS%

More of a deep-league add, Kurucs has been solid since stepping into the starting lineup for Treveon Graham. If your team needs a boost in 3s and steals+blocks on the wing, consider Kurucs. As a starter over his past five games, Kurucs is averaging 13.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 2.4 3PG, 1.4 SPG, and 1.0 BPG

Tomas Satoransky, PG/SG, Washington Wizards
Last Two Weeks: 37.2 MPG, 57.0 TS%

The Wizards have been a fantasy hotbed since dealing for Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker. They still aren't playing great defense, but they've upper their Pace while pushing their offensive rating into the top-5 since shipping out Otto Porter Jr. Satoransky has been an underrated part of that push.

Since taking over for John Wall, he's been a top-50 player (top-40 over the past two weeks). Since Satoransky doesn't score at a high clip (or take a ton of 3s), he flies under some manager's radar. But over the past two weeks, he's been elite in assists (7.6 APG) while adding plus out-of-position production in rebounds (5.7 RPG).

Satoransky is paving the way for a nice payday this summer and should enter next season as the Wizards' unquestioned starter at PG.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG/SG, Los Angeles Clippers
Last Two Weeks: 26.7 MPG, 64.8 TS%

While Lou Williams has been stealing all of the Clippers' post-trade fantasy headlines, Gilgeous-Alexander has been quietly building statistical momentum. After struggling with his outside shot for portions of the season, Gilgeous-Alexander has doubled his 3-point production, surging from 0.6 3PG to 1.5 3PG over the past two weeks. He's a Clipper, which means he struggles in assists, but if you're looking for a deep-league, high-ceiling add, Gilgeous-Alexander could prove valuable.