Each Friday, Basketball Prospectus will use our proprietary statistics from Bradford Doolittle's NBAPET rating system to help you set your fantasy lineup for the week ahead. NBAPET is ideal for the process because it tracks opponent performance by position against each team. We've broken them up into three player types -- point guards, wings and posts (since defenses often crossmatch between shooting guards and small forwards, as well as power forwards and centers).
Using opponent data for each team on the upcoming schedule, we can estimate how much a player's performance will vary because of the defenses he will face in the next week. (See here for more details on the process.) We'll take a look at five players you ought to get into the lineup, five who should find their way to your bench if possible and one free agent worth picking up because of his schedule. Think of this as the NBA equivalent to the fantasy football matchup analysis Football Outsiders' Bill Barnwell provides each week.
Emeka Okafor, C, New Orleans Hornets (plus-22 percent)
The best of the three frontcourt defenses the Hornets face next week is the Philadelphia 76ers, who allow opponents 9 percent better production than usual. Meanwhile, Okafor and teammate David West will get a chance to feast on the Detroit Pistons' frontcourt, which is the worst unit in the NBA in terms of opponent fantasy production. This is one of the most favorable three-game weeks you'll see all season.
Leandro Barbosa, SG, Toronto Raptors (plus-12 percent)
With a lot of teams playing three-game schedules next week, an easy four-game slate is a commodity. The Raptors have just that, facing three below-average defenses in four games. As a result, you should get any Toronto player in your lineup, but Barbosa has the biggest upside, because of the team's unsettled rotation. Barbosa has averaged 12.2 points since returning from a strained left shoulder and should continue that solid bench production.
Baron Davis, PG, Los Angeles Clippers (plus-11 percent)
Davis returned to the lineup on Wednesday, playing 24 minutes while backing up rookie Eric Bledsoe. Davis' role in the timeshare only figures to increase as he works his way back into shape. Next week gives him the luxury of a gentle cushion -- all four of the Clippers' matchups are against teams that allow point guards more production than usual.
Arron Afflalo, SG, Denver Nuggets (plus-8 percent)
One of this season's most pleasant surprises, Afflalo gets four matchups against below-average defenses next week. While they are one of the league's toughest defenses overall, the Boston Celtics have not clamped down on wing players, which bodes well for both Afflalo and Carmelo Anthony in Wednesday's game.
Darko Milicic, C, Minnesota Timberwolves (plus-7 percent)
Fantasy owners are quickly catching on to the upward trend of Milicic's numbers. He's now owned in 94.6 percent of ESPN leagues, and even Bill Simmons is a Milicic owner. He'll be happy to know that Darko, too, gets the benefit of feasting on the Detroit frontline along with another favorable matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder. But if you're playing day-to-day, get Milicic out for Saturday's game against the Chicago Bulls, who have been tough on opposing big men.
Anthony Morrow, SG, New Jersey Nets (minus-14 percent)
The schedule giveth and the schedule taketh away. A week after recommending Morrow, this time we're suggesting you leave him on the bench. One-third of Morrow's action will be against the Los Angeles Lakers, who have shut down opposing wings more than any team against any other position.
D.J. Augustin, PG, Charlotte Bobcats (minus-11 percent)
Augustin has been a solid pickup for fantasy owners this season, but next week's schedule is unfavorable. Of his three matchups, two foes (the Celtics and the Indiana Pacers) have been successful at shutting down point guards. In particular, expect Augustin's field-goal percentage to suffer.
Mike Conley, PG, Memphis Grizzlies (minus-9 percent)
One of the mysteries of the numbers this season is that the Phoenix Suns have been shutting down opposing point guards. They're producing 21 percent below their usual level, despite the fact that Steve Nash is hardly known as a stopper. Conley faces Phoenix as well as two other defenses that have been tougher than average against point guards.
Hakim Warrick, PF, Phoenix Suns (minus-7 percent)
Phoenix's schedule is generally unfavorable to big men, but it's Warrick who is likely to see the biggest impact, because he's the team's most traditional post player. Channing Frye and Hedo Turkoglu can take the Grizzlies' big men out on the perimeter and get open looks from beyond the arc.
Dorell Wright, SF, Golden State Warriors (minus-6 percent)
The Warriors are in for a brutal week, both in real life and in fantasy terms. They follow up a back-to-back against the Dallas Mavericks and the San Antonio Spurs with a matchup against the Miami Heat. All three teams rank among the league's top 10 overall defenses and have been especially good against wing players like Wright.
This Week's Pickup
Jordan Farmar, PG, New Jersey Nets (plus-10 percent)
Available in 89.8 percent of ESPN leagues
Admittedly, this pickup is somewhat contingent on the health of New Jersey starter Devin Harris, who is day-to-day with what the team is calling a left knee "strain." Even if Harris does return, his minutes will likely be limited, and the Nets face two of the worst point guard defenses in the league in the Atlanta Hawks and the Lakers. That's worth a shot, and there's a good chance Farmar is available in your league.
A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider .
Kevin Pelton is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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