Using opponent data for each team on the upcoming schedule, Basketball Prospectus 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.) Each week, Kevin Pelton will take a look at five players to use, five to limit, and an ideal pickup.
Channing Frye, PF, Phoenix Suns (plus-20 percent)
The Detroit Pistons frontcourt has emerged as the best possible matchup of any team at any position in the NBA, so be sure to have Frye in the lineup on Friday when the Suns face Detroit. Phoenix's other two games should be favorable as well, leading us to project that Frye will overcome his inconsistent recent shooting.
Tyrus Thomas, PF, Charlotte Bobcats (plus-12 percent)
Just how bad is the Pistons' front line at slowing opponents? Charlotte's other two games are worse than average in fantasy terms for big men, yet Thomas (as well as starting 4 Boris Diaw) still scores as a worthwhile play based entirely on Monday's matchup with Detroit. Do keep an eye on whether interim head coach Paul Silas alters the frontcourt rotation established by predecessor Larry Brown.
Ron Artest, SF, Los Angeles Lakers (plus-10 percent)
If Artest wasn't Ron Artest, it's tough to imagine that he would be owned in nearly half of ESPN leagues. He's averaging just 7.6 points per game and has scored double-figures twice in the entire month of December. If you're one of those owners hanging on to Artest, now is the time to play him. The Lakers get three above-average wing matchups out of four games, including a very favorable one against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Andris Biedrins, C, Golden State Warriors (plus-8 percent)
Biedrins' status for next week will depend how quickly he is able to return from a sprained left ankle that has cost him the past three games. Biedrins is considered day-to-day, so he might be back in the lineup in time for a Christmas night matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers. If so, Biedrins should be able to take advantage of a friendly four-game schedule that is made up entirely of teams that are worse than average against opposing big men.
Richard Hamilton, SG, Detroit Pistons (plus-7 percent)
Hamilton responded nicely to coming off the bench on Wednesday, scoring a season-high 35 points at Toronto. He's got a chance for more of the same next week, as all three teams the Pistons face are at least five percent more permissive than average to opposing wings. Do note that the Suns might have tightened up their perimeter defense by adding MickaŽl Pietrus and subtracting Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu in last week's trade.
Roy Hibbert, C, Indiana Pacers (minus-8 percent)
The good news is that the Pacers have a four-game week. However, two of the four games are against the Washington Wizards, who have been unexpectedly good at controlling opposing centers this year. The other two also look like below-average outings for Hibbert, who has been scuffling lately after an excellent start to his season. Hibbert remains an acceptable play, but if you've got a good center sitting on the bench, consider making the switch.
O.J. Mayo, SG, Memphis Grizzlies (minus-7 percent)
Out of the Grizzlies' four-game schedule, look out for Sunday's tilt against the Los Angeles Lakers. Purple and gold have been Mayo's kryptonite this season. In two meetings, he's totaled 19 points on 8-of-22 shooting with little other production. Mayo should provide average production in the other three games, but an off night at the end of the week could swing close head-to-head matchups.
Rodney Stuckey, PG, Detroit Pistons (minus-7 percent)
While Hamilton is feasting on opposing wings, look for Stuckey to have a much more challenging week. In particular, we foresee trouble ahead for his field-goal percentage, which is already marginal in the best of circumstances.
Richard Jefferson, SF, San Antonio Spurs (minus-6 percent)
Even granting that most opponents focus their defensive attention on teammate Manu Ginobili, Jefferson looks like he's in for a tough three-game week. His opposing numbers? Artest, Caron Butler (and a stingy Dallas zone) and Kevin Durant. Jefferson should shake loose for some three-pointers, but don't expect him to match his usual production.
Taj Gibson, PF, Chicago Bulls (minus-5 percent)
So much for the favorable schedule that led us to suggest picking up Gibson for the current week. He's been unable to take advantage, having missed both of Chicago's games because of a concussion while Kurt Thomas has played well in a starting role. Gibson will still see plenty of action when he returns, but the matchups have now reversed themselves. All three of the teams the Bulls face are tough on opposing big men, especially the Milwaukee Bucks.
This Week's Pickup
Robin Lopez, C, Phoenix Suns (plus-20 percent)
Available in 87.9 percent of ESPN leagues
The time Lopez missed with a knee injury caused most owners to dump him, since he was a borderline play already. This might be the right opportunity to pick Lopez back up, depending on how much Marcin Gortat cuts into his playing time. Lopez has averaged 12.8 points since returning to the lineup and, like Frye, should be upgraded because of the weakest slate of opponents in the league next week.
A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider .
Kevin Pelton is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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