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February 18, 2011
Start/Sit Projections
Week of Feb. 21

by Kevin Pelton

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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.

Must plays

1. Andre Miller, PG, Portland Trail Blazers (plus-9 percent)
Miller should already be in your lineup, of course, but the Blazers' point guard is salivating over upcoming matchups against the Los Angeles Lakers and the Atlanta Hawks, two of the league's weakest teams when it comes to defending opposing point guards.

2. J.R. Smith, SG, Denver Nuggets (plus-7 percent)
The week of the trade deadline does present a unique risk, in that Smith might be on another team by the time games on Thursday and Friday roll around. A deal would likely force Smith to miss at least one game in addition to depriving him of the favorable schedule the Nuggets face. If he stays in Denver, however, he's a smart play.

3. Ryan Anderson, PF, Orlando Magic (plus-7 percent)
All three teams Orlando faces next week are worse than average when it comes to slowing down opposing post players. In particular, the Sacramento Kings and Oklahoma City Thunder have struggled against big men. Look for Anderson to thrive on the glass in addition to his usual efficient scoring.

4. Rashard Lewis, SF, Washington Wizards (plus-6 percent)
Assuming Lewis is able to return from a sore right knee that has sidelined him the last three games, a friendly schedule awaits. Three of the four teams on the Wizards' schedule allow wing players to perform at least eight percent better than their usual production. The only exception is Saturday's game against the Dallas Mavericks.

5. Andrei Kirilenko, SF, Utah Jazz (plus-6 percent)
Kirilenko is another player who will benefit from taking the All-Star break off to rest an injury (a sprained right ankle in his case). Kirilenko just needs to be back to full strength in time for back-to-back games against the Detroit Pistons and the Indiana Pacers. In earlier games against those teams, Kirilenko combined for 33 points on 11-of-22 shooting.

Tough schedules

1. Anthony Morrow, SG, New Jersey Nets (minus-14 percent)
There are just two games on the schedule for the Nets next week, and both of them are terrible matchups for a wing player. The San Antonio Spurs have a variety of capable perimeter defenders, while the Houston Rockets have been dominant defensively against wing players recently and are holding them 18 percent below their typical production.

2. Trevor Ariza, SF, New Orleans Hornets (minus-9 percent)
Next week is all or nothing for Ariza. He figures to thrive on Friday against the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves, but the other two teams the Hornets face should be much more challenging--the aforementioned Rockets as well as the Los Angeles Clippers. Adjust accordingly if you set your lineups daily.

3. Darko Milicic, C, Minnesota Timberwolves (minus-9 percent)
Milicic might be worth leaving in the lineup because the Timberwolves play four games. However, every one is more difficult than average for a post player, including especially tough outings against the Hornets and the Memphis Grizzlies. The schedule won't likely affect Milicic's shot blocking, but his rebounding and his shooting percentage could be off.

4. Ersan Ilyasova, PF, Milwaukee Bucks (minus-6 percent)
If you're not among the 19.8 percent of ESPN owners who have already dropped Ilyasova because of a right eye contusion that knocked him out of the Bucks' last game before the break, consider benching him next week. Milwaukee has an unfavorable three-game schedule highlighted by facing the league's No. 1 defensive team, the Chicago Bulls, on Saturday.

Carl Landry, PF, Sacramento Kings (minus-5 percent)
Like Milicic, Landry has two difficult matchups out of four during the upcoming week. The toughest is Saturday's game against the Grizzlies. In two outings against Memphis this season, Landry has totaled just 11 points on 3-of-10 shooting.

This week's pickup

Brandon Bass, PF, Orlando Magic (plus-7 percent)
Note: Owned in 4.0 percent of ESPN leagues
Any owners that had Bass dropped him when he was sidelined for six games with a sprained ankle. This means that there is opportunity now that Bass is back in the Magic's starting lineup, playing well (he put up a double-double in Orlando's last game before the break) and gets the same favorable schedule enjoyed by his teammate Anderson next week.

A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider Insider.

Kevin Pelton is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Kevin by clicking here or click here to see Kevin's other articles.

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<< Previous Article
Opposite Directions (02/17)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Start/Sit Projections (02/11)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Start/Sit Projections (02/25)
Next Article >>
The Shootaround (02/18)

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