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.
Jrue Holiday, PG, Philadelphia 76ers (plus-16 percent)
It's a good rule of thumb to play whatever point guard is facing the Atlanta Hawks. With the aging Mike Bibby at the point, the Hawks have been torched by point guards, allowing 32 percent better production than usual. Philadelphia gets Atlanta on Friday as part of a favorable three-game schedule. All told, we expect Holiday to be 16 percent more productive than usual because of his opposition.
J.J. Hickson, PF, Cleveland Cavaliers (plus-11 percent)
Hickson has slumped badly of late, having last scored double-figures on Nov. 13. Still, patient fantasy owners have a good chance to get rewarded with a solid week by Hickson. Not only do the Cavaliers play four games, big men have been successful against both the Miami Heat and especially the Detroit Pistons. We project Hickson will bounce back to average 12.7 points per game next week.
Anthony Morrow, SG, New Jersey Nets (plus-11 percent)
Morrow is the anti-Hickson; he's already on a roll, having averaged 16.8 points over his last five games. Combine that with a favorable four-game schedule and Morrow figures to be as helpful as almost anyone in the league in the three-point column. Morrow won't help much in terms of rebounds or assists, but he's still a worthwhile play.
Trevor Ariza, SF, New Orleans Hornets (plus-7 percent)
Because of his slow start, Ariza has found himself dropped in a handful of leagues. Next week's four-game slate figures to give him a chance to turn things around. Of the teams the Hornets will face, only the San Antonio Spurs defend wings well; the Oklahoma City Thunder and New York Knicks have both been very permissive.
Kirk Hinrich, SG, Washington Wizards (plus-7 percent)
All four teams the Wizards face over the next week are below average in terms of defending the wing. Additionally, playing teams like Phoenix and Portland that lack post-up threats at small forward could allow Flip Saunders to put Hinrich alongside Gilbert Arenas and John Wall as part of Washington's three-guard backcourt, with Al Thornton battling a sprained left ankle that kept him out of Thursday's game.
Wesley Johnson, SG, Minnesota Timberwolves (minus-15 percent)
Johnson's numbers have not been big enough lately to justify a spot in your fantasy lineup under normal circumstances, but there is definitely no reason to play him next week, when Minnesota faces three defenses that have been death to opposing wings. The same adjustment applies to Michael Beasley, but the Timberwolves' small forward has been too productive lately to consider benching.
Nenê, C, Denver Nuggets (minus-13 percent)
Nenê might be an automatic play in his own right, but if you have a reasonable alternative in the middle, you might want to give him a week off. The Milwaukee Bucks and Memphis Grizzlies have both shut down post scorers, giving Nenê two bad matchups out of three.
O.J. Mayo, SG, Memphis Grizzlies (minus-9 percent)
A four-game schedule is the only thing to like about Mayo next week. After being moved to the bench as punishment for a late arrival, Mayo will apparently be a reserve until further notice. The big trouble spot in next week's schedule is a matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers, who have totally handcuffed opposing wings. Mayo had eight points on 3-for-11 shooting the last time the teams squared off.
Wesley Matthews, SG, Portland Trail Blazers (minus-8 percent)
If you got Matthews in your lineup recently to take advantage of Brandon Roy's injury woes, it might be prudent to cut bait. Roy hopes to play tonight against New Orleans, and the Blazers are scheduled to face three above-average defenses on the wing over the next four games. Surprisingly, the Los Angeles Clippers have been especially hard on shooting guards and small forwards.
Luol Deng, SF, Chicago Bulls (minus-7 percent)
Not only do Deng's Bulls play just three games next week, all three present challenging matchups on the wing. The Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic are two of the league's top defenses, while the Houston Rockets have Shane Battier to shut down opposing wing scorers.
This Week's Pickup
Landry Fields, SG, New York Knicks (plus-11 percent)
While he's not a big-time scorer, Fields -- who is owned in just 15.7 percent of ESPN leagues -- is already a worthwhile pickup because of his well-rounded game. Add in a favorable slate of opponents and now is the time to take the chance on Fields.
A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider .
Kevin Pelton is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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