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January 14, 2011
Start/Sit Projections
Week of Jan. 17

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

Richard Jefferson, SF, San Antonio Spurs (plus-9 percent)
After his terrific start to the season, Jefferson has been up and down lately. Next week's Spurs schedule offers him the chance to get going against two poor defensive opponents and a New Orleans Hornets squad that has been most vulnerable to wing production. Jefferson should benefit from the defensive attention opponents pay to his teammate Manu Ginobili.

Kyle Lowry, PG, Houston Rockets (plus-6 percent)
Point guards have had a great deal of success against the New York Knicks and Orlando Magic, two of the four teams the Rockets will face during the week ahead. None of Houston's opponents has held point guards below their usual production, so there will be plenty of numbers to go around for Lowry and backcourt-mate Aaron Brooks.

Lamar Odom, PF, Los Angeles Lakers (plus-6 percent)
While the Dallas Mavericks could cut down on Odom's effectiveness on Wednesday, he looks to have more success against the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Denver Nuggets. The return of Andrew Bynum has yet to hamper Odom's numbers.

Tyson Chandler, C, Dallas Mavericks (plus-5 percent)
Overall, the Mavericks' schedule is not especially easy. However, they're the recipients of a matchup against the porous Detroit Pistons frontcourt on Monday. Keep an eye on Dirk Nowitzki's health. If he's not back in the lineup by then, Shawn Marion--playing power forward in place of Nowitzki rather than his usual small forward spot--also becomes a good play for next week.

Kris Humphries, PF, New Jersey Nets (plus-5 percent)
Like Chandler, Humphries and the Nets big men get to feast on the Pistons on Friday. Don't be alarmed by the fact that Humphries is now coming off the bench behind Derrick Favors; he's averaged 16.5 points and 8.3 rebounds on 60.9 percent shooting since Avery Johnson made the switch.

TOUGH SCHEDULES

Martell Webster, SG, Minnesota Timberwolves (minus-12 percent)
Michael Beasley's sprained ankle could mean more time for the Timberwolves' other wing players, but this is a bad time for larger roles. Minnesota has just two games on the schedule next week, and one of them is against the Los Angeles Clippers, who have stifled opposing wings.

Drew Gooden, PF, Milwaukee Bucks (minus-8 percent)
Gooden returned from an extended absence on Wednesday, but if you've been holding on to him, you might want to wait another week to put him back in your fantasy lineup. Of Milwaukee's four opponents, both the Washington Wizards and the Memphis Grizzlies have held big men at least 14 percent below their usual production.

Kirk Hinrich, PG, Washington Wizards (minus-6 percent)
While Hinrich has the benefit of four games, that's the only thing to like about his schedule next week. All four matchups are average or worse, with Washington facing a pair of top defenses in Memphis and Boston. That could hamper Hinrich's field-goal percentage, currently a career-best 46.0 percent.

Nicolas Batum, SF, Portland Trail Blazers (minus-5 percent)
Games against the Clippers and the Sacramento Kings hold back an otherwise solid week for Batum and the Blazers' wings. The last time Portland faced the Clippers, Batum shot just 4-of-12 from the field.

DeJuan Blair, C, San Antonio Spurs (minus-4 percent)
Blair is only a fantasy play in the deepest leagues, but this is not the week to play him if you're one of the 13.2 percent of owners who have Blair on the roster. Matchups against the New Orleans Hornets and the Knicks figure to be challenging, and Blair has gone five games without scoring double-figures.

THIS WEEK'S PICKUP

Gary Neal, SG, San Antonio Spurs (plus-9 percent)
Available in 99.6 percent of ESPN leagues
Apparently, few people took our suggestion to pick up Neal two weeks ago, as his ownership has been cut in half. Neal ended up scoring double-figures in three out of four games that week, providing six 3-pointers in four games. If you're in serious need of help at guard and short on long-range shooting, Neal could help.

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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Premium Article Start/Sit Projections (01/07)
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