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.
Jamal Crawford, SG, Atlanta Hawks (plus-11 percent)
All three of the Hawks' opponents next week allow at least 7 percent more productivity than average to wings. Friday's Southeast Division showdown with the Miami Heat might not seem favorable, but Crawford has averaged a solid 15.5 points and 4.0 assists against the Heat so far this season.
Trevor Ariza, SF, New Orleans Hornets (plus-11 percent)
Can an easy schedule boost Ariza's sinking shooting percentages? The small forward has been a drain on fantasy teams' field goal percentages, hitting just 38.8 percent of his shots. However, Ariza gets a crack at two of the league's worst wing defenses--the Phoenix Suns and, surprisingly, the Boston Celtics.
Landry Fields, SG, New York Knicks (plus-7 percent)
In addition to a four-game schedule, the Big Apple's favorite second-round pick gets some tasty matchups. Fields should be productive and efficient against the Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers and Memphis Grizzlies before finishing out the week with a much tougher opponent, the stingy Milwaukee Bucks.
Luke Ridnour, PG, Minnesota Timberwolves (plus-6 percent)
Look for Ridnour to call his own number in the pick-and-roll against the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings, both of whom struggle to defend point guards. Ridnour torched the Kings the last time the two teams squared off, finishing with 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting.
Tyrus Thomas, PF, Charlotte Bobcats (plus-5 percent)
Thomas hopes to be back from arthroscopic knee surgery as soon as Friday against the Portland Trail Blazers. An otherwise average week for Thomas and the Charlotte frontcourt is highlighted by Friday's game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Wesley Johnson, SF/SG, Minnesota Timberwolves (minus-10 percent)
The same schedule has very different implications for Johnson than it does for his teammate Ridnour. When Minnesota faces the Lakers, Johnson will be dealing with Kobe Bryant and Shannon Brown. Meanwhile, the Kings have been surprisingly strong at defending wings. Since he's also missed time recently due to illness, there is zero reason to have Johnson in your lineup.
Jarrett Jack, PG, New Orleans Hornets (minus-9 percent)
Even before stepping into the Hornets' starting lineup with Chris Paul missing time following a concussion, Jack was playing solid basketball. Next week's schedule will make that difficult to keep up. New Orleans faces three of the league's best point guard defenses, while Paul may be back in the starting five.
Daniel Gibson, SG, Cleveland Cavaliers (minus-8 percent)
The Cavaliers are on the West Coast next week, which means matchups with some bigger guards who could pose difficulty for Gibson. That could hinge on whether Eric Gordon is back in the lineup for the Los Angeles Clippers by the time the teams face each other next Saturday.
Al Harrington, PF, Denver Nuggets (minus-7 percent)
All the indicators are negative when it comes to Harrington. He has been unproductive since the Nuggets remade their roster before the trade deadline (Harrington last scored in double figures on Valentine's Day). On top of that, Denver also faces four teams that are all better than average at defending the post, highlighted by the New Orleans Hornets on Monday.
Kris Humphries, PF, New Jersey Nets (minus-6 percent)
The good news is that the Nets play four games next week. The bad news is that all of their opponents are tough for big men to go up against. Humphries' easiest matchup comes Monday against the Celtics, and he's averaged just 3.7 points on 35.7 percent shooting against Boston.
This week's pickup
Paul George, SF, Indiana Pacers (plus-8 percent)
Owned in 0.4 percent of ESPN leagues
As the fantasy playoffs approach, it's a weak week for the waiver wire. If you're feeling creative, George could be an interesting option. The Pacers rookie moved into the starting lineup for the first time on Wednesday and is getting extended action. Indiana plays four games next week and three of them are against teams that defend the wing poorly. Count on a high field goal percentage from George as well as some stat-sheet stuffing.
A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider .
Kevin Pelton is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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