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.
Trevor Ariza, SF, New Orleans Hornets (plus-9 percent)
Ariza's famously inconsistent outside shot is showing signs of life in the month of March, as he's hit 36 percent of his attempts from long distance. Next week's favorable schedule, which includes a pair of opponents who allow at least 10 percent more production than usual to wing players, should help Ariza lift his shooting percentages even further.
Ty Lawson/Raymond Felton, PGs, Denver Nuggets (plus-8 percent)
The league's best point guard duo should probably be considered as plays on a weekly basis at this point, but there are still a handful of leagues out there where one or both of these guys is unclaimed. Don't let that continue next week, when the Nuggets get a home-and-home set against the Sacramento Kings and a matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers, meaning that they'll be playing three games against teams that struggle to stop quick point guards.
Marcus Thornton, SG, Sacramento Kings (plus-7 percent)
On the other side of that home-and-home set, Thornton should feast on Denver's middling wing defense. The New Orleans castoff has been on fire ever since getting a chance to play regular minutes in Sacramento, scoring 20-plus points nine times in the month of February.
Chris Kaman, C, Los Angeles Clippers (plus-7 percent)
Kaman has taken full advantage of DeAndre Jordan's absence due to a bout with pneumonia, putting up 20-plus points in his last two games. Kaman is more likely than Jordan to take advantage of three teams that struggle to defend post scorers. Friday's game against the Phoenix Suns has the potential to be a big one for Kaman.
Ben Gordon, SG, Detroit Pistons (plus-6 percent)
Despite games against two of the league's top defenses (the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls), Gordon looks like a solid play for the week. That's partially because the Celtics have been far less effective than you'd imagine at shutting down wing players. Gordon has shot 53.6 percent from the field against Boston this season.
J.R. Smith, SG, Denver Nuggets (minus-12 percent)
For a second straight week, the schedule figures to cut down on the production of Denver's wing players. Smith is the player most likely to be on the borderline of making your roster for next week, with Arron Afflalo presumably a no-go as he deals with a hamstring injury that has sidelined him the last two games.
C.J. Miles, SG/SF, Utah Jazz (minus-12 percent)
Like the Nuggets, the Jazz face the NBA's best wing defense in the Lakers. In addition, while the Kings and the Washington Wizards have struggled defensively overall, they've been better than average when it comes to slowing down wing players. Miles has cooled off lately, after his big 40-point outing earlier in the month.
Anthony Randolph, PF/C, Minnesota Timberwolves (minus-7 percent)
Randolph may be too enigmatic to even notice the opponents he's playing, but as he steps into the lineup for Kevin Love, it's worth noting that Minnesota faces a treacherous slate of games next week. The Bulls and the Miami Heat are two of the league's top defensive teams, while the Memphis Grizzlies' stout frontcourt has controlled the paint all season long.
Carl Landry, PF, New Orleans Hornets (minus-6 percent)
Landry too figures to see a tough schedule cut into the upside of an opportunity created by injury. Hornets starter David West apparently suffered a major knee injury during Thursday's game against the Jazz, which could promote Landry to the starting lineup. But the Grizzlies are the toughest matchup among three games against teams that are all better than average at defending big men.
Rodney Stuckey, PG, Detroit Pistons (minus-5 percent)
The same schedule that could favor Gordon is likely to shackle his Pistons teammate. Stuckey has gotten his points against the Celtics thus far this season, but he has shot just 37.9 percent from the field with five total assists in two games against Rajon Rondo. Given Stuckey's inconsistent play in March, it'd be a good idea for you to find an alternative to him in your lineup.
This week's pickup
Marco Belinelli, SG, New Orleans Hornets (plus-9 percent)
Owned in 8.7 percent of ESPN leagues
Like Ariza, Belinelli gets the benefit of the league's most favorable schedule next week. He also figures to be a big part of how the Hornets seek to replace West's scoring. Belinelli is averaging 13.3 points in the month of March, so he's shown the ability to succeed as a bigger part of the New Orleans offense.
A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider .
Kevin Pelton is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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