Using opponent data for each team on the following week's 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, Bradford Doolittle will take a look at five players to use, five to limit and an ideal pickup.
These are players currently owned by less than half of owners in ESPN Fantasy Basketball 2012 that may be worth a roster spot in the week ahead.
Tyler Hansbrough (Owned 26.3%, Opponent boost 15.8%)
Hansbrough has struggled to stay consistent as Indiana's sixth man and he's fallen off the radar of most fantasy owners. This may be a good week to revisit the struggling forward. Hansbrough's minutes continue to hover around 20 per game, but he's been a factor in two of his last three games as his shooting seems to be coming around. Of this week's opponents, Miami is a tough play, but the other three matchups are promising. Cleveland has struggled against power forwards, with Antawn Jamison and rookie Tristan Thompson both struggling on the defensive end. The next night Indiana play New Jersey, who is almost as bad against fours. Kris Humphries isn't a bad defender, but is forced to protect the rim because of the Nets' lack of a healthy, shot-blocking center. That's also the back end of a back-to-back and Frank Vogel may want to go easy on veteran starter David West. Finally, the Pacers wrap up the week with the Bobcats, who are the league's worst at defending centers and second-worst against power forwards. In other words, it's a dream matchup for an interior scorer like Hansbrough.
C.J. Watson (Owned 3%, Opponent boost 12.6%)
Watson comes with a huge caveat: He's not worth having as long as Derrick Rose is healthy. Rose isn't healthy--he's been battling toe and back problems--but that is no guarantee he's going to miss action. Watson's production has been all over the map as a reserve and doesn't add up to much in a fantasy sense. However, he's been terrific when Rose sits out. In three games as a starter, Watson has averaged 16.3 points on 51.6 percent shooting, is 7-for-12 from three-point range and has dished out seven assists to boot. If you have a roster spot, Watson is worth stashing in anticipation of breaking news. This promises to be a great week for Chicago point guards, with the Bulls finally returning home after a nine-game road trip. They play the Kings, Celtics and Nets. The Celtics have been solid against point guards, but the Kings and Nets have been awful.
Jonas Jerebko (Owned 11.5%, Opponent boost 11.8%)
Not many of you seemed to heed my Jerebko versus the Nets last week, which is too bad because he's a 30-plus minute player against New Jersey and his shot is coming back. Jerebko again has a deceptively soft slate in front of him. Detroit plays the Spurs, Kings and the Celtics twice. Sounds tough, but the Celtics and Kings have struggled against threes and stretch fours, while San Antonio has merely been average. Perhaps the best reason to pick up Jerebko is that current starter Jason Maxiell has been such a non-factor that he may be playing himself back into a bench role. Working against that theory is the fact that Maxiell has helped the Pistons' defense to the tune of nearly eight points per 100 possessions and Detroit coach Lawrence Frank loves defensive players. Beware.
C.J. Miles (Owned 8.5%, Opponent boost 9.9%)
The Jazz has struggled to get consistent wing play this season, and Miles has certainly been part of the problem. He had a nice couple of weeks to close January but his shooting fell off again and his minutes dropped. He rebounded with a nice outing at Indiana, giving him some momentum heading into the weekend. Utah faces New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Washington and Houston next week. All have been average or worse against small forwards; the Wizards have been terrible. So if you're battling a rash of injuries to your roster, you need to read the tea leaves and decide whether you think Miles is going to get the nod over Gordon Hayward and Josh Howard. It's a fluid situation, to say the least.
Linas Kleiza (Owned 29.3%, Opponent boost 6.7%)
Kleiza struggled last season when he got a crack at a starting role, but he's been coming on of late in his role off the Toronto bench. Over his last four games, Kleiza has averaged 18.5 points, over five rebounds and hit nine 3-pointers. More importantly, his seem to be stabilizing in the mid to upper 20s. Toronto has been much better with Kleiza on the floor this season and Raptors coach Dwane Casey pays attention to things like plus-minus metrics. This week, Kleiza gets the Knicks, Spurs and Bobcats. It's a good week to consolidate his recent gains. It may be time to make room for him on your roster.
These are players owned in most leagues, perhaps even by you, that you may want to leave on the bench for a few days because of a rugged schedule.
Deron Williams (Owned 100%, Opponent hit -14.4%)
Lately, Williams has mixed in some huge performances with some clunky shooting performances. Unfortunately, this week may feature more of the latter. The Nets face a murderer's row set of opponents, at least when it comes to playing the point. It starts with Wednesday's matchup against Memphis (eighth against point guards), followed by a back-to-back encounter with the Pacers, who have been the league's best teams against ones. Then comes Chicago (seventh) and Milwaukee (11th). All of those teams know how to uglify a game and keep point guards like Williams out of the lane and the open floor. Look for lots of jump shots. You probably can't afford to take him out of your lineup, but be ready for some slippage in field-goal percentage and compensate if you can.
Jason Richardson (Owned 67.7%, Opponent hit -13.8%)
Richardson has been going pretty good lately, or at least he was before Wednesday's clunker against Miami. This week doesn't promise to be an easier, with only New Jersey's point guard facing a tougher group of opponents than Orlando's shooting guards. Minnesota has been merely above average against twos, and that's as good as it'll get for Richardson this week. Philadelphia has been the league's best against twos, while Milwaukee clocks in at eighth. Then to finish the week, Orlando has a return match with a Heat team that will be looking to avenge Wednesday's loss.
Ty Lawson (Owned 100%, Opponent hit -11.7%)
Tough week for Ty Lawson, who has been consistently solid all season. Tuesday's opponent is Phoenix and you might think a matchup against 80-year-old (but still excellent) Suns point guard Steve Nash would be a good thing. However, the Suns are fourth in the league against ones. Alvin Gentry generally tries to hide Nash rather than having him burn energy chasing around his younger point guard counterparts. Phoenix is a solid play at the other four positions, which seems counterintuitive but that's the way the numbers fall. The rest of the week is tough for Lawson as well, with Dallas (third against point guards) on Wednesday, Memphis (eight) on Friday and Oklahoma City (10th) on Sunday.
Marcin Gortat (Owned 100%, Opponent hit -7.3%)
While Nash is hiding on defense, teammate Marcin Gortat may end up doing the same on offense. The Suns have five games next week and four of them are against top-10 teams at defending the center position. The other opponent is Golden State and even that game is fraught with potential pitfalls. If Warriors coach Mark Jackson elects to go small, Gentry may respond by limiting Gortat's minutes. That's what happened with Gortat scored just five points against Golden State on Jan. 2, one of his poorer outings of the season. He then gets the nasty Nene/Chris Andersen combo in Denver before a possible respite against Atlanta, who is missing starting center Al Horford. Then again, that'll be the third of a back-to-back-to-back stretch for the Suns. Gortat then finishes the week against the Lakers' super-duo big men, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.
Monta Ellis (Owned 100%, Opponent hit -5.7%)
Ellis may get a break on Monday since the Suns can't hide Steve Nash from both he and Stephen Curry, but the Blazers, Thunder and Grizzlies are all long and tough on small guards. To be fair, Ellis has done well against OKC and Memphis this season. However, he scored just four points in 41 minutes in his only game against Portland this season.
THIS WEEK'S IDEAL GET
This is the player not mentioned above who stands to get the biggest boost from this week's slate. If you've had you're eye on via the trade market, now is the time to pull the trigger. If you own him, you may want to hold off on that deal for another week.
Jeremy Lin (Owned 99.4%, Opponent boost 1.8%): Most of you have already gotten this week's ideal get--Lin jumped from zero to a more than 99 percent level ownership during his breakout week. Can he keep it up? Last week's matchups were favorable, but you've got to ride out the performance of a guy that has put up 25.3 points, 8.3 assists and shot 58 percent over his last three games. The good matchups continue this week. Tuesday brings the Raptors and Jose Calderon, who rank 24th in defending point guards. Sacramento, Wednesday's opponent, is 28th. The Hornets present a little more of a challenge on Thursday at 17th, but that shouldn't deter you. On Sunday, the Knicks take on Dallas (third against point guards) in what may turn to be Lin's biggest test to date. From what we've seen, there is little reason to be concerned.
A version of this article originally appeared at ESPN Insider .
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