- Neil Tardy, Fantasy Basketball
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Quite often, a good matchup is easy to spot. For instance, when your players face the NBA's worst teams record-wise, you can naturally expect good things. The New Jersey Nets, 3-35 going into the weekend, allow opponents to shoot 47.8 percent, third-worst in the league. Nets opponents are also second in assists per game, third in total rebounds and third in steals.
The 8-32 Minnesota Timberwolves are, if anything, an even better matchup. Wolves opponents are tops in 3-pointers, assists and steals and fourth in blocks.
Teams that play at a fast pace obviously are strong matchups, as well. The Golden State Warriors allow 112.0 points per game, and Warriors opponents are shooting 49.3 percent. Both those are league-worst figures by good margins, and are just what fantasy owners want to see.
Occasionally, though, a matchup isn't as good as it looks. Think Jason Terry will close Week 13 with a flourish because his Dallas Mavericks visit the New York Knicks? You might be surprised to learn that Knicks opponents are only 20th in 3-pointers per game, and dead last in 3-point accuracy with just 31.0 percent shooting from downtown. Think that your big men will fare well against a Portland Trail Blazers team that is missing Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla? Well, with the Blazers' slow pace limiting possessions (and thus shots), there just aren't many boards to get; Blazers opponents are 30th in the league in total rebounds.
What's important to keep in mind with matchups is that things can -- and do -- change during the season. For instance, Boston Celtics opponents average only 93.7 points per game, 29th in the league. But in January, with Kevin Garnett sidelined, C's opponents have scored 98.1 points per game.
One team fantasy owners might overlook as a positive matchup is the Detroit Pistons. Their 12-25 record aside, the Pistons don't look bad statistically (at least from the defensive side). Pistons opponents are only 20th in scoring (97.1 points), 17th in 3-pointers and 26th in total rebounds. But as injuries have piled up, opponents have begun putting up some solid numbers against them. In the team's past 14 games, Pistons opponents have averaged 101.0 points per game and shot at least 50.0 percent eight times. In a recent three-game stretch, the Pistons allowed the San Antonio Spurs to shoot 58.1 percent, the Philadelphia 76ers to shoot 57.4 percent and the Chicago Bulls to shoot 57.1 percent.
A meeting with the Pistons is one reason to activate Martell Webster for the coming week. More on him in a bit.
Week 13 at a Glance
How can I put this? I guess there's always haiku:
This week, games galore
Most players, they're getting four
Many choices, all good
Yes, it's what owners in weekly lineup leagues have been waiting for. Twenty-one NBA teams play four times in Week 13, while just one team, the Utah Jazz, plays twice. Even a couple of the three-game sets look inviting. The Denver Nuggets, for instance, visit the aforementioned Warriors and host the Los Angeles Clippers and New Orleans Hornets. Could this be the week J.R. Smith gets rolling? Perhaps, but Arron Afflalo is actually the player I have my eye on. In January he's shooting 50 percent and averaging 2.1 3s per game, which makes him a free-agent consideration in leagues of at least 12 teams. Speaking of 3-point shooters, Channing Frye seems poised for a big Week 13. The Suns finish a four-game road trip against the Memphis Grizzlies and then host the Nets, Bulls and Warriors. Bulls and Grizz opponents are seventh and ninth, respectively, in treys. The Nets and Warriors you already know about.
"O" (offense) and "D" (defense) matchup ratings are based upon a scale from 1 (poor matchup) to 10 (excellent matchup), and are calculated using a formula that evaluates the team's year-to-date and past 10 games' statistics, their performance in home/road games depending on where the game is to be played, as well as their opponents' numbers in those categories. The Games T / H column lists the team's total number of games played as well as home games (T / H), and lists the cumulative rating from 1-10 of that week's matchups.
The Forecast: It's Their Week
Mike Dunleavy, SG/SF, Pacers (@MIA, @ORL, @DET, PHI): Dunleavy is back in a reserve role, but he continues to produce, averaging 17.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.5 3s in his first four games since the return of Danny Granger. There's plenty to like here, starting with the fact Sixers and Heat opponents are second and 10th, respectively, in 3s allowed. Magic opponents are up to 13th in that regard; the team has allowed 37 triples over its past five games. In addition, Pistons opponents are fifth in shooting.
Anthony Morrow, SG/SF, Warriors (CHI, DEN, NJ, @PHO): Morrow had easily his best game in more than a month when he registered 24 points and four triples against the Miami Heat on Jan. 13. It seems pretty simple with Morrow: If the lad keeps hitting his shots, Don Nelson will keep giving him minutes. Admittedly, I've been a Morrow booster all season, but with his availability in ESPN.com leagues again at more than 70 percent, I really think you should jump back in here. In Morrow's case, it seems relevant to note that in home games, he's shooting 53.9 percent and averaging 2.3 3s. In addition, Suns opponents are fourth in triples.
Luke Ridnour, PG, Bucks (@HOU, TOR, @TOR, MIN): With Michael Redd suffering a season-ending injury, Ridnour should continue to get around 30 minutes per game, which makes him a viable option in leagues of at least 12 teams. Though he hasn't shot well recently, he averaged 13.0 points and 7.0 assists in the first three games after Redd went down. In addition to drawing the uniquely fantasy-friendly Timberwolves, the Bucks have a home-and-home with the Raptors, whose opponents are fifth in 3s and seventh in assists.
Martell Webster, SF, Trail Blazers (@WAS, @PHI, @BOS, @DET): I'll start with this caveat: The Blazers are finally getting healthier. With Steve Blake and Rudy Fernandez back in the mix, Webster played only 25 minutes against the Milwaukee Bucks on Jan. 13. It was just the third time in 18 games that Webster failed to get at least 28 minutes. Still, he has great matchups, and not just because of the way teams have been shooting on the Pistons of late. Sixers and Wizards opponents are second and third, respectively, in 3-pointers.
The Forecast: They're Weak
Brendan Haywood, C, Wizards (POR, DAL, MIA, LAC): Haywood missed one game with the flu on Jan. 5, and it's easy to conclude that his illness hampered him in the games that preceded and followed that game. But after scoring just four points versus the Cleveland Cavaliers on Jan. 6, Haywood has been a beast, averaging 12.5 points and 13.3 boards over his next four games. The 64.7 percent foul shooter even went 16-of-19 from the line during that span. Haywood should get his share of boards in Week 13, but it's a tough four-game set in this respect: Blazers, Mavericks and Clippers opponents are 29th, 28th and 26th, respectively, in blocks.
Charlie Villanueva, SF/PF, Pistons (@NY, BOS, IND, POR): Villanueva isn't starting, but he is starting to come around after being hampered by plantar fasciitis. This month he's averaging 15.4 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.2 3s on 47.6 percent shooting. Though Knicks opponents are seventh in shooting percentage, Celtics, Pacers and Blazers opponents are all in the bottom eight in 3-point makes. That said, the Blazers have allowed 44 treys in their past five games.
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.