- Seth Landman, Fantasy Basketball
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Matchups for Friday, Dec. 19
All times are ET.
Key: Opp. PPG = Points per game allowed to opponents. Opp. FGP = Field goal percentage allowed to opponents. RPG Diff. = The difference between a team's rebounds per game and its opponents' rebounds per game.
Rafer Alston, PG, Rockets (hamstring)
Samuel Dalembert, C, 76ers (finger)
T.J. Ford, PG, Pacers (groin)
Pau Gasol, PF/C, Lakers (strep throat)
Jared Jeffries, SF, Knicks (leg)
Troy Murphy, PF/C, Pacers (flu)
Tyrus Thomas, PF, Bulls (concussion)
Gerald Wallace, SF/PF, Bobcats (personal)
Start 'em, sit 'em
In addition to having 18 points against the Cavaliers earlier this season, the Nuggets' J.R. Smith averaged 23.5 points per game against them last season. He has averaged 16.4 points in his past five games and is a good bet to produce even though the Cavs' defense is tough. The Celtics and the Bulls both are extremely turnover-prone, which means there could be a lot of steals to go around when they face off Friday night, but I probably would sit Ben Gordon. The Celtics take away the 3-point shot against most teams, and I think Gordon will struggle with anyone from Rajon Rondo to Tony Allen to Ray Allen covering him. Although Devin Harris didn't play well last season when he faced the Mavericks (his former team), I expect him to shred them this time around. Harris has been one of the best players in the league so far this season, and Dallas (read: Jason Kidd) can't defend point guards very well at the moment. Although Udonis Haslem is back in the lineup after missing a game to attend a funeral, I think you need to keep him out of your lineup against the Lakers. Even if Pau Gasol sits because of his strep throat, the combination of Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom probably will be too much size for Haslem to be effective.
Despite the fact that he has been producing well-rounded numbers since his arrival in Charlotte, Boris Diaw still is owned in less than 70 percent of leagues. If he's available in yours, pick him up now, because he has a ripe matchup against the defenseless Grizzlies on Friday. Nets rookie center Brook Lopez is blocking a whole mess of shots lately, and you might want to think about owning him if he's available in your league. His averages from the past five games: 11.2 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.8 blocks. The blocks alone are pretty significant. He has been, to this point in the season, the ninth-most valuable shot-blocker in the league, according to the Player Rater, and likely will improve as he gets used to the size and speed of the NBA game. He has a tough matchup against the Mavericks on Friday, but they've been giving up a lot of production to centers, so you might want to get him in your lineup. While it's true that the Bucks have played much better defense this season than I thought they would (they are right around the league average in defensive efficiency), I think the Knicks will lure them into an up-tempo game Friday. In particular, you might want to think about starting Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, who had 13 points, five rebounds and two steals Wednesday after a few really bad games in a row. Coach Scott Skiles might want to get some more defense in the lineup against the Knicks, and Mbah a Moute is a much better defensive option than Charlie Villanueva. If you need steals and rebounds, Mbah a Moute could be a good option for this one game. Washington is allowing teams to shoot 37 percent on 3-pointers and 48 percent from the floor in general, so don't be surprised if Philly's Lou Williams continues his scoring spree against the Wizards. Almost nobody owns Williams, so this should be one of the easiest ways ever to pick up 20 points.
Seth Landman is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.