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Ty Lawson, DEN (vs. MIL) PG ($7,600)
Defenses to Avoid
Minnesota Timberwolves at Oklahoma City Thunder: Much is made about Oklahoma City's offense, or Kevin Durant for that matter, but the Thunder are actually third in defensive efficiency this year and have held opponents to 96 points or less in six of their last seven games. They're also second in opponent's field goal percentage (trailing Indiana), and they particularly excel in and around the paint (second inside five feet, seventh in between 5-9 feet). That's an important stat against Minnesota, which takes a ton of shots inside, especially inside five feet where they have taken the fourth most attempts in the league. The usual suspects like Toronto and San Antonio also have likable matchups.
Offenses to Use
Portland Trail Blazers at New York Knicks: Portland has hit a bit of a snag lately, losing five of their last eight games to drop them four games behind Oklahoma City. So you might expect to see coach Terry Stotts' crew come out firing against the Knicks, whose recent four-game winning streak wasn't really that impressive (four home wins against teams combined to be 56 games under .500). More telling, the Knicks just lost to Milwaukee and are 24th overall in defensive efficiency. Portland is No. 2 in offense (had been No. 1 for practically the entire year until their recent struggles) and is poised for a breakout game. They were getting plenty of good looks, especially from outside, against Washington last time out, but just couldn't get them to fall.
Teams on a Back-to-Back Set
First game of a back-to-back: San Antonio Spurs
Second game of a back-to-back: Atlanta Hawks, Los Angeles Lakers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Phoenix Suns
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: I generally think that It's rarely wise to look at someone recently coming off an injury, but Lawson didn't show any negative side effects on Monday of a shoulder injury that held him out for two games last week. He's playing the Bucks, and well, the Bucks just aren't any good lately. Yes, they beat the Knicks on Monday, but they had lost 15 of their previous 16 games and have been particularly horrendous on defense. Since Jan. 1, Milwaukee is 29th in defensive efficiency (110.6 points allowed per 100 possessions), narrowly beating the Lakers who have had their own problems defensively since the New Year. Until they prove otherwise, any opponent against the Bucks is a good play, especially if it's the catalyst of an offense like Lawson.
Other suggestions: Jeff Teague
, ATL (at NOP) PG ($6,500); Brandon Knight
, MIL (at DEN), PG/SG ($6,400); Jeremy Lin
, HOU (vs. PHO) PG/SG ($6,300); Nick Calathes
, MEM (vs. DAL) PG/SG ($4,200).
Wesley Matthews, POR (at NYK), SG/SF ($5,800)
: The Knicks seem ready to implode at any minute and happen to allow the fifth most three-pointers in the league. Portland, of course, leads the league in three-pointers and Matthews is a key component to that (he's fourth in the NBA with 126). Matthews is obviously limited elsewhere, but is a good breakout candidate at a mid salary.
Other suggestions: Bradley Beal
, WAS (vs. SA) SG ($6,300); Gerald Green
, PHO (at HOU), SG/SF ($5,500); Jamal Crawford
, LAC (vs. MIA), PG/SG ($6,000).
DeMar DeRozan, TOR (at SAC) SG/SF ($7,600)
: Similar to Lawson, DeRozan missed a couple of games earlier last week but has returned to his usual numbers since getting back on the court. He plays a ton of minutes (sixth in the league at 37.7) and not so coincidentally, gets a ton of looks offensively — especially since the team dealt Rudy Gay
in December. It's a small sample, but in the three games since he's been back, DeRozan is averaging 26.0 points and 5.7 assists while shooting slightly better than average (44 percent). It's a good matchup against the Kings, who are 29th in defensive efficiency this year and are particularly bad inside 10 feet. They're 29th in opponents' field goal percentage in the restricted area and 26th in the paint. These are two areas DeRozan depends on due to his slashing ability.
Other suggestions: Jeff Green
, BOS (at PHI), SG/SF ($6,300); Nicolas Batum
, POR (at NYK), SG/SF ($6,800); Wilson Chandler
, DEN (vs. MIL), SG/SF ($5,900); Wesley Johnson
, LAL (at CLE), SG/SF ($3,900).
Terrence Jones, HOU (vs. PHO) SF/PF ($5,900)
: He's pretty much an afterthought in Houston's offense, but Jones plays enough minutes and does enough of the little things to get his shots. Since Jan. 1, he's averaging 15.8 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 33.6 minutes, which probably warrants a higher salary (he does elsewhere). The matchup with Phoenix isn't necessarily good or bad, but the Suns like to run as much as anyone (sixth in pace), typically leading to more offense. They're also travelling on the back end of a back-to-back after losing to Chicago at home last night, another reason for increased offense.
Other suggestions: Paul Millsap
, ATL (at NOP), PF/C ($8,600); Zach Randolph
, MEM (vs. DAL), PF/C ($8,000); Markieff Morris
, PHO (at HOU), PF/C ($5,500); Chris Bosh
, MIA (at LAC), PF/C ($6,700).
J.J. Hickson, DEN (vs. MIL), PF/C ($6,100)
: He's on back-to-back double-doubles and has 10 since Christmas. What's particularly encouraging is his minutes are up, but so is his field goal percentage — he's around 55 percent over the last month. Again, the Bucks are a great matchup overall (not necessarily against Larry Sanders
), and Denver should be able to get their offense going, offering a potential 15 or 20-point night for Hickson. There are a few good double-double options elsewhere at reasonable salaries, but Hickson's is the most promising.
Other suggestions: Spencer Hawes
, PHI (vs. BOS), PF/C ($6,700); Jared Sullinger
, BOS (at PHI), PF/C ($5,900); Jonas Valanciunas
, TOR (at SAC) C ($6,000).
(leg) has been out since November and is still without a timetable.
(shoulder) is hoping to return either Friday or Sunday.
(knee) could miss up to another month.
(groin) will be out until after the All-Star break.
(knee) probably won't return until after the break.
(ankle) was hurt Tuesday and will miss the rest of L.A.'s road trip.
(hand) missed another game Monday and his status is still unknown.
(ankle) will be evaluated again next week, but is probably out until after the break.
(ankle) should miss a few weeks with the dreaded high ankle sprain.
(illness) didn't practice Tuesday and is unlikely to go Wednesday.
(ankle) will be re-evaluated in a few days.
(back) is still at least a month away from returning.
(ribs) left Monday's game and his status is unknown for Wednesday.
(leg) is still without a timetable.
(elbow) will be out until at least after the All-Star break.
(ankle) did not play Monday.
(knee) will be sidelined through the break and into late February.
(knee) didn't travel on their recent two-game road trip, but the Magic are back home Wednesday.
(knee) is at least out until after the All-Star break.
(hamstring) likely won't return until after the break.
(finger) is still a few weeks away from returning.
(personal) did not play Monday, and his status is unknown for Wednesday.
(shoulder) will start Wednesday.
(thigh) has yet to participate in practice.
(knee) was a full participant in practice on Monday and could play Wednesday.
(ear) was cleared to travel for Wednesday's game.
(hamstring) did not play Tuesday despite claiming he was ready to go.
(head) left Tuesday's game with a headache after a shot to the head. Not likely to go in the back end on Wednesday.
(back) returned Tuesday, but is not expected to play in both games of a back-to-back.
(wrist) says he will likely play on Wednesday.
(knee) practiced Tuesday and said he'll play Wednesday.