Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Playing Matchups

On New Year’s Day, Eddy Curry scored 22 points against the Orlando Magic, his second-highest point total of the year. Then on Monday, Chris Bosh scored a season-high 25 points against the Magic, nearly doubling his season average, while teammate Morris Peterson lit up the Magic backcourt for a season-high 21 points. Now, we’re not going to claim that we saw these performances coming, but at the same time this wasn’t a total surprise. The Magic are currently giving up 101.7 points per game to their opponents, worst in the NBA. The odds are better for your players to have big games when their team is likely to top the century mark, and that’s just what happened to Curry, Bosh and Peterson.

Granted, this isn’t like football where you can start a player based on his matchup in one week. Taking a risk on a marginal player to have a big game against a poor defensive team will end up burning you more often than not. However, over the course of the season, the more that your players go up against the worst defenders in the league, the more chances they have for bigger games.

Right now, there are three teams in the league that are giving up over 100 points per game – the Magic, the Celtics and the Hawks. We took a look at the schedule to see who’s playing these teams the most over the rest of the season, and here they are:

Chicago Bulls – 10 games (2 vs. Magic, 4 each vs. Hawks and Celtics).
The Bulls are a great team to use this strategy on. With 10 games against the worst defenders in the league (nearly 1 in 5 of their remaining games), players like Curry, Kirk Hinrich, and Ben Gordon may have more value than you think. However, players like Tyson Chandler, a mostly defensive presence, probably won’t be used much in these games.

Detroit Pistons – 10 games (4 vs. Magic, 3 each vs. Hawks and Celtics).
Keep in mind, this strategy doesn’t work all the time. If the game turns into a blowout, the starters will spend most of the 4th quarter on the bench, so they may not live up to your expectations. This is likely the case with the defensive-minded Pistons, who will slow down the game to their level. Plus, you have to figure they will heat up at some point and when they do, blowouts against the worse teams become more likely.

New Jersey Nets – 9 games (1 vs. Hawks, 4 each vs. Magic and Celtics).
The Nets, well, at this point you just don’t know. This team has too many question marks with injuries and rotation questions to really get a feel for who’s going to be stepping up in these games. Vince Carter scored 31 last night but could be out for the year at any moment. Jason Kidd can be an All-Star, or trade bait. Richard Jefferson is a stud when he’s the #1 man out on the court, but last night he was a clear number 3 option. It’s just too tough to call right now.

Charlotte Bobcats – 9 games (3 each vs. Hawks, Celtics, and Magic).
If there is one player that through all this research has really caught my attention, it’s Emeka Okafor. Usually in these situations, it’s the young bigs (like Curry and Bosh from above) that have big games because if they get confident early, they’re hard to slow down. The backcourt is too jumbled to really know what to expect, but Okafor and possibly Primoz Brezec could be great candidates for midseason trades.

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