Matchups for Saturday, Dec. 20
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 team's rebounds per game and its opponents' rebounds per game.
Elton Brand, PF, Sixers (shoulder)
Mike Dunleavy, SG/SF, Pacers (knee)
Kirk Hinrich, PG/SG, Bulls (thumb)
Chris Kaman, C, Clippers (foot)
Corey Maggette, SG/SF, Warriors (hamstring)
Kevin Martin, SG, Kings (ankle)
Sean May, PF, Bobcats (knee)
Malik Allen, PF, Bucks (rib)
Rafer Alston, PG, Rockets (hamstring)
Carlos Boozer, PF, Jazz (quadriceps)
Ricky Davis, SG/SF, Clippers (knee)
T.J. Ford, PG, Pacers (groin)
Pau Gasol, PF/C, Lakers (throat)
Troy Murphy, PF/C, Pacers (virus)
Mickael Pietrus, SG/SF, Magic (thumb)
Peja Stojakovic, SF, Hornets (back)
Tyrus Thomas, PF, Bulls (concussion)
Gerald Wallace, SF/PF, Bobcats (personal)
Start 'em, sit 'em
The Lakers rank fourth in defensive efficiency, but don't be afraid to play Jameer Nelson -- Los Angeles allows an 18.4 PER to opposing point guards, four points higher than any other position. Thaddeus Young is expected to step in and start at power forward in place of Elton Brand, and has a tasty matchup against the Pacers. They are 20th in defensive efficiency, and struggle particularly against opposing power forwards -- and that's not even including the possibility of Troy Murphy missing another game. If Murphy does miss another game, the Pacers might have to start Danny Granger at power forward and play small, like they did against the Warriors. The Sixers likely will play at a quicker tempo with Brand on the shelf, and the Pacers themselves are fourth in possessions per game. The Rockets are seventh in opponent field goal percentage and fifth in opponent 3-point percentage, and now have Tracy McGrady and Ron Artest presumably healthy. It wouldn't be surprising if Mike Miller, Randy Foye and Ryan Gomes -- three volume jump-shooters -- all struggled with their shots.
As long as Corey Maggette is out -- which, for the injury-prone forward with a bothersome hamstring, could be weeks -- Marco Belinelli is a must-grab. He's averaging 20 points, five assists and 3.5 3-pointers his past two games, and should be a lock for 30-plus minutes as long as Maggette is on the sidelines. Don't forget about Kelenna Azubuike, either, who has logged 37 minutes in consecutive games. Hamstring injuries tend to linger, so keep Aaron Brooks in mind as a quick fix at point -- he logged 42 minutes and scored 16 points, dished out six assists and nailed two 3s when he started for Rafer Alston on Tuesday. Rasual Butler is averaging 4.7 3-point attempts in December, converting 39.4 percent of them. Not only are the Kings second-to-last in defensive efficiency, they're last in 3-point percentage allowed, too. They're also eighth in possessions per game, so Butler is a good bet to exceed his usual number of attempts and be a cheap source of 3s. He'll also see more run than usual if Peja Stojakovic's back keeps him out another game. Lou Williams is averaging 15.9 points and shooting nearly 49 percent from the field this month, and as noted earlier, the Sixers are going to be forced to play smaller in order to get their best players on the floor. Williams could go off against a soft Pacers defense.
Adam Madison is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.