There has been a lot of interest recently on social media, forums, blogs and podcasts, particularly the Red Rock Fantasy Basketball (RRFB) podcast, around preparing for the playoffs in head-to-head leagues. Firstly, let me say, that with over six weeks left to play in the regular fantasy season, it is dangerous to start flirting with your roster and form this far out. However, because you are reading this article (and more than likely listen to the RRFB podcast) you are a dedicated owner that wants to be prepared to make a title run. Therefore, I am willing to help you out.
I should make it clear that what I am about to outline is mostly relevant to people who play in Yahoo leagues without a weekly games limit, but either way, I hope you find it interesting and informative and use this article to look closely at how the NBA schedule will affect your fantasy team come playoffs.
You may of already heard that the Cavaliers, Bulls, Magic and Suns have the worst playoff schedule because they have the least amount of games over the three fantasy playoff weeks (weeks 21, 22 and 23), playing just nine games.
However, total games played are not a true indicator of schedule strength. We need to look closer at the schedule and see not just how many games each team plays, but when these games are played.
The idea behind this is to spread as many players out over the week as possible. For arguments sake, let’s say that you are in a league that starts ten players with three bench spots. On a day with ten or more games being played you will likely have 13 players to choose from to start in your lineup. On a quieter day, when there are only three or four games played, you may only have four or five players to start. However, with some forward planning we may be able to spread this out more evenly. What if on a full day you have 11 players to choose from, so you only have one player on the bench, and on a quieter day you can have six or seven players playing. In effect you have then increased your games played by two games. In leagues that do not have a games limit on them, quantity over quality can often be the deciding factor.
With this in mind, I have taken a close look at the NBA schedule across weeks 21, 22 and 23 (March 16 to April 5 inclusive), which are the standard playoff weeks in Yahoo leagues, and also cross over into the playoffs in ESPN leagues, to see who plays the most games when the least number of games are scheduled, otherwise referred to as quality games.
Across these three weeks we have 21 days of basketball. There are 11 days on which there are seven games or fewer played. Why have I chosen seven games? Because firstly, there are no days where eight games of basketball are played so there is a natural break between seven games and nine games, and secondly, in week 23 (the Championship week) there are two days of seven games which I felt was important to include in the data, given this week decides the whole season.
The break down of the weeks look like this:
Week 1 (March 16-22) – Tuesday 5 games, Thursday 4 games and Saturday 5 games
Week 2 (March 23-29) – Monday 6 games, Tuesday 6 games, Thursday 1 game and Saturday 5 games
Now to the important part. Which teams play on these days and have the most quality games? I have included all the information in the tables below:
The Warriors and the Rockets have the best playoff schedule playing on seven of the eleven days with seven games or less. This means that owners of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and James Harden are going to benefit, but it also brings into play streaming options like Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala, Marreese Speights, Corey Brewer and Jason Terry. The Warriors play three times in both week two and three of the playoffs, allowing owners who have a bye in week one to load up on these guys.
The only team playing on six of these days is the Utah Jazz. They play twice in each week, which no other team does, giving them the best balanced schedule of any team. Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter owners are in luck, while Rudy Gobert owners may want to hold onto him if you are playoff bound.
The Milwaukee Bucks play five times, including twice in the semi final and Championship week. Considering Jason Kidd‘s deep (yet unreliable) rotation, all Bucks players can come under serious adding/streaming consideration (yes, even you Ersan).
There are a number of teams that play four games: the Hornets, Pistons, Lakers, Grizzlies, Heat, Suns, Trail Blazers and Spurs. The Heat play three of their four quality games during the Championship week so plan accordingly there as well. The Suns, despite their minimal nine games, are still playoff relevant with two games in week one and two games in week three. Do not write off Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas and Markieff Morris.
Who has the worst playoff schedule? The Magic. As mentioned, the Magic only play nine games over the three weeks with one quality game. Nikola Vucevic and Victor Oladipo should still make your best roster on heavy days, but it may be worth shopping Tobias Harris and Elfrid Payton if you are not going to use them.
The Raptors and Wizards play 11 games each during the playoffs, but with a single quality game. I am not saying trade John Wall or Kyle Lowry, but consider which borderline players from these team you are likely to need to achieve glory.
For those that play in ESPN leagues where your Championship week runs from week 23 (March 30) until the end of the regular season, the Hornets and the Kings play the most games at 10 each. All other teams play either eight or nine games, except for the Cavaliers who play seven. Please note that this is total games, not quality games as highlighted above. If you would like to know which teams play the most quality games, please let me know and I can provide you with this information.