Tuesday night was sort of like Christmas Day for some of us, as the NBA schedule was officially released. I felt like Steve Martin in The Jerk. “The new phone books are here!” While many websites will be breaking down your favorite team's schedule, or maybe when the glamorous matchups are taking place and what to look for in them, Rotoworld is a fantasy site. And what should really matter to all of us is how many games guys are playing each week, which teams have the best fantasy playoff schedules, and how we can use the weekly schedule to our advantage and help us win our leagues.
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If you're in a daily lineup league, or a Rotisserie format, you might think that looking at the schedule is useless. But the bottom line is that having more games played than your opponent, if the players are similar, can be a huge advantage. And unless you're in a league that limits each position to 82 (or should I say 66) games, this information can help you. Even though you may play in a Roto league, you're still trying to accumulate stats, and trading players based on their schedule can bring back big results.
An example this year is that the Thunder start out by playing five times in each of the first two weeks, while the Clippers start out with just six games over the same time frame. By drafting Serge Ibaka and then trading him for DeAndre Jordan after Week 2, you'd pick up an extra four games, and possibly a more dynamic player. And if you happen to be in a H2H playoff league where the games played really do matter, even better. Jordan will still have a couple 5-game weeks coming up, as well as a cherry playoff schedule of 4-4-4-4, while the Thunder play one less game down the stretch and no more than four games in any week remaining. That's just an example of how using the games-played schedule can work to your advantage.
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In any case, here are some highlights of what I see from the weekly schedule break down and how you can use it to your advantage. The Draft Guide, which is now available, will have the schedule grid, as well as a more in depth look at every team's schedule.
Week 1 – Christmas + 7
I'm assuming that fantasy sites will count Sunday's Christmas Day Games as part of Week 1. There's really no other way to do it, so I'm pretty confident that Week 1 should run from Sunday, 12/25 to Sunday, 1/7 in almost all formats. Normally, weeks run from Monday through Sunday, and should starting with Week 2. And speaking of Week 1, with 12 teams in action on Christmas Day, nine teams get one of their 5-game weeks out of the way opening week. Additionally the Lakers actually (gasp) play six times in Week 1, and are the only team on the schedule with a No. 6 for games in a week.
There should be 18 weeks on the schedule this year, and for the first time, we'll see the All-Star break actually happen at the midway point. So when we refer to the “first half” and “second half” this season, we'll actually mean it. Week 9 is the All-Star break and Week 18 is the final week of the season. Teams play anywhere from 1-3 games on both weeks, but I tend to ignore them in these discussions, for the most part. So when I refer to a number of 3-game weeks, etc., those two weeks are not included, because every team is playing fewer than four games in those two stanzas.
Teams are going to play 66 games this season and here are some general facts you need to know.
The Grizzlies have three 5-game weeks, while the Timberwolves, Knicks and Blazers don't have any. Everyone else falls somewhere in between. In head-to-head, having a guy going five, times, especially if it's a guy like Dwyane Wade or Kevin Love, can make your team unbeatable for that week.
The Timberwolves have a whopping 15 4-game weeks, while the Grizzlies have just eight of them. Four-game weeks are what you should be looking for when setting your weekly lineups this season. Anything less is nearly unacceptable. And the Grizzlies are deceptive, as they also have a league-high three 5-game weeks.
The Hawks, Grizzlies and Thunder all lead the way with five 3-game weeks, while the Pacers, Timberwolves and Knicks have just one 3-game week. Starting guys who only play three games this year is not going to be fun, and the Hawks schedule looks to be about as bad as it gets.
Despite the compact schedule, there are five teams who have a 2-game week outside of the All-Star break and final week: Pacers, Clippers, Knicks, Magic and Spurs. This isn't a huge deal, but something to be aware of.
Teams with a 5-game week in the final two full weeks of the season (16 & 17) – aka Fantasy Championship Week: Celtics, Bobcats, Cavaliers, Warriors, Rockets, Grizzlies, Heat and Spurs. That's it.
Best and Worst Schedules Overall
First Half Top 3 Schedules: Bulls, Pistons, Nets – Each team plays 33 games before the break.
First Half Bottom 3 Schedules: Warriors, Cavaliers, Clippers – GSW goes 28 times, while the other two play just 29 games before the break.
Second Half Top 2 Schedules: Warriors, Clippers – This shouldn't be a surprise, but trading to get players from these teams around the All-Star break makes a ton of sense. The Warriors play 34 times after the break and the Clippers go 33.
Second Half Bottom 3 Schedules: Bulls, Nuggets, Pistons, Nets, Knicks, Magic, Sixers, Spurs: Each team only plays 29 games after the break, excluding the two short weeks.
In short, trading trading Deron Williams to get Stephen Curry at the break should net you five extra games in return.
Playoff (Weeks 14-17) Top 3: Grizzlies, Bobcats, Cavaliers, Warriors, Pacers, Heat – All these guys have 17 games and at least one 5-game week in the playoffs, while the Grizzlies have TWO of them. Here's the breakdown for each. Obviously, in order to use this information effectively you have to find out exactly when your league playoffs and championship week run.
Playoff (Weeks 14-17) Bottom 3: Hawks, Bulls, Nets, Sixers – These teams play a total of 14 games in the season's final four weeks, which could make their players painful to own down the stretch.
I'm calling the Grizzlies' schedule the best, with the three 5-game weeks, two of which fall in the playoffs. It just doesn't get better, and they are not only strong in the playoffs, but great in the first half before a lull leading into the playoffs, where their schedule is superior. If you play in a league where games played each week really matter, go ahead and give Zach Randolph, Mike Conley, Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol and O.J. Mayo a boost on your cheat sheet. The Clippers schedule is also pretty awesome from top to bottom.
The Hawks schedule does absolutely nothing for me. They have two 5-game weeks, one in each half, but have too many 3-game weeks and a dreadful playoff schedule. Draft Hawks and then trade them off after week five, or just before the playoffs start. The Bulls start off with a bang and then it's all down hill, while the Nets will really let you down in those final two weeks of the playoffs with three games each week.
As I said earlier, the entire Schedule Grid, as well as a more thorough breakdown will be available in both the NBA Draft Guide and Season Pass, and I hope to see you there. I will be tweaking the final rankings in the Guide on Wednesday, and while there's already a ton of information there, we'll be adding to it as things come in (ADP, Mock Drafts, Free Agency Moves, etc.). And don't forget that the SP has exclusive live chats for members only, where nearly every question is answered, and we dig deep into everything you need to win your league. Good luck this year, and look for the Daily Dose, as well as other columns, to start appearing on the site in the very near future. And you can follow me on Twitter by clicking here.