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Drafting With The Fantasy Basketball Playoffs In Mind 2021-22

'Tis the season to be jolly, fantasy basketball is upon us! It's been a long wait, but October is finally here and NBA is starting in just a couple of weeks. I hope your pre-draft research is already underway, and that this article will be a nice addition to it.

The main goal of this article is to offer a different approach to the age-old question "who do I pick when both players are so close in value?". And the deciding factor I present here is the player's schedule for your fantasy leagues' playoffs.

In this article, you can read how to best use the NBA schedule when drafting, what to focus on when you're drafting in the early rounds, how to benefit from the schedule most when you're picking in the late rounds, and which teams and players have favorable fantasy playoffs schedules for the two most popular fantasy playoff times: Weeks 20-22 and Weeks 21-23. Of course, for this to be of any use, you must make your fantasy playoffs, so be sure to pick a quality team!

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received five total writing awards and 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, tops in the industry! Congrats to all the award winners and nominees including NBA Writer of the Year, Best NFL Series, MLB Series, PGA Writer and Player Notes writer of the year. Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!


How To Use This Guide

It's very important for me to point out that the schedule during your fantasy playoffs should not be the main criteria you use when drafting your team. 

The players' stats and ranks (both during their previous seasons and their projected stats for the upcoming season), your personal preferences and how they fit in the team that you drafted so far are all much more important than the schedule.

So, for example, even though Zach LaVine is a great fantasy player and he has a great schedule during the fantasy playoffs (11 games during Weeks 21-23), you should by no means draft him ahead of let's say, Giannis Antetokounmpo, even though Giannis plays one fewer game than LaVine in those three weeks.

This guide is designed to help you make a decision in a situation where you're torn between two players of similar value and you don't prefer one over the other.

Here's an example. You've got the ninth pick in your draft, you're choosing between Joel Embiid and Jayson Tatum and you have no personal preference between the two. Embiid had a stellar 2020-21 season and came in behind only Nikola Jokic in the MVP voting which gives him a slight edge over Tatum. However, Tatum's durability combined with the "Ben Simmons conundrum" surrounding Philly are things that might sway fantasy GMs towards the leader of the Boston Celtics.

So, what to do when neither of these arguments is enough to make a decision?

This is the time to potentially look to the schedule for guidance. If your playoffs are in Weeks 21-23 you might want to go with Embiid as he has 12 games over these three weeks compared to Tatum's 10. These two extra games from your first-round pick can make a world of a difference in those tough, close playoff matchups and ultimately be the deciding factor between lifting the trophy and being edged out by five points and a rebound in your Semifinals.


Different Approaches For The Early and Later Rounds

How to approach the early picks with this tie-breaking strategy?

If you find yourself in the situation to use the schedule as a tie-breaker between two similar players in the early rounds, you should be focusing on the Total number of games a certain player has during the playoffs.

Players you pick in the first couple of rounds will be the guys who carry your team and provide the most stats. Having an extra game from a guy like James Harden can be huge in a weekly matchup during the playoffs. Moreover, if healthy, Harden will never be on your bench, so the only thing you care about is how many games he plays.

And what about the later picks?

Once we step into the later rounds of the draft there is less per-game value to these players and an extra game from them doesn't give you a huge advantage, especially when compared to studs like The Beard.

Furthermore, if your league settings allow a limited amount of starting spots, and you do a daily setup, you could easily find yourself benching a guy ranked at No. 110 on a day with plenty of games played.

So even though you can use total games played during the playoffs for your later picks as well, I would suggest you focus more on the "Quality games played" instead. These are games that are played on nights with five or fewer games.

Why is this so important?

Well, let's take a guy like my man Bogdan Bogdanovic for an example. I wouldn't mind picking him up at around the 85th pick in a standard 9-cat head-to-head league. But if I am in a shallow league (10-team), and I picked 2Bog in the 9th round, then I statistically have 8 players that I picked ahead of him in my draft and I value more than him. If my roster has only 7 starting spots, and it's a crowded night with 13 games played it could easily happen that I bench Bogdan for that night. So, him having that extra game turns out not to be beneficial at all for me.

On the other hand, if I focus on his quality games there is a lot more value because I know I will put him in my team on those days when most of my other guys don't play and I will take advantage of the poor schedule of opposing teams with maximizing my games played on scarce days through my later picks.

So, to summarize:

When I'm picking a star player in the first few rounds the only thing I care about is how many games he will play because I will start him no matter what.

When I'm picking my "role players" in the later rounds I pay more attention to their quality games because:
1. there is a chance I will bench them if my starting roster is filled on a day with plenty of games
2. those quality games will come in handy to fill out my starting roster on scarce days and will maximize my Games played for the week.


Which Teams Have a Good/Bad Schedule For Weeks 20-22

Early round picks (Weeks 20-22)

The table below shows the Total number of games each team has during Weeks 20-22

Team W20 W21 W22 Total
Utah Jazz 4 4 4 12
Atlanta Hawks 4 4 3 11
Dallas Mavericks 4 3 4 11
Detroit Pistons 4 3 4 11
Houston Rockets 4 3 4 11
Los Angeles Lakers 4 4 3 11
Minnesota Timberwolves 4 3 4 11
New Orleans Pelicans 4 3 4 11
New York Knicks 4 3 4 11
Philadelphia 76ers 3 4 4 11
Phoenix Suns 4 4 3 11
Portland Trail Blazers 3 4 4 11
Washington Wizards 3 4 4 11
Brooklyn Nets 3 3 4 10
Charlotte Hornets 3 3 4 10
Chicago Bulls 3 3 4 10
Cleveland Cavaliers 3 4 3 10
Denver Nuggets 3 4 3 10
Golden State Warriors 3 3 4 10
Miami Heat 4 2 4 10
Oklahoma City Thunder 3 4 3 10
Orlando Magic 4 3 3 10
San Antonio Spurs 4 4 2 10
Toronto Raptors 3 4 3 10
Boston Celtics 3 3 3 9
Indiana Pacers 3 3 3 9
Los Angeles Clippers 4 3 2 9
Memphis Grizzlies 3 3 3 9
Milwaukee Bucks 3 3 3 9
Sacramento Kings 3 4 2 9

Players to target:
As we can see, only the Utah Jazz play 12 games, with 12 other teams having 11 games during the Weeks 20-22 - Atlanta Hawks, Dallas Mavericks, Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans, New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Portland Trail Blazers and Washington Wizards. This makes their star (top-50ish) players slightly more desirable.

Utah Jazz: Rudy Gobert (ranked #30 on Yahoo), Donovan Mitchell (#33)
Atlanta Hawks: Trae Young (#12), John Collins (#45), Clint Capela (#46)
Dallas Mavericks:Luka Doncic (#3), Kristaps Porzingis (#43)
Detroit Pistons: -
Houston Rockets: Christian Wood (#35)
Los Angeles Lakers: Anthony Davis (#11), Russell Westbrook (#17), LeBron James (#26)
Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns (#9)
New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson (#27), Brandon Ingram (#42), Jonas Valanciunas (#47)
New York Knicks: Julius Randle (#31)
Philadelphia 76ers: Joel Embiid (#8), Tobias Harris (#37)
Phoenix Suns: Chris Paul (#24), Deandre Ayton (#29), Devin Booker (#38)
Portland Trail Blazers: Damian Lillard (#7)
Washington Wizards: Bradley Beal(#15)

Players to avoid:
There are also six teams with just nine games in that same period so it might be beneficial to avoid them if there are other options of equal quality available as their poor playoff schedule might see you lose a close matchup due to a few counting stats which another game from your first or second-round pick would swing into your favor.

Boston Celtics: Jayson Tatum (#10), Jaylen Brown (#26), Robert Williams (#48)
Indiana Pacers: Domantas Sabonis (#23), Myles Turner (#39)
Los Angeles Clippers: Paul George (#13)
Memphis Grizzlies: Jaren Jackson Jr. (#50), Ja Morant (#51)
Milwaukee Bucks: Giannis Antetokounmpo (#2), Khris Middleton (#32), Jrue Holiday (#40)
Sacramento Kings: Richaun Holmes (#36), Tyrese Haliburton (#49), De'Aaron Fox (#56)


Late round picks (Weeks 20-22)

The table below shows the number of Quality games each team has during Weeks 20-22.

Team W20 W21 W22 Total
Denver Nuggets 1 0 2 3
Detroit Pistons 0 3 0 3
Milwaukee Bucks 0 1 2 3
Orlando Magic 0 2 1 3
Brooklyn Nets 1 1 0 2
Chicago Bulls 0 0 2 2
Cleveland Cavaliers 0 1 1 2
Golden State Warriors 1 0 1 2
Indiana Pacers 0 1 1 2
Memphis Grizzlies 0 1 1 2
New Orleans Pelicans 0 1 1 2
Phoenix Suns 0 1 1 2
Washington Wizards 0 1 1 2
Atlanta Hawks 0 0 1 1
Charlotte Hornets 0 1 0 1
Dallas Mavericks 0 1 0 1
Los Angeles Clippers 0 0 1 1
Los Angeles Lakers 0 1 0 1
Miami Heat 0 1 0 1
Minnesota Timberwolves 0 1 0 1
New York Knicks 0 0 1 1
Philadelphia 76ers 1 0 0 1
Toronto Raptors 0 0 1 1
Boston Celtics 0 0 0 0
Houston Rockets 0 0 0 0
Oklahoma City Thunder 0 0 0 0
Portland Trail Blazers 0 0 0 0
Sacramento Kings 0 0 0 0
San Antonio Spurs 0 0 0 0
Utah Jazz 0 0 0 0

Players to target:
Denver, Detroit, Milwaukee and Orlando have three quality games during weeks 20-22 which means that picking players from these teams will make it easier for you to fill out your rosters even on those scarce days during the playoffs, which could result in you having more games played than your opponent and ultimately be the deciding factor in who wins the matchup.

Nine teams have two quality games in these three weeks: Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, Indiana Pacers, Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Pelicans, Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards. Their players are also good targets later on in the draft.

Players to avoid:
Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs and Utah Jazz have no quality games so lower-ranked players from these teams could end up warming your bench on more than one occasion during that important stretch in the fantasy playoffs. If there are options from other teams available that suit your team equally well, perhaps you would be better off with them.


Which Teams Have a Good/Bad Schedule for Weeks 21-23

Early round picks (Weeks 21-23)

The table below shows the Total number of games each team has during Weeks 21-23

Team W21 W22 W23 Total
Philadelphia 76ers 4 4 4 12
Portland Trail Blazers 4 4 4 12
Washington Wizards 4 4 4 12
Chicago Bulls 3 4 4 11
Cleveland Cavaliers 4 3 4 11
Dallas Mavericks 3 4 4 11
Denver Nuggets 4 3 4 11
Detroit Pistons 3 4 4 11
Golden State Warriors 3 4 4 11
Houston Rockets 3 4 4 11
Los Angeles Lakers 4 3 4 11
New York Knicks 3 4 4 11
Oklahoma City Thunder 4 3 4 11
Toronto Raptors 4 3 4 11
Utah Jazz 4 4 3 11
Atlanta Hawks 4 3 3 10
Boston Celtics 3 3 4 10
Brooklyn Nets 3 4 3 10
Charlotte Hornets 3 4 3 10
Indiana Pacers 3 3 4 10
Miami Heat 2 4 4 10
Milwaukee Bucks 3 3 4 10
Minnesota Timberwolves 3 4 3 10
New Orleans Pelicans 3 4 3 10
Orlando Magic 3 3 4 10
Phoenix Suns 4 3 3 10
Sacramento Kings 4 2 4 10
San Antonio Spurs 4 2 4 10
Los Angeles Clippers 3 2 4 9
Memphis Grizzlies 3 3 3 9

Players to target:

Philla, Portland and Washington all have 12 games apiece during Weeks 21-23 which is very useful for fantasy manager of their star players. 12 other teams have 11 games so we have a broader range of players to target in the first round.

Philadelphia 76ers: Joel Embiid (#8), Tobias Harris (#37)
Portland Trail Blazers: Damian Lillard (#7)
Washington Wizards: Bradley Beal(#15)
Chicago Bulls: Nikola Vucevic (#14), Zach LaVine (#21), Lonzo Ball (#41), DeMar DeRozan (#52)
Cleveland Cavaliers: -
Dallas Mavericks: Luka Doncic (#3), Kristaps Porzingis (#43)
Denver Nuggets: Nikola Jokic (#1), Michael Porter Jr. (#22)
Detroit Pistons: -
Houston Rockets: Christian Wood (#35)
Golden State Warriors:Stephen Curry (#6)
Los Angeles Lakers: Anthony Davis (#11), Russell Westbrook (#17), LeBron James (#26)
New York Knicks: Julius Randle (#31)
Oklahoma City Thunder:Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (#28)
Toronto Raptors: Fred VanVleet (#19), OG Anunoby (#44)
Utah Jazz: Rudy Gobert (#30), Donovan Mitchell (#33)

Players to avoid:

The Clippers and the Grizzlies are the only two teams with only nine games during Weeks 21-23 so their stars won't help you as much during the playoffs as top picks from other teams so there is a case to avoid them.

Los Angeles Clippers: Paul George (#13)
Memphis Grizzlies: Jaren Jackson Jr. (#50), Ja Morant (#51)

Late round picks (Weeks 21-22)

The table below shows the number of Quality games each team has during Weeks 21-23

Team W21 W22 W23 Total
Chicago Bulls 0 2 3 5
Detroit Pistons 3 0 2 5
Milwaukee Bucks 1 2 2 5
Brooklyn Nets 1 0 3 4
Cleveland Cavaliers 1 1 1 3
Los Angeles Clippers 0 1 2 3
Los Angeles Lakers 1 0 2 3
Orlando Magic 2 1 0 3
Philadelphia 76ers 0 0 3 3
Utah Jazz 0 0 3 3
Washington Wizards 1 1 1 3
Atlanta Hawks 0 1 1 2
Charlotte Hornets 1 0 1 2
Dallas Mavericks 1 0 1 2
Denver Nuggets 0 2 0 2
Golden State Warriors 0 1 1 2
Indiana Pacers 1 1 0 2
Memphis Grizzlies 1 1 0 2
Miami Heat 1 0 1 2
New Orleans Pelicans 1 1 0 2
New York Knicks 0 1 1 2
Phoenix Suns 1 1 0 2
Minnesota Timberwolves 1 0 0 1
Toronto Raptors 0 1 0 1
Boston Celtics 0 0 0 0
Houston Rockets 0 0 0 0
Oklahoma City Thunder 0 0 0 0
Portland Trail Blazers 0 0 0 0
Sacramento Kings 0 0 0 0
San Antonio Spurs 0 0 0 0

Players to target:
With the Bulls, Pistons and Bucks having FIVE games on days with five or fewer games played, their players that fit your team build should definitely be your targets throughout the draft. The Nets have four games, so their players are decent picks as well.

Players to avoid:
Six teams (Boston, Houston, Oklahoma City, Portland, Sacramento and San Antonio) have no quality games in this period so their players won't contribute to you maximizing your starting spots for the playoffs. If there are other options from different teams that suit your team and that you like I suggest you favor them instead.

I hope you guys enjoyed this approach to the conundrum of "Who to pick - Player A or Player B". I wish you the best of luck in the upcoming fantasy NBA season, and let the player you picked following this advice decide your playoff final in your favor!

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We may be in the heat of basketball season, but we're discussing a different kind of rebound today. Some of the most talented athletes in the world have suboptimal seasons but there's often a bounceback year in the near future. The talent isn't waning, the circumstances surrounding them have been altered. Below we dive into... Read More

Jayden Reed - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, Waiver Wire Pickups

Early 2024 Wide Receiver Sleepers And Draft Targets For Fantasy Football

There should be a lot of changes atop the wide receiver group in fantasy football next year. Players like Stefon Diggs, Davante Adams, and Cooper Kupp will all fall in drafts, while Puka Nacua will fly up drafts boards in 2024. Nacua will go from undrafted in 2023 to a likely top-20 pick this upcoming... Read More

Dan Campbell - NFL Head Coach, NFC, Detroit Lions

FFPC Dynasty Fantasy Football Orphan Teams: An Authentic Challenge

At its very core, the game of fantasy football is intended to deliver a unique experience in which you are an NFL owner, general manager, and head coach, all in one role. Seasonal fantasy football replicates the responsibilities in fun, user-friendly packaging, but fantasy football dynasty leagues appeal even more to a savvy fantasy player... Read More

2024 Dynasty Rookie Mock Draft: Fantasy Football Studs, Sleepers, and Values

Football never sleeps at RotoBaller! With the Scouting Combine underway and the NFL Draft season heating up, the countdown is on for 2024 fantasy football. We're taking a first look at how things might shape up in Dynasty fantasy drafts with our first Rookie Mock Draft of 2024. RotoBaller analysts Brandon Murchison and LaQuan Jones... Read More

Dak Prescott - Fantasy Football Rankings, NFL Injury News, DFS Lineup Picks

Biggest Quarterback Surprises - Fantasy Football Year In Review

The 2023 fantasy football season is in the rearview mirror. While the upcoming fantasy season is still months away, it’s never too early to start preparing. One of the more critical things fantasy players can do to prepare is look back at the previous season and look at trends and surprises. Let’s look at the... Read More

Tyjae Spears - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, Waiver Wire Pickups

Early 2024 Running Back Sleepers And Draft Targets For Fantasy Football

Running backs have always dominated the first round of fantasy drafts, but that has changed in recent years. Taking a wide receiver in the first round has become a more likely strategy by fantasy managers. In 2024 drafts, more wideouts should be going in the first round than running backs. However, that doesn't mean running... Read More

Latest Updates on Injured NFL Quarterbacks: Aaron Rodgers, Kirk Cousins, Anthony Richardson, Joe Burrow, Deshaun Watson, and Daniel Jones

The 2024 offseason is still in the early stages, but it's time to check on six franchise quarterbacks who suffered major injuries during the 2023 campaign. A franchise missing its quarterback to begin a season can mightily derail its chances to win, creating a massive hole to climb out of. We have the latest injury... Read More