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Drafting With The Fantasy Basketball Playoffs In Mind

Praise the Lord, it's fantasy basketball time again! And even though the season is over a month away, it's never too early to start preparing. The research you do before your draft is the most important research of the whole season. It will determine if you pick the right strategy, the right players, and most importantly if you beat all your friends to win that lucrative title "NBA fantasy champion"!

Today, I will answer a question that has bugged every fantasy owner at one point or the other during our respective drafts: "Who do I choose when I'm completely torn between two or more available players?". For this, we will use our own version of the magic eight-ball - the NBA 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 21-23 and Weeks 22-24. 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: Get any full-season NBA and DFS Premium Pass for 50% off. Our exclusive Preseason Draft Kit, 10 In-Season Lineup/DFS tools, and daily Premium DFS Research. Sign Up Now!


How to use this guide

It's very important for me to point out that the schedule during your fantasy playoffs should not 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 Rudy Gobert is a great fantasy player and he has a great schedule during the fantasy playoffs, you should by no means draft him ahead of let's say, Stephen Curry, even though Steph plays one fewer game than Rudy in those three weeks.

But, this guide can come in handy in a situation where you're torn between two players of similar value and you don't have a preference to either one of them.

For example, you're completely torn at the #8 pick between Damian Lillard and Bradley Beal. Yes, Lillard is historically a better player, more proven and has never missed more than 10 games in any of his seasons, but you're just not sure he can keep it up, or you're expecting Beal to take another step forward with John Wall sidelined for another season and there is nothing separating the two of them in your mind.

The fact that Beal has 11 games during the three fantasy playoff weeks compared to Lillard's 10 can be the deciding factor as to why you went with Beal over Dame. And more importantly, it can be the deciding factor in your playoff matchup during the week where Beal has that extra game.


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, 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 big 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 #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 have him projected at #100 for the upcoming season. But if I am in a shallow league (10-team), and I picked 2Bog in the 10th round, then I statistically have 9 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 12 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 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 Week 21 Week 22 Week 23 Total
Boston Celtics 4 3 4 11
San Antonio Spurs 3 4 4 11
Utah Jazz 4 4 3 11
Washington Wizards 3 4 4 11
Atlanta Hawks 3 4 3 10
Brooklyn Nets 4 2 4 10
Charlotte Hornets 4 3 3 10
Chicago Bulls 4 3 3 10
Dallas Mavericks 3 4 3 10
Denver Nuggets 4 3 3 10
Golden State Warriors 3 4 3 10
Houston Rockets 3 3 4 10
Los Angeles Clippers 3 3 4 10
Los Angeles Lakers 3 4 3 10
Memphis Grizzlies 3 4 3 10
Milwaukee Bucks 3 3 4 10
Minnesota Timberwolves 3 4 3 10
New Orleans Pelicans 3 4 3 10
New York Knicks 3 3 4 10
Orlando Magic 3 3 4 10
Philadelphia 76ers 2 4 4 10
Portland Trail Blazers 3 3 4 10
Cleveland Cavaliers 3 3 3 9
Detroit Pistons 2 3 4 9
Indiana Pacers 2 3 4 9
Miami Heat 3 3 3 9
Oklahoma City Thunder 3 3 3 9
Phoenix Suns 2 3 4 9
Sacramento Kings 2 4 3 9
Toronto Raptors 2 4 3 9

Players to target:
As we can see, only four teams have 11 games during the Weeks 21-23 - Boston, San Antonio, Utah, and Washington. This makes their star players slightly more desirable.

Boston Celtics: Kemba Walker (ranked #16 on Yahoo)
San Antonio Spurs: LaMarcus Aldridge (#44), DeMar DeRozan (#49)
Utah Jazz: Rudy Gobert (#22), Donovan Mitchell (#30), Mike Conley (#38)
Washington Wizards: Bradley Beal (#11)

Players to avoid:
There are also eight teams with just nine games in that same period so it might be beneficial, come your playoffs, to avoid them if there are other options of equal quality available.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Kevin Love (#41)
Detroit Pistons: 
Andre Drummond (#23), Blake Griffin (#41)
Indiana Pacers:
Myles Turner (#21)
Miami Heat: 
Jimmy Butler (#15), Bam Adebayo (#42)
Oklahoma City Thunder: 
Chris Paul (#26)
Phoenix Suns: 
Devin Booker (#18), Deandre Ayton (#28)
Sacramento Kings: 
De'Aaron Fox (#41), Buddy Hield (#46)
Toronto Raptors
: Pascal Siakam (#39), Kyle Lowry (#50)


Late round picks (Weeks 21-23)

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

Team Week 21 Week 22 Week 23 Total
Milwaukee Bucks 2 1 - 3
Portland Trail Blazers 1 2 - 3
Charlotte Hornets 1 1 - 2
Denver Nuggets 1 1 - 2
Houston Rockets 1 1 - 2
Los Angeles Lakers 1 1 - 2
Memphis Grizzlies 1 1 - 2
Orlando Magic 1 1 - 2
Sacramento Kings 0 2 - 2
Toronto Raptors 1 1 - 2
Utah Jazz 1 1 - 2
Atlanta Hawks 1 0 - 1
Boston Celtics 1 0 - 1
Brooklyn Nets 1 0 - 1
Chicago Bulls 1 0 - 1
Cleveland Cavaliers 0 1 - 1
Dallas Mavericks 0 1 - 1
Detroit Pistons 0 1 - 1
Golden State Warriors 1 0 - 1
Minnesota Timberwolves 0 1 - 1
New Orleans Pelicans 0 1 - 1
Philadelphia 76ers 0 1 - 1
San Antonio Spurs 0 1 - 1
Indiana Pacers 0 0 - 0
Los Angeles Clippers 0 0 - 0
Miami Heat 0 0 - 0
New York Knicks 0 0 - 0
Oklahoma City Thunder 0 0 - 0
Phoenix Suns 0 0 - 0
Washington Wizards 0 0 - 0

*All days in Week 23 have between six and nine games so no teams have any quality games

Players to target:
This shows us that we can do really well with filling out our starting rosters on those days with just a few games played if we pick guys from Milwaukee (Eric Bledsoe, Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez) and Portland (CJ McCollum, Hassan WhitesideZach CollinsKent Bazemore) in the later rounds.

Beware though, if you are in a deeper league guys like Bledsoe, Middleton, Brook, and CJ are 3rd or 4th round picks and have more of an impact on your team compared to shallower leagues, so at this point you might still want to use the Total number of games instead of Quality games as a tie-breaker.

Nine teams have two quality games in these three weeks: Charlotte, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Memphis, Orlando, Sacramento, Toronto, and Utah. Their players are also good targets later on in the draft.

Players to avoid:
Indiana, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami, New York, Oklahoma City, Phoenix, and Washington 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 during 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 22-24

Early round picks (Weeks 22-24)

The table below shows the Total number of games each team has during Weeks 22-24

Team Week 22 Week 23 Week 24 Total
Indiana Pacers 3 4 4 11
Los Angeles Lakers 4 3 4 11
Memphis Grizzlies 4 3 4 11
Minnesota Timberwolves 4 3 4 11
Philadelphia 76ers 4 4 3 11
Phoenix Suns 3 4 4 11
Sacramento Kings 4 3 4 11
San Antonio Spurs 4 4 3 11
Toronto Raptors 4 3 4 11
Utah Jazz 4 3 4 11
Washington Wizards 4 4 3 11
Atlanta Hawks 4 3 3 10
Boston Celtics 3 4 3 10
Brooklyn Nets 2 4 4 10
Charlotte Hornets 3 3 4 10
Cleveland Cavaliers 3 3 4 10
Dallas Mavericks 4 3 3 10
Denver Nuggets 3 3 4 10
Detroit Pistons 3 4 3 10
Golden State Warriors 4 3 3 10
Houston Rockets 3 4 3 10
Los Angeles Clippers 3 4 3 10
Miami Heat 3 3 4 10
Milwaukee Bucks 3 4 3 10
New Orleans Pelicans 4 3 3 10
New York Knicks 3 4 3 10
Oklahoma City Thunder 3 3 4 10
Orlando Magic 3 4 3 10
Portland Trail Blazers 3 4 3 10
Chicago Bulls 3 3 3 9

We can see that Weeks 22-24 are a lot more evened out with only the Bulls playing nine games, 11 teams playing 11 games and the rest of the pack having 10 games in that period.

Players to target:
Indiana Pacers: Myles Turner (#21)
Los Angeles Lakers: Anthony Davis (#1), LeBron James (#9)
Memphis Grizzlies: Jaren Jackson Jr. (#45)
Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns (#5), Robert Covington (#36)
Philadelphia 76ers: Joel Embiid (#7), Ben Simmons (#27)
Phoenix Suns: Devin Booker (#18), Deandre Ayton (#28)
Sacramento Kings: De'Aaron Fox (#41), Buddy Hield (#46)
San Antonio Spurs: LaMarcus Aldridge (#44), DeMar DeRozan (#49)
Toronto Raptors: Pascal Siakam (#39) Kyle Lowry (#50)
Utah Jazz: Rudy Gobert (#22), Donovan Mitchell (#30), Mike Conley (#38)
Washington Wizards: Bradley Beal (#11)

Players to avoid:
Chicago Bulls: Otto Porter Jr. (#31), Lauri Markkanen (#43), Zach LaVine (#47)


Late round picks (Weeks 22-24)

The table below shows the number of Quality games each team has during Weeks 22-24

QUALITY GAMES (days with 5 or fewer games)
Team Week 22 Week 23 Week 24 Total
Sacramento Kings 2 - 3 5
Houston Rockets 1 - 2 3
Portland Trail Blazers 2 - 1 3
Denver Nuggets 1 - 1 2
Golden State Warriors 0 - 2 2
Los Angeles Clippers 0 - 2 2
Los Angeles Lakers 1 - 1 2
New Orleans Pelicans 1 - 1 2
Philadelphia 76ers 1 - 1 2
San Antonio Spurs 1 - 1 2
Utah Jazz 1 - 1 2
Atlanta Hawks 0 - 1 1
Charlotte Hornets 1 - 0 1
Cleveland Cavaliers 1 - 0 1
Dallas Mavericks 1 - 0 1
Detroit Pistons 1 - 0 1
Memphis Grizzlies 1 - 0 1
Milwaukee Bucks 1 - 0 1
Minnesota Timberwolves 1 - 0 1
Oklahoma City Thunder 0 - 1 1
Orlando Magic 1 - 0 1
Toronto Raptors 1 - 0 1
Boston Celtics 0 - 0 0
Brooklyn Nets 0 - 0 0
Chicago Bulls 0 - 0 0
Indiana Pacers 0 - 0 0
Miami Heat 0 - 0 0
New York Knicks 0 - 0 0
Phoenix Suns 0 - 0 0
Washington Wizards 0 - 0 0

*All days in Week 23 have between six and nine games so no teams have any quality games

Players to target:
With the Sacramento Kings having FIVE of their eight games on days with five or fewer games played, their players that fit your team build should definitely be your targets throughout the draft. Especially if we take into consideration that these five games are in just two weeks since there are no quality games in Week 23.

We already talked about targeting Fox and Hield since they have 11 games total, but you should also target lower-ranked guys like Marvin Bagley (#72), Dewayne Dedmon (#82), Bogdan Bogdanovic (#120), Harrison Barnes (#143), and Trevor Ariza (#163).

Two other teams that have three quality games apiece during the same period are:
Houston Rockets: Eric Gordon (#166), P.J. Tucker (#168), Danuel House Jr. (#222)
Portland Trail Blazers: CJ McCollum (#57), Hassan Whiteside (#70), Zach Collins (#140), Kent Bazemore (#157), Rodney Hood (#190)

Players to avoid:
Eight teams (Boston, Brooklyn, Chicago, Indiana, Miami, New York, Phoenix, and Washington) 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!

More Fantasy Basketball Analysis

By popular demand, RotoBaller has aggregated all of our fantasy basketball NBA waiver wire pickups into a running list of NBA waiver options, so bookmark the page and check back often for updates.

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