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For those of you in leagues that limit the number of games each position is allowed to play over the course of a season (usually it’s limited to 82 games per position), you’ve no doubt sweated over your games played pace at some point already. If you haven’t, you will. Or should. If you play every player on your roster every chance you get, you’ll be done by March and Ilgauskas would have had as much of a say in your team’s performance as Brook Lopez. You don’t want Big Z speaking for your team. He gets nervous. Sweat stains form around his thighs and he flips over tables to relieve the tension. It’s totally predictable. The only surprise is whether or not he rips off his ill-fitting dinner jacket when he does it. On the other hand, you never want to play it conservative all season and leave a dozen games unplayed. That’s just weak sauce. You play to play the games, Herm.

Unlike baseball, you have more control over your season-ending games count. Power forwards don’t take 30 games off a season like catchers do (unless they’re Elton Brand – zing!) and players in the NBA don’t usually have routine days off like baseball players. The key to managing your games played is understanding that injuries are a lock. Someone on your team is going to miss at least five or six games this season due to injury. Most managers wait until these setbacks happen to deal with it. As Jack White said, you can’t take the effect and make it the cause. However, less than 10 percent of the league (39 players out of 450+) played all 82 games last season and of those 39 only about 20 of them made it onto your average fantasy team. That means that injuries are going to hit your team … and your team … and your team too. It’s inevitable. So in this case, when the effect is inevitable, a good strategy is to prepare for it. If your team starts its season healthy and has a dozen players performing well, but only nine starting slots – play ’em all as often as you can. Shift your lineups to get those high-functioning players as much burn as you can. Then, if one or two or three players go down with injury, you’ve already built a reserve of games using those injured players’ stats.

Be smart about doubling up on positions. Don’t just play everyone on your team. But if there’s only one space to put both Danny Granger and Rudy Gay in your fantasy lineups, don’t keep Gay on the bench just because you don’t want to zoom past your games played count pace. It’s more important to fill each of those games with quality lines than timely ones. Instead of scrambling to fill in for an injured player, go heavy on the positions while you can so that when someone does go down with an injury, all it means to your team is that your games played count will level out a bit without making your team any weaker. Now go out there and be somebody!

  1. anon says:

    I’d also add that it’s not a bad idea to work bench players in for games against extremely favorable opponents during the season. Like you said guys will get hurt and miss games, so if I see the Phoenix Suns on the schedule for one of my reserves on a short schedule day I’ll throw them in and hope for the best. It’s better than waiting for a starter to go down and then having to play your reserves against Boston because that’s who is on the schedule.

  2. Adam

    Adam says:

    @anon: Yeah, that’s a good tip. Although I would caution anyone utilizing that strategy to still take into account who they play. You wouldn’t want to insert a slumping player into your lineup based solely on the fact his team is playing the Wolves, you know? But definitely a balance of opponent and player reliability is a fine strategy.

  3. Jay says:

    Good recommendations, especially about anticipating injuries. But I actually don’t mind falling behind just a tad in the early going, because we’re all still figuring out who the best players are going to be and how the minutes will shake out for each team.

    In the spring I will have ditched the dead weight and added players to my bench that can actually contribute, so then I’ll fill in gaps and catch up to the GP limit gradually over the last couple months.

  4. Adam

    Adam says:

    @Jay: Yeah, that’s also a good strategy. I find that the depth of the league dictates the best games played strategy. It’s harder to mine the FA pool for impactful sleepers in deep leagues. In normal-sized leagues, being more conservative with the games played in the first month or so works much better.

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