Even though we haven’t even reached the All-Star break just yet, it is that time of year to start looking towards the head-to-head fantasy basketball playoffs. At this point you probably fall into one of four groups:
- Playoffs? Playoffs?
- If Paul Millsap comes back soon and Myles Turner turns things around then I have a chance.
- I just set my lineup for the next month, I will check back in…wait, Cousins is out for the year!?
- Wake me in mid-March.
It is never wise to get too comfortable in fantasy basketball, because just like we saw with the DeMarcus Cousins, injury can change things in a hurry. So, in addition to monitoring your waiver wire and reading Razzball on a daily basis, it is wise to start looking at the make-up of your team and how many games your players are expected to have each week during the fantasy playoffs.
In roto leagues, the only games you need to keep an eye on are your maximum games played at each position. In head-to-head leagues, however, knowing the volume of games each player will have each week is vital, especially in the playoffs. So let’s put on our fantasy basketball beer goggles and look to see if your team is one you want to take home when the bar closes at the beginning of April.
[Playoff schedules below are based on Yahoo default public league settings, going from Week 21-23. Week 21 begins March 12th. Week 22 begins March 19th. Week 23 begins March 26th and ends on April 1st.]
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The Perfect 10 Tier:
LAC – 4/4/4
Teams in this tier look great when the sun is up and the birds are singing. When you have players on teams in this tier, you are not even thinking about hitting the clubs later on. The Clippers are the only team in this tier because, much like in real life, perfect 10s are rare.
They are the only team with 12 games during the playoffs and are unlikely to be resting players, since they will be battling it out for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference. With games against Phoenix, Portland, and Indiana in the final week, having Blake Griffin, Milos Teodosic, DeAndre Jordan (if he is still a Clipper), or Danilo Gallinari (yes, him) could win you a title.
The Instagram 10 Tier:
CHA – 3/4/4, CHI – 3/4/4, CLE – 3/4/4, DET – 3/4/4, MEM – 3/4/4, MIL – 3/4/4, PHI – 3/4/4, POR – 4/3/4, SAC – 4/3/4
We have all been scrolling through our Instagram and had to stop and roll back to a girl that looked familiar and thought, “Is that her? Wow, she looks great.” Technology has advanced society in many ways, but the greatest strides have been made in turning a real life 7 or 8 into an Instagram 10. The players on teams in this tier look like they would be perfect to have at playoff time, but if you look a little closer you will see that there are some flaws being covered up.
Now don’t get me wrong, this is the next best thing to a Perfect 10 and pretty much every head-to-head fantasy basketball champion this season will have a lot of players from this tier. Just like almost every man would be perfectly happy to be with a woman who is capable of being a 10 on the Gram. There a few reasons these teams are not actual 10s however:
- They all play 11 games at playoff time and not 12 like our Perfect 10.
- Teams like Detroit, Memphis, Chicago, Charlotte, and Sacramento will most likely be out of the NBA playoff hunt, so they may rest or reduce the minutes of their star players in order to give younger guys more run. The fact that these teams do play 11 games make their younger guys intriguing pick-ups for the playoffs, however.
- Cleveland, Philadelphia, and even Milwaukee could be resting star players down the stretch as well, except they will be resting them for a playoff run. Giannis has already been given days off to rest his sore knee and we all know how LeBron gets rested down the stretch. It is also well known the that Sixers like to play it safe with their guys, especially with Joel Embiid. I could see Ben Simmons getting a minutes reduction before the playoffs since this is his first full season and he will be getting tired.
The L.A. 5, Midwest 7 Tier:
DAL – 3/3/4, DEN – 3/3/4, GSW – 3/3/4, HOU – 4/4/3, LAL – 3/3/4, MIN – 3/3/4, PHO – 3/3/4, SAS – 4/4/3, WAS – 3/3/4
This tier is all about beauty being relative. A good looking woman in Los Angeles, when surrounded by models and actresses and what the media thinks everyone in the world considers beautiful, may be considered a little less pretty by comparison. If that exact same woman were to take a trip to middle-America, where beauty is measured a little differently, she may find herself getting a lot more attention when out and about.
When compared to the upper tiers, these teams may not be considered as desirable, but in many leagues, the players from these teams are going to look great when it comes down to the end of the season. Most of these teams are still playing 10 games in the playoffs and many of them have 4 games during the critical championship week, but there are a few flaws that are keeping them from having that transcendent attractiveness.
- The aforementioned 10 games.
- Golden State, Houston, San Antonio, and Washington are extremely likely to rest star players down the stretch. Look for Chris Paul, Draymond Green, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kevin Durant, John Wall, Otto Porter, Bradley Beal, and LaMarcus Aldridge to all see planned days off during these critical weeks for fantasy basketball. The most likely to miss time being Chris Paul, as Houston will be extremely cautious with his knees, and John Wall, who has been battling various injuries all season. Minnesota could potentially start resting guys if their playoff seed is locked, since the starters on that team have played some of the most minutes in the league.
- Dallas, the Lakers, and Phoenix will all be playing for the Lottery around this point, but their top fantasy producers, other than Dirk Nowitzki, are all pretty young and will probably continue to play. The thing to watch out for with these teams is the dreaded “shut-down for the season” tag. Guys who have had nagging injuries all season are all candidates for this fantasy death sentence. So if you have Lonzo Ball, Marquese Chriss, T.J. Warren, or Brook Lopez, then it might be wise to start getting a back-up plan in place.
- Denver could end jumping up a tier (turning from a Midwest 7 into an Instagram 10) simply because of the return of Paul Millsap. Millsap may be able to get up to full strength by the fantasy playoffs and is poised to potentially win a championship for some patient owners who had built a deep team around the big man. That being said, the reason I put them in this tier right now is because things could easily go the other way and the Nuggets could decide to shut him down if the wrist is just not responding and healing fast enough.
The Catfish Tier:
ATL – 3/4/3, BKN – 3/4/3, MIA – 3/4/3, NOR – 4/3/3, NYK – 3/4/3, OKC – 4/3/3, UTA – 3/4/3
Now things are going to get a bit weird, just like dating in the age of social media and online dating apps. Modern dating is a risky proposition. I count myself lucky that I learned about the term “catfishing” from news stories about Notre Dame football player Manti Te’o. Now it is easy to laugh at (or feel sorry for, I guess) this blockhead’s pain, but I am sure there is more than a few of you reading this right now who know exactly what being catfished means from personal experience. Nevertheless, I will explain why I used this painful term as the name of this tier.
Getting “catfished” means that a woman (or a man) set up a fake dating profile, or used fake or misleading pictures, in order to get a date with somebody who they feel would not talk to them otherwise, or, in the case of Manti Te’o, to completely mess with somebody for their own sick amusement. The teams in this tier are “catfish” because right now they look like teams with players you would love to have on your team at playoff time, but when we actually get to the final weeks you will find out, unlike with Coach Dennis Green and the Chicago Bears, that they are not who you thought they were at all.
The good news is that every team in this tier has at least one stud fantasy basketball player and they all have 10 games during the 3 week playoff schedule. Yet I feel they belong in The Catfish Tier because of the following reasons:
- They all only have 3 games during the final championship week.
- Brooklyn, Utah, and the Knicks will most likely have fallen out of the playoff hunt and will shut players down (D’Angelo Russell, Rodney Hood, Rudy Gobert, Tim Hardaway Jr., and to some extent Kristaps Porzingis, are especially risky) and/or will have traded fantasy contributors (Jarret Jack, Courtney Lee, Kyle O’Quinn, Enes Kanter, and Rodney Hood) to competitive teams where they lose significant value. Derrick Favors, and, to a lesser extent, Willy Hernangomez could be the exception where a trade actually would be a boost to their fantasy value.
- Miami, Oklahoma City, and New Orleans will be fighting for a better seed in the NBA playoffs, but I think that around this time in the season they will be pretty locked into their position and this would lead them to start resting players as well. New Orleans is the exception here, as I need to see how they respond without DeMarcus Cousins. If they can somehow stay in the hunt for a playoff spot then they may jump up a tier, but if they fall out of the running then they will definitely prove to have been a full-on catfish.
The Last Call, Last Chance Tier:
BOS – 3/3/3, IND – 3/3/3, ORL – 3/3/3, TOR – 4/4/2
We have finally reached the bottom of the barrel. The bartender shouted “Last call” almost 20 minutes ago and it is time to decide if you are desperate enough to significantly lower your standards and try to split an Uber with the girl, who is so annoying she got ditched by her co-workers, who didn’t really want her there in the first place. Or if you want to salvage your pride and head home alone to wait for the latest Razzball article.
This tier is for those of you who are going to wake up in week 21 and realize that the annoying girl is wearing your Gary Payton throwback jersey and laughing at funny cat videos in bed next to you. Having players with only nine games on the schedule for the fantasy playoffs won’t necessarily kill your chances, but you will definitely want to have a strategy in place ahead of time to make sure you can keep pace with your opponent. Trying to stock up on players on Instagram 10 teams is a good start or maybe look at swapping players with an owner who doesn’t’ do their homework and read Razzball like you. What I am trying to say is, take the annoying girl home, just don’t let her add you on Facebook.
Good luck in the playoffs and enjoy this chart showing my tiered rankings from top left to bottom right: