I still remember my very first year of fantasy basketball. I dominated the league, talked smack the entire time, and went into the playoffs with a 1st round bye while already thinking about how to celebrate my championship. I played a team that struggled all year, barely made the playoffs, and had what I thought was an opposing team of nothing but scrubs. We both streamed where we could and when the dust settled I lost by a large margin. All my players played well, I couldn’t understand what happened. When I added the total games played I realized I lost a hidden, yet easily the most important fantasy category there is, and I lost it by double digits: the category of games played. I ate every word of trash I talked all year and had to watch two other teams vie for what I considered my championship.
If you are like me and play to win, not just play to compete, then maximizing games played in the playoffs is by far the most important way to do it. JB chimes in, “But you have to make it there first?” “Au contraire, mon ami”, I say. Are you really playing for 4th place? Does anyone remember who lost in the playoffs anymore than they remember who missed them? Nay I say, we play to win! So here it is, the most important 3500 words I’ll write all year as far as winning your RCL goes…
H2H playoff dates are: 1st round March 16-22. Semifinals March 23-29. Finals March 30-April 5. Which should be the playoff schedule for everyone. If your league uses the last week of the year then I would highly recommend you suggest changing it. It plays very similarly to the last week of fantasy football.
Da Cream of Da Crop
GSW – 4/4/4, IND – 4/4/4, MIA – 4/4/4, BKN – 4/4/4, CHA – 4/4/4, POR – 4/4/4. UTA – 4/4/4
And the #1 team for the fantasy playoffs goes to, envelop please… The Golden State Warriors. Several teams have a 4/4/4 schedule, but what sets the Warriors apart is that they miss a heavy schedule day in all three rounds (the only 4/4/4 team that does). I’ve seen very few rankings that have Stephen Curry above LeBron James but with an extra game in the semis and an extra 2 games in the finals, Curry is well ahead of LeBron for me. Klay Thompson is one of the best ThrAGNOFers in the game, but since that is ultimately all he is I’m still not too interested unless he falls significantly (6th round maybe). David Lee is getting up there in age, but with a friendly fantasy game and solid schedule he at least makes my top 100. Not exactly a ringing endorsement. Andrew Bogut can’t stay healthy, he’s well off my radar. Andre Igoudala was almost unownable last year and he could cede minutes to one of our favorite sleepers, Draymond Green. Draymond hits nearly every category, can play multiple positions, and could even start at SF over the previously mentioned Iggy. Green is in my top 100 and the schedule solidifies it.
Great… (sarcasm) The Pacers have a good 4/4/4 schedule including days off on heavy schedule days in the 1st 2 rounds. I don’t have any Pacer in my top 50. Roy Hibbert is going to be drafted in the top 100 picks, the blocks are just too good to pass up, but is he really going to be any good with the extra usage? Probably, minimally. David West should lead the team in scoring and is probably the only other top 100 asset, but he’s getting long in the tooth and is coming off a very sub-par season. I’m not moving him up and I’m not reaching. Rodney Stuckey is solidified as a top 150 guy and should be pretty useful for almost any fantasy team. Then there’s George Hill, who I thought I would never have to consider drafting again. But with the nice schedule plus a pretty good chance his assists come back, I really should be considering him for the top 100. There are people out there calling Solomon Hill a sleeper but I’m not sold yet. At least the schedule makes him worth giving a shot to as a final pick.
The Heat is another of the 4/4/4’s, they get a little bonus with missing the lone heavy schedule day in the finals. Chris Bosh is right around Nikola Vucevic in our rankings and the Heat schedule compared to Orlando’s schedule is night and day (more on Orlando much later). I don’t think Bosh moves up into the top 20, but with team Durant, plus a PG in the 2nd, and Bosh in the third is looking like a real nice start. Dwyane Wade gets absolutely no boost due to playoff schedule – now I don’t expect him to be benched since they should be playing for real life playoff seeding – but with his age and injury woes he still stays outside the top 50. Mario Chalmers is looking like a solid late round PG. He should have more to do in the offense and he gives solid defensive stats. I’m not sold on a Luol Deng resurgence, but if he falls outside the top 100 picks then I’d consider him. Josh McRoberts could have a similar year to last, but he’s mostly streamer material and playoff schedules have no effect on that.
The Nets, and the next couple of teams below, have 4/4/4 schedules and miss a heavy schedule day in the 1st round. It doesn’t do a whole lot for me, but Deron Williams is draftable, as long as it isn’t in the 1st 4 rounds. Brook Lopez is a guy worth targeting after the 4th too. There’s a few other players worth noting like Mason Plumlee who I like to get 25-30 minutes and Mirza Teletovic who’s offense will have to be relied upon. They both have solid sleeper potential and could even last the entire year on your team if the stars align.
The Horncats, or what about the Bobbets? I see a team slogan coming, “The Bobbets will cut the competition down to size, then throw it out the window driving 80 mph down I-95.” No? OK, the Hornets, 4/4/4 schedule is basically the same to the Nets. Al Jefferson is the most impacted and once again I’ll compare the schedule to that of Cleveland and Kevin Love (4/3/2). An extra game in the semis and 2 in the finals destroys that of Cleveland and there is absolutely no way I could take Love over Jefferson knowing this. Kemba Walker should give some nice value as a 4th round PG and I like him a little better now than Jrue Holiday due to the Pelicans 4/3/3 schedule. A poor schedule could have doomed Lance Stephenson, but he’s squarely on my radar now somewhere in the 70’s.
The Blazers were the go-to team last year when they had 5 games in the semi-finals. They aren’t as dominant this year, but with a 4/4/4 schedule similar to the Nets, all 5 starters are going to be worth wherever we rank them. LaMarcus Aldridge overtakes Love, that Cleveland schedule is a killer. Aldridge v Jefferson is neck-and-neck. As of right this second, I haven’t written that ‘vs post’. I’m seriously considering it. I’m loving Damian Lillard as the #5 PG, the 1st PG taken in the 2nd round. He’s ahead of Kyrie Irving as long as Kyrie is stuck with Cleveland’s schedule, and compared to Phoenix’s 3/3/3 schedule, I have Lillard well ahead of Goran Dragic too. Nicholas Batum is what he is, I’m not planning on owning him so I’m not moving him up any. Wesley Matthews should do his thing and he’s worth the pick, on someone else’s team. JB’s disdain of Robin Lopez is legendary, but a solid schedule from a player with low TOs, and 2 good percents, shouldn’t be underestimated. I’m hoping he falls far enough so I can own him again.
I am so glad the Jazz have a nice playoff schedule, 4/4/4 and they also miss 2 out of the 3 days in the 1st round that are heavy schedule nights. Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward are in my top 50 and are major targets of mine. I would have no problem with Favors as my #1 big and/or Hayward as my #1 wing. However, if I can get 2 PGs and a big in the 1st 3 rounds, followed up by Favors in the 4th and Hayward in the 5th, I’m going to be ecstatic! Alec Burks is a sleeper I’m once again interested in. I doubt he makes my top 100 but he’s going to be real close. There may not be more points available after the 1st 100 picks are off the board. Trey Burke and Dante Exum are all over the place in ADP and I’m pretty worried about both this year. With the schedule though, they could be worth the risk as a late round pick. Enes Kanter and Rudy Gobert are interesting for completely different reasons, but with the schedule they could also be worth late round fliers.
BOS – 4/4/4, PHI – 4/4/4, SAS – 4/4/4, LAL – 3/4/4, HOU – 3/4/4, MEM – 4/4/3, MIL – 4/3/4
Boston, along with the 76ers and Spurs, have a 4/4/4 schedule like the teams in the tier above, unfortunately they play on every heavy schedule day in all 3 rounds. Still, they are 4/4/4 and have plenty of guys I like. Rajon Rondo‘s injury sets him back and with trade rumors bound to swirl all year, his value is unchanged by playoff schedule. Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger are also in the top 150, but they are still pretty limited fantasy contributors. Someone will probably draft Jeff Green. I bet it isn’t going to be JB. Marcus Smart is interesting since he should start the year with 30 minutes per game and if Rondo is moved, should be a top 100 player. He’s worth drafting in a 12er.
There should be a lot of stats to be had on the 76ers, and a 4/4/4 schedule only helps. Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel we’re already so high on that I can’t move them up more. Still though, I would have no problem taking MCW in the 4th or Noel in the 5th. There’s a pretty big drop off after that since everyone else on the team is a last pick flier. K.J. McDaniels offers by far the most upside, so he’s going to be my pick if he’s there at the end.
The Spurs having a good 4/4/4 playoff schedule looks good in theory, but with back-to-backs in all 3 rounds, Tim Duncan or Tony Parker could be looking at a 3/3/3 schedule instead. Kawhi Leonard is still a 2nd round pick with 1st round upside. It’s going to be tough for me to take a wing who doesn’t assist in the 2nd round. If there was one pairing I would feel the best about it would be with Chris Paul. I digress. I feel like I’m forgetting someone… Danny Green was tough to own for a lot of people last year and I’m not going to let something like playoff schedule effect how I perceive him. Let’s just say it isn’t with rose colored glasses.
Since 2 out of every 6 fantasy teams making the playoffs doesn’t play the 1st round, it isn’t nearly as important for schedules as the final two. The Lakers have a 3/4/4 schedule and with a 1st round bye, it would be as good any of the 3 teams immediately above. I don’t really care that Kobe Bryant has a good playoff schedule, I don’t trust his minutes or the chances for DNPs (Did Not Play); he won’t be on my team. Carlos Boozer and Nick Young were never on my radar and they still aren’t. Jeremy Lin is a worthy late round upside PG since Steve Nash will undoubtedly miss games; the playoff schedule only solidifies it.
Houston also has a 3/4/4 schedule, and with that James Harden moves ahead of LeBron to #4 overall. The Cavs (4/3/2) is light years behind Houstons. The extra game in the Semis means Harden will more than likely put up better stats that week. Two extra games in the finals means he absolutely will put up better stats. And what about LeBron being better in the 1st round? This is completely possible, my counter though would be, “What if you had the 1st round bye?” Dwight Howard is what he is and what he is isn’t what I want. I could forgive the FT% if I was punting, but add in high turnovers and blocks drastically falling off last year, plus the now lengthy injury history and age. There are too many red flags irregardless of playoff schedule. I’m glad Patrick Beverley and Terrence Jones have a good playoff schedule. They are both top 100 fantasy players.
Memphis has a 4/4/3 schedule; they aren’t a tier lower because they miss the heavy schedule day in the finals. There’s only 2 draftable players in an RCL league from this team and they are both top 50 guys. By now we know what both Mike Conley and Marc Gasol are going to give us and with the schedule, they are still guys I’m looking at drafting. However I don’t see them as targets so much as fallbacks, Conley in the 3rd and Gasol in the 5th I would imagine. Someone will draft Zach Randolph, whoever it is is someone that doesn’t listen to anything I have to say and probably owned Tristan Thompson last year.
Normally I wouldn’t call the Bucks schedule a good at 4/3/4, but since they miss both of the heavy schedule days in the semis, I know I’m going to want at least one on all my teams. Since there’s about 8 to choose from, all with upside, I’m sure that won’t be a problem. Picking the right ones will be. Jabari Parker gets drafted 1st and I understand that. Brandon Knight isn’t a strong fantasy player, but he’s still a good 4th PG on any fantasy team. Everyone seems to want Giannis Antetokounmpo and I’m setting a firm highest round I would draft him at 8th. Larry Sanders is worth drafting, so is John Henson and O.J. Mayo. Did you catch that or just keep reading? I hope O.J. Mayo doesn’t get off the bench, but with all the different options for Kidd to try, I don’t expect the Bucks rotation to work itself out quickly.
MIN – 4/4/3, NYK – 4/4/3, WAS – 4/4/3, OKC – 4/4/3, DET – 4/3/4, LAC – 4/3/4, SAC – 4/3/4, TOR – 4/3/4
The Timberwolves, and the next 3 teams have a 4/4/3 schedule. Minnesota misses a heavy schedule day in the 1st round but that won’t change anything. There’s plenty of quality players to choose from, but no one’s value is changing based off the schedule.
The Knicks have a nearly identical 4/4/3 schedule. They also miss a heavy schedule day in the 1st round and no one’s value changes based off this.
Washington is the third 4/4/3 team but they always play on heavy schedule days. There’s nothing wrong with these 3 team’s schedules and there are multiple players I’m targeting from each.
OKC is the 4th team with a 4/4/3 schedule. OKC does have an advantage over the previous 3 in that they miss a heavy schedule day in the 2nd round. This is really good and almost puts them in the tier above, but a 3 game final only on heavy days keeps them down here. Does this move Kevin Durant down when he’s healthy? Of course not. He’s #1 when he’s on the court, let’s just be thankful he doesn’t have Cleveland or Orlando’s schedule. Russell Westbrook v John Wall is still nearly identical, so I’m not changing based off their schedules. Serge Ibaka could be compared to a few others like Al Jefferson and LaMarcus Aldridge but I don’t think he should be. The blocks keep him well ahead of those guys even with them getting an extra game in the finals. Reggie Jackson is a 4th PG to target and that doesn’t change due to their schedule.
The Pistons and the next 3 teams have 4/3/4 schedules. Missing a game in the semis is something I try to avoid, but with 4 in the 1st round and 4 in the finals I can’t call these schedules poor. Detroit is the best of the 4 since they miss a heavy schedule day in both the 1st and 2nd rounds. Everyone seems to want Andre Drummond, and if I had to use a 2nd round pick to get him I’m OK with it. There are others but their caveats are tough to stomach. Brandon Jennings with the FG%, Josh Smith with the FT%, the uncertainty at nearly every position, they are all draftable for one reason or another but I imagine I’ll let someone else take on that risk.
The Clippers are a 4/3/4 schedule and they always play on heavy schedule days. Nothing changes for any of them on my draft board.
The Kings… re: Clippers.
The Raptors… re: Kings.
The Not Good
DAL – 4/3/3, ATL – 4/3/3, DEN – 4/3/3, NOP – 4/3/3, PHO – 3/3/3, CHI – 3/3/3
Up till now, playoff schedules have only driven a player’s value up. The next 4 teams have poor playoff schedules that should negatively affect value. Having a few players on these lists won’t ruin your playoff chances, having too many however can. Dallas’ 4/3/3 schedule misses a heavy schedule day in the semifinals, so they have an ever so slight edge over the rest. I’m not moving Dirk Nowitzki from his current ranking. He could be a top 10 player, but since he’s already being drafted in the 20’s I don’t think he should moved any lower. Chandler Parsons and Monta Ellis are in a very similar boat. They both finished ranked higher last year than where they are being drafted this year. If I had a better option for either I would take it, however you probably drafted them later than where we rank them so getting equal value could prove difficult. Tyson Chandler is still a late round filler big with very little upside. His needle doesn’t move.
The Hawks poor schedule really hurts. Paul Millsap, Al Horford, and Jeff Teague are all targets at their ADP, but with a poor 4/3/3 schedule, and missing the heavy schedule day in the finals, I can’t consider them all for one fantasy team. Millsap can’t be drafted where we have him ranked simply because there are too many other options with better playoff schedules. Late 2nd round/early 3rd is still perfectly acceptable. Horford is now a 3rd round target and can’t be paired with Millsap; this probably means I won’t get him on any team. I still like Jeff Teague in the 5th round or so, PGs are just too thin and he still has plenty of upside. Kyle Korver is one of the better 3-pt specialists in the game due to his FG% but in a draft I’m passing. As a trade chip he still has good value though.
Denver having a 4/3/3 schedule, while missing a heavy schedule day in the 1st round, doesn’t hurt as bad as Atlanta but it isn’t far off. Ty Lawson is losing ground rapidly, he has the ankle issues which don’t seem to be going away and now even if he is good to go we have to contend with a poor schedule. If I can get equal value in a trade I would look into it. Kenneth Faried is one of my favorite 5th/6th round bigs. I’m not going to move him down based off his fantasy playoff schedule. I feel like he’s being a little undervalued as it is, the schedule just evens things out.
The Pelicans have a nearly identical 4/3/3 schedule as Denver, the difference is now we’re talking about the #1 player in our ranks. Obviously this is terribly annoying, but I still think Anthony Davis should be the 1st player off the board. The breakout from last year seems to only be expanding. The problem lies in the next option, Steph Curry, having the best fantasy playoff schedule there is. The reason I’m still taking the Brow is for the league altering blocks with 2 good percents. Jrue Holiday is still being drafted late enough that I’m not going to consider the schedule. It does mean I won’t reach for him though. Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, Omir Asik are all being drafted but there are enough similar options at similar ADPs that I’ll probably pass on all 3.
I should be more disappointed about the Suns 3/3/3 playoff schedule than I am, but there’s still enough value from most of their players that I think I can overlook it. After rereading that, I doubt I convinced anyone. Although this does greatly effect Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe. They are high draft picks that aren’t going to do enough in the playoffs to warrant their high ranking. I’m sure there will be other options that will be just as good in the regular season but even better in the playoffs. I see Markieff Morris and Isaiah Thomas differently, mainly because if we filled our early picks with good schedules then a few players like these will help us make the playoffs and still do enough to warrant their draft pick.
Finally, a team I can avoid and be glad to do so. The Bulls 3/3/3 schedule leaves much to be desired and since we’re already behind the consensus, we can easily enough just avoid Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah all together. Pau Gasol and Jimmy Butler are right on the border. I won’t reach for them, but if they’re there and I need what they give, then I won’t hesitate to take either. While Taj Gibson‘s role isn’t ideal, he should be just fine and a value at wherever he eventually falls.
ORL – 4/2/3, CLE – 4/3/2
There are no words to describe how devastated I am by Orlando’s 4/2/3 playoff schedule. How can I draft Nikola Vucevic or Victor Oladipo if any top 150 player at their position is guaranteed to put up better numbers in the semifinals? In the playoffs, Vucevic or Robin Lopez (4/4/4)? In the semis, Robin Lopez is nearly guaranteed to be the better option. I’m not saying to trade Vucevic for Lopez, but I would be looking to move him at some point in the year. The same goes for Elfrid Payton, Channing Frye, and Tobias Harris. If I had a choice, I would draft someone else unless I couldn’t pass up the value. But if you’re in a league with me (like the RCL I drafted Tobias in), then you better believe Tobias will play some kind of role in the negotiation process.
The last place team – #30 – the Cavs and their 4/3/2 playoff schedule. An argument could be made that Orlando’s schedule is worse, but since the Cavs boast two 1st rounders and a 2nd they deserve the extra attention. I don’t think I’ve written about LeBron since he decided to take his talents to the Flats and this might also be the last. It’s fairly safe to say there won’t be many fantasy winners who draft LeBron, Kevin Love, or Kyrie Irving. In the playoffs Kyrie or Lillard (4/4/4)? Since Kyrie isn’t a 1st round pick, it doesn’t hurt as bad. Still it makes the choice between the two very easy. Love or Melo (4/4/3)? Closely ranked, but I think it goes without saying Carmelo will have a better semis and finals than Kevin Love. So we got Carmelo first, do we draft Love in the 2nd round or do we draft Aldridge (4/4/4) or Al Jefferson (4/4/4)? I think that’s a pretty easy choice to make. Even though I won’t own any once the playoffs come around, I can reluctantly admit they still have a ton of trade value so they aren’t entirely undraftable.