Working the schedule in weekly fantasy leagues can give you a huge advantage over your opponent. I wish I were better at taking my own advice because I tend to ignore the schedule once I post this column each year, and then usually end up getting haunted by someone using it to beat me in the playoffs. In any case, here’s a look at each team’s schedule and how it looks for the first and second halves of the season, the fantasy playoffs as well as other tidbits that can help you win your league.
If you’re in a league that limits starts to 82 games per position, or you just don’t care about the weekly number of games on the schedule, you can safely move on to another column.
I broke the season into two halves, ignoring several short weeks. This year, Week 1 (Oct. 26) through Week 11 (Jan. 4) represents the First Half Schedule. For the second half, I don’t count Weeks 16, 17 and 25, as they are dominated by mostly two-game weeks. There are some exceptions, which I will cover later. So each half contains 11 full weeks of hoops action.
I like to judge the best overall schedule by which teams have the most four-game weeks each year. This time around, the Warriors, of all teams, have 14 four-game weeks to lead the way. They also have a perfect playoff schedule, to boot. The Celtics and Magic have 13 four-game weeks. On the flip side, the Nets and Pelicans have just nine four-game weeks, and the Hawks, Bulls, Pistons, Pacers, Thunder, Spurs and Jazz have just 10 four-game weeks this season.
14 – GSW
13 – BOS, ORL
12 – DEN, MIA, NYK, PHI, POR, SAC, TOR, WAS
11 – CHA, CLE, DAL, HOU, LAC, LAL, MEM, MIL, MIN, PHX
10 – ATL, CHI, DET, IND, OKC, SAS, UTA
9 – BRK, NOP
There are possibly more five-game weeks this year than any other. I counted a five-gamer as a four-gamer for the purpose of compiling four-game weeks above, but here are the six teams with five-game weeks.
Nets – Week 23 (playoffs)
Bulls – Week 23 (playoffs)
Wolves – Week 3
Suns – Week 10
Raptors – Week 21 (playoffs)
Jazz – Week 11
While the Bulls and Nets don’t have many four-game weeks, the five-gamers in the playoffs help to offset the poor schedule in head-to-head leagues. The Raptors already had a strong four-game schedule and it gets a boost with five games in Week 23.
Two-Game Weeks (excluding Weeks 16, 17, 25)
0 – ATL, BRK, DAL, DET, HOU, IND, NOP, NYK, OKC,
1 – CHA, CLE, DEN, LAC, LAK (playoffs), MEM, MIA, MIL, ORL, POR, SAC, SAS, TOR, UTA
2 – CHI, MIN, PHI, PHX, WAS
3 – BOS, GSW
1st Half Schedules (Weeks 1-11)
Comparing first and second half schedules is a useful tool when evaluating trades or making waiver wire pickups. The Sixers and Blazers lead the way with 40 first-half games, while the Bulls, Cavs and Wizards only have 34 first-half games. Drafting Nerlens Noel, using him for the first half, and then trading him around Christmas for a player on a team with a high second-half number (Cavs, Bulls) makes a lot of sense if you’re in a H2H league where games played per week matter. Just be sure to pay attention to playoff schedules when making these deals. I’ll cover those after the second half schedules below.
40 Games – PHI, POR
39 Games – LAL, MEM, MIL, NYK, PHX, TOR
38 Games – ATL, DAL, DEN, HOU, LAC, MIN, OKC, ORL, SAS
37 Games – BOS, BRK, CHA, DET, GSW, IND, MIA, SAC, UTA
36 Games – NOP
35 Games – CHI, CLE, WAS
2nd Half Schedules (Weeks 12-24, excluding Weeks 16 and 17)
Conversely, the teams who had a weak first-half schedule will be the ones you’ll want to target players from at the All-Star break. The Cavs and Wizards have the most second-half games on the schedule at 41, while the Sixers only have 36 games.
41 Games – CLE, WAS
40 Games – CHI, GSW, MIA, SAC
39 Games – BOS, BRK, CHA, DAL, DEN, DET, HOU, IND, NOP, NYK, UTA
38 Games – ATL, LAC, MIN, OKC, ORL
37 Games – LAL, MEM, MIL, PHX, POR, SAS, TOR
36 Games – PHI
Playoff Schedules (Weeks 21, 22, 23 & 24 – Playoffs will vary by league)
In head-to-head weekly leagues, perhaps nothing in this Draft Guide is more important than how the playoff schedules break down for each team. The Bulls, Warriors and Raptors all have 16 games from Week 21-24, with two of them having a five-game week. The Warriors are the only team in the league without a three-game week in the playoffs, as they go 4-4-4-4 for perfection. However, the Warriors may have it in cruise control by then, meaning you can expect stars to be benched at times, but the Raptors and Bulls may be fighting for a playoff spot or seeding, which is great news for guys like Kyle Lowry and Jimmy Butler.
Three teams had just 12 playoff games last season, but the lowest number this year is 13, which means there are far fewer disastrous playoff schedules to worry about this year. Here’s the breakdown.
16 Games – 4-4-4-4: GSW
16 Games – 4-4-5-3: CHI
16 Games – 5-3-4-4: TOR
As good as it gets, but the Dubs may be resting stars, while the Bulls and Raptors will hopefully be playing theirs. And don’t sleep on those five-game weeks from the Bulls and Raptors!
15 Games – 4-4-3-4: CHA
15 Games – 4-4-4-3: CLE, DEN, ORL, SAC, WAS
15 Games – 4-3-4-4: LAC, NOP
Be wary of the Cavs resting guys, but at least the potential for a strong fantasy playoff run is there.
14 Games – 3-3-5-3: BRK (three 3-game weeks, but also a 5-gamer)
14 Games – 4-4-3-3: DET, HOU, PHI
14 Games – 4-3-4-3: BOS, DAL, MEM, OKC, POR, UTA
14 Games – 3-3-4-4: MIA,
14 Games – 3-4-4-3: IND, MIN, PHX
14 Games – 3-4-3-4: SAS
Brooklyn’s five-game week is a bit overshadowed by the three three-gamers.
13 Games – 3-4-3-3: ATL, MIL
13 Games – 2-4-3-4: LAL
13 Games – 3-3-4-3: NYK
Beware of that 2-game week the Lakers have in Week 21. The Lakers have the only two-game week in the fantasy playoffs this season. Conversely, the Nets, Bulls and Raptors all have a five-game week in the playoffs. While there aren’t really any disastrous playoff schedules this year, ATL, MIL, LAL and NYK have the worst in the league. If your playoffs start in Week 22, the Lakers’ schedule looks much better at 4-3-4.
The schedule makers basically gave us two All-Star Weeks this again season, as almost every team in the league plays just one or two games in back-to-back weeks in mid-February. However, there are a couple exceptions: The Pelicans play three times in Week 16, and the Bulls play three times in Week 17. Every other team plays just twice those weeks, except for the Mavs, Heat and Knicks (one time in Week 16) and Rockets and Kings (one time in Week 17). That could be a big advantage for owners of Anthony Davis, Jimmy Butler the other stars on those teams during that week.
The Hawks and Bulls have four games in Week 1. There are 26 teams with three games in Week 1, while the Wolves and Sixers only play twice in the opening period. It probably doesn’t matter much given how early in the season we’re talking, but if you like to get off to a hot start, loading up on some Hawks and Bulls could get you out of the gates quickly.
The Magic and Raptors have just one game in Week 12 when most other teams play three or four times. That could be a painful week for guys who own Nikola Vucevic and Kyle Lowry, as 14 teams play four times that week. Additionally, the Clippers and Sixers only have two games that week.
Every team plays two times in the final week of the season, except for the Nuggets, Warriors, Knicks and Blazers, who play just one game in Week 25.
So there you have it. This information isn’t too important in Roto and non head-to-head leagues, but if you play H2H, using the schedule to your advantage can help you win it all. Good luck!