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Magazine Articles

NBA Schedule Breakdown

by Steve Alexander
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:09 pm ET

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. 27) through Week 11 (Jan. 5) 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.

 

Perhaps the most important thing you'll find here is that the Cavaliers (home of LeBron, Love & Kyrie) have a terrible playoff schedule, capped off by a two-game week on Week 23 - Championship Week in some leagues. That is brutal. And while we all know LeBron and Love might be taking some games off around that time anyway, it really stings to know this early that they'll be playing just two games in crunch time when many other teams are going three or four times.

 

Overall Schedule

 

I like to judge the best overall schedule by which teams have the most four-game weeks each year. This time around, the Celtics and Hornets lead the way with 14 four-game weeks. The Nets, Warriors, Bucks, Sixers, Suns and Spurs each have 13 four-game weeks. On the flip side, the Bulls, Mavs, Rockets and Kings have just 10 four-game weeks this season.  

 

Four-Game Weeks

 

14 – BOS & CHA

13 – BRK, GSW, MIL, PHI, PHX, SAS

12 – ATL, CLE, LAC, MIA, NYK (includes only five-game week on schedule), POR, TOR, UTA

11 – DEN, DET, IND, LAL (only four-game week in Week 1), MEM, MIN, NOP, OKC, ORL, WAS

10 – CHI, DAL, HOU, SAC

 

Two-Game Weeks (excluding Weeks 1, 16, 17, 25)

 

0 – CHI, DEN, HOU, MEM, MIN, NOP, SAC

1 – ATL, BRK, CLE, DAL, DET, IND, LAL, ORL, PHX, POR, SAS, TOR, UTA, WAS

2 – BOS, LAC, MIA, MIL, NYK, OKC, PHI

3 – CHA, 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 Knicks, Magic and Suns lead the way with 40 first-half games, while the Warriors on have 34 first-half games. Drafting Victor Oladipo, using him for the first half, and then trading him around Christmas for a player on a team with a high second-half number makes a lot of sense if you’re in a H2H league where games played per week matter.

 

40 Games – NYK, ORL, PHX

39 Games – CHA, IND, MIL,

38 Games – CHI, CLE, DAL, LAC, LAL, POR, SAS, UTA

37 Games – ATL, BRK, DEN, DET, HOU, MEM, MIA, OKC, SAC, WAS

36 Games – MIN, NOP, PHI TOR

35 Games – BOS

34 Games - GSW

 

2nd Half Schedules (Weeks 12-25, excluding Weeks 16, 17 and 25)

 

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 Celtics and Warriors have the most second-half games on the schedule at 42.

 

42 Games – BOS, GSW

41 Games – MIN, PHI, TOR

40 Games – BRK, MEM, NOP

39 Games – ATL, DEN, DET, HOU, MIA, POR, SAC, SAS, UTA, WAS

38 Games – CHA, CHI, CLE, DAL, LAC, LAL, OKC, PHX

37 Games – IND, MIL

36 Games – NYK, ORL

 

Playoff Schedules (Weeks 21, 22, 23 & 24 – Playoffs will vary by league)

 

In head-to-head weekly leagues, perhaps nothing in this magazine is more important than how the playoff schedules break down for each team. Hornets (formerly Bobcats) and Spurs each have perfect playoff schedules, as they go 4-4-4-4, giving them a total of 16 games over the final four weeks of the season. The Spurs may have it in cruise control by then, meaning you can expect stars to be benched at times, but the Hornets may be fighting for a playoff spot or seeding, which is great news for guys like Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker. And guess who has the worst playoff schedule for H2H? Hello, Cleveland, LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving.

 

16 Games – 4-4-4-4: CHA, SAS

 

As good as it gets, but the Spurs may be resting stars, while the Hornets should be playing theirs.  

 

15 Games – 4-4-4-3: BOS, BRK, GSW, IND, MIA, POR, UTA

15 Games – 3-4-4-4: LAL

15 Games – 4-4-3-4: MIN, SAC

 

Great playoff schedules.

 

14 Games – 4-4-3-3: MEM, NYK, OKC, WAS

14 Games – 4-3-3-4: ATL, NOP

14 Games – 4-3-4-3: DET, MIL, TOR

14 Games – 4-4-4-2: PHI

14 Games – 3-4-4-3: HOU

 

That Philly 2-game week could spell disaster if that’s the week of your Finals.

 

13 Games – 4-3-3-3: DAL, DEN

13 Games – 4-3-4-2: LAC

13 Games – 3-3-3-4: PHX

 

Beware of that 2-game week the Clippers have in Week 24.

 

12 Games – 3-3-3-3: CHI

12 Games  - 4-2-3-3: ORL

12 Games – 4-3-2-3: CLE

 

There is nothing pretty about these 12-game teams and the Cavaliers, with LeBron, Love and Kyrie, getting just two games in Week 23 is just painful. As bad as these three team's schedules are for the playoffs, at least the Bulls don’t have any two-game weeks.

 

Tidbits

 

The Knicks are the only team this season with a five-game week, which falls on Week 20 – likely just before the playoffs start in your league. This is the fewest number of five-game weeks we’ve seen in years.  

 

The schedule makers basically gave us two All-Star Weeks this 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 Mavericks and Thunder both play three times in Week 17, while every other team plays just once or twice. That could be a big advantage for owners of Kevin Durant, Dirk Nowitzki and the other stars on those teams during that week.

 

The Lakers (just like last season) have four games in Week 1. There are 22 teams with three games in Week 1, while ATL, BOS, BRK, CLE, DEN, NOP and SAS 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 Lakers could help.  

 

The Bucks and Knicks each 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 Carmelo Anthony and Brandon Knight.   

 

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!

Steve Alexander

Steve "Dr. A" Alexander is the senior editor for the NBA for NBC Sports Edge and a contributor to NBCSports.com. The 2020-21 NBA season marks (at least) his 20th year of covering fantasy hoops for NBC Sports. Follow him on Twitter - @Docktora.