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Fantasy Basketball - Scheduling Matters

by David Fuller

I promised an update from my Week 2 matchup, so here it is. I'll make it quick.

My acquisitions ended with Chuck Hayes and Bonzi Wells (both for big rebounding totals, and some blocks as well). Both players started for me on Sunday, and it is actually because of their 2 combined blocks that I won the blocks category for the week. Here is the post-week final score (my numbers on top, winning categories in bold):

Min FG% FT% 3s Pts Reb Ast Stl Blk TO Score
1234 .467 .733 33 590 216 135 52 28 78 7
1229 .442 .723 39 525 217 119 53 27 80 3

Thus ends a successful week against a difficult opponent with a nice win, 7-3. I hope this proves my point about planning ahead and making strategic pickups throughout the week, and that some of you will implement this strategy into your game (granted you have the time). I would have lost minutes and blocks if it weren't for my pickups. Had I known I'd fall just short in rebounds and steals, I probably could have just squeaked by in those, too. I'd feel bad winning 9-1 though. Wait, what am I talking about? No I wouldn't.

Now, scheduling is one of the most overlooked factors in any given week of fantasy basketball. In fantasy baseball, you hardly have to worry about this (with the exception of starting pitching). In fantasy football, you only have to worry about one Bye Week per player and (barring injury) the rest of the season is set. However, if you're lacking games versus a certain opponent, your week could be over before it even starts.

There are two ways to look at scheduling. Well, three if you consider the overall schedule set up within the league (when playing head-to-head), but there's little you can do about that and it usually ballances out by the end anyway. Since both of the significant views of scheduling are relatively complex, I'll go over both of them separately. Part I for this week, Part II for next Saturday. In case you're wondering, Part II will deal with individual player scheduling, which might sound like what I'm going over today. It's tough to explain until I go over it so bare with me and just enjoy today's piece.

Part I will deal with weekly player scheduling in the head-to-head setting, because that is the only real way to play fantasy sports. It's more strategic, more in-depth, and more reliant on making key moves at pivotal moments in the season. So, this article will deal with weekly scheduling and how it affects the owners facing off in that particular week.

Take my brother's team, for example. Thanks to some extremely easy scheduling to start the season (his opponents teams aren't too impressive and neither check their teams on any type of consistent basis yet), he's sitting pretty in 1st place with a record of 14-5-1 (a half-game above my 14-6-0 record). See? Scheduling is a recurring theme here already. Sometimes it can make all the difference. In this case, as you will see, it can make a rather negative difference as well.

Don't get me wrong, illmatic allstars (my brother's team name) is a solid team. Let's take a quick glance:

PG Brandon Roy :: PG/SG, Portland Trail Blazers

SG Andre Iguodala :: SG/SF, Philadelphia 76ers

G Baron Davis :: PG, Golden State Warriors

SF Ron Artest :: SF, Sacramento Kings

PF Shawn Marion :: SF/PF, Phoenix Suns

F Andrei Kirilenko :: SF/PF, Utah Jazz

C Chris Kaman :: C, Los Angeles Clippers

Util Andrea Bargnani :: SF/PF/C, Toronto Raptors

Reserves: Damien Wilkins, Marvin Williams, Yi Jianlian, Keith Bogans, Raja Bell, Mike Dunleavy

So to be honest, his team's pretty good. Strong in assists, rebounds, steals, 3s, and blocks at the very least. After 19 years of rivalry you tend to start looking for any luck-like factors you can find when trying to explain a strong fantasy sports showing. In Week 3, this team faces another bottom-rung team, Cowboys All The Way (obviously still heavily devoted to his fantasy football team). It's hardly worth listing out his roster, so we'll just get into it. In no particular order, his players and the games they've played to this point (Friday afternoon) are as follows:

Andrei Kirilenko - Monday, Wednesday (2)

Brandon Roy - Tuesday, Wednesday (2)

Andre Iguodala - Tuesday, Wednesday (2)

Mike Dunleavy - Tuesday, Wednesday (2)

Shawn Marion - Tuesday, Thursday (2)

Keith Bogans - Tuesday (1)

Artest - Wednesday (1)

Andrea Bargnani - Wednesday (1)

Chris Kaman - Wednesday (1)

Damien Wilkins - Tuesday (1)

Baron Davis - Wednesday (1)

Total - 16 Games Played

And his opponent's players/games played to this point:
Carmelo Anthony - Monday, Wednesday (2)

Tony Parker - Tuesday, Thursday (2)

Quentin Richardson - Tuesday, Wednesday (2)

Steve Nash - Tuesday, Thursday (2)

Tayshaun Prince - Tuesday, Wednesday (2)

Jerry Stackhouse - Tuesday, Thursday (2)

Andrew Bynum - Tuesday, Wednesday (2)

Udonis Haslem - Tuesday, Wednesday (2)

Marco Belinelli - Wednesday (1)

Charlie Villanueva - Wednesday (1)

Ben Wallace - Thursday (1)

Ben Gordon - Thursday (1)

Total - 20 Games Played

So, again, the opponent does not have a particularly impressive team. What changes the course of the week, however, is how many games the opponent's team has played to this point. If you don't believe that, here's a little tidbit that might change your mind: illmatic allstars was winning 8-2-0 before Thursday's games.

The thing is, both owners' teams had played 15 games up until that point. And yet, after a Thursday in which the opponent played five games and illmatic allstars played one, illmatic allstars is now losing 3-5-2. It's as simple as that. Now of course there are other factors that affect this score as well, such as the defenses my brother's team has faced or whether or not he's had an off week while his opponent has had a particularly strong one. Those factors vary from week to week however, so if you take those into extreme consideration, you'll never be able to find a pattern of play or strategic style that works with any consistency.

So to sum things up, one night of games has completely shifted the advantage from an illmatic allstars lead of 8-2-0 to a Cowboys All The Way lead of 5-3-2. One night of games and the week has a totally different dynamic to it based almost solely on scheduling. Well, there are still three nights of games left and illmatic allstars has a strong lineup, so all is not lost. He might even regain his 8-2-0 lead. Both owners have the same amount of games remaining this week, however, so that's a potential downfall for illmatic allstars. It doesn't help that he's not fond of streaming, either. But of course, that's why the games are played. It's not a guarantee that illmatic allstars loses the week because of his shortened schedule, but the incline of his fight is much steeper because of it. The worst part is, this type of disheartening loss (if he does in fact take the loss this week) could be totally avoided by paying attention to scheduling at the beginning of the week.

Another extremely devestating case of the effects of scheduling occurred in the 2006-'07 fantasy basketball playoffs for the main league I concentrate on. I was in a heated matchup with the eventual champion, Team Auerbach, in the quarterfinals (first round). I felt extremely confident about my team, especially because of mid-season pickups including LaMarcus Aldridge, Brad Miller, and Mark Blount. I also drafted a nice core with players such as Baron Davis (5th round selection), Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler (4th round), Mo Williams (9th round), and Elton Brand. Things were looking up with my seed No. being 3 and my opponent's, 6.

There was one huge problem that I didn't realize quickly enough: he had more scheduled starts than me. Yahoo! archives won't let me bring up the matchup, but I believe my players were scheduled at least five or more starts less than Team Auerbach's players. I knew it would be a killer as soon as I had realized it. I made a plethora of moves throughout the early goings (after I realized the disparity), but they just were not enough. My opponent made a few moves himself to keep the games played in his favor, and I could not deny the inevitable. I ended up losing with a score of something like 4-6-0 or 3-7-0, all thanks to the whims and fancies of the NBA scheduling committee.

In short, do not underestimate scheduling's effect on fantasy basketball. You just might be scheduling yourself for an unnecessary loss. Or in illmatic allstars' case, you just might be relinquishing 1st place honors to your brother. I personally have no problem with that.

Waiver-Wire Wonders ::

Theo Ratliff :: PF/C, Minnesota Timberwolves

There is one huge reason Ratliff is mentioned here: 3.2 blocks per game. If I'm not mistaken, that's second only to Atlanta's Josh Smith (3.7 per), and is something that can completely alter the course of any given fantasy week in head-to-head. For roto? Well I can only assume it's got a pretty positive affect. I'll admit I didn't expect Ratliff to make any noise at all with the kids in tow, but his percentages and rebounds are nice additions to one some of the best shot-blocking numbers in the game.

Erick Dampier :: C, Dallas Mavericks | Jeff Foster :: PF/C, Indiana Pacers

I listed these two centers together because they bring a pretty similar game and have fairly similar value. Neither is the true starter at the current moment, but both are starting to see increased minutes (one's returning from injury, one's capitalizing on injury) and are putting up great rebounding totals because of it. Neither player scores particularly often, but they'll deliver a decent FG%. They'll also be good for a steal and/or block here and there. Either is worth the pickup if you're in need.

Chuck Hayes :: SF/SF, Houston Rockets

The third-year Hayes has started all nine of the Rockets games thus far and is just outside the top 25 rebounders in the league at this point. That alone gives him value, but add in the fact that he's shooting at a nice clip (57.1%) from the field, almost two steals per game, half a block per game, and less than half a turnover and you've got one very solid fill-in. Hayes is not known for his offense, but there are those defensive-minded players who can help you a lot in fantasy. Hayes is one of them.

Bonzi Wells :: SG, Houston Rockets

Wells might need an early Thanksgiving for Tracy McGrady's absence. He has already proven how valuable he can be as a reserve, but thanks to McGrady's injury (don't take that the wrong way, I would never wish harm on an individual) Wells was able to put up 21 points and 10 rebounds in 40 minutes in T-Mac's first missed game. Not to mention 2 steals and 3 blocks. Wells might be a liability in the percentage categories, but he'll make up for it in 4+ other categories.

Eddie House :: SG, Boston Celtics

Enough of these big-men types. Let's go back to some simplistic shoot-em-up-style players. When you think of that and think of Boston, the first name that comes to mind is Ray Allen. However, House is playing at a level considerable to be a (very) poor man's Ray-Ray right now. He's making 46.2% from 3 (2.0 made per game) and 87.5% from the charity stripe, very reminiscent of the Celtics' sharp-shooting UConn alumnus. I doubt there's a team who wouldn't benefit from his services. Take him for his 3s and enjoy the help in almost every other category.

Jarrett Jack :: PG/SG, Portland Trail Blazers

Why did I list him as a PG and SG? Good question. He's not quite there, but he's working on SG eligibility coming off the bench (just like PG reserve Leandro Barbosa just accomplished) while Steve Blake starts at the 1 and Brandon Roy mans the 2. His overall line isn't extremely impressive, but his new-found role as a combo guard is allowing him to put up quite respectable averages (over the past five games): 54.9% FG, 1.2 3s, 77.8% FT, 3.6 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 16.6 points.