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Fantasy Basketball: Schedule Matters: Part II

by Dave Fuller                   

Since yesterday was Thanksgiving, I should deliver some fantasy basketball-related thanks. I already professed my real life thanks with the family last night, so don't think my life is all fantasy sports. It's actually fairly normal, thanks. This thanks, instead, is to Chuck Hayes, Luis Scola, Bonzi Wells, Tracy McGrady, and Theo Ratliff.

Thanks, Chuck Hayes, for your two-game streak of fantasy worthlessness. And Luis Scola, thanks for being a big reason for that. Thanks Bonzi Wells for your three games of nothingness while T-Mac was out. Might have even been worse than nothing. And thanks T-Mac for coming back before Wells could get anything going. Theo Ratliff? Well. I can't blame you for getting injured.

If anyone's counting, about half of my waiver-wire wonders were absolute duds since last week. Hayes, Wells, and Ratliff: thanks again. At least Hayes came back around and put together a very solid game on the 21st. As for this article's waiver-wire wonders? I'm just going to have to make up for it with spectacular additions. I think I have just the players for you, too.

For those of you who are weekly readers, you'll remember that last week dealt with scheduling as well. That was directed a bit more toward owners and their individual players' schedules. As we saw last week, taking advantage, or disadvantage, of scheduling on your fantasy team can be crucial to your weekly score and standings in the league. This time around, however, we're going to look at how you can take advantage of each NBA team's scheduling week in and week out. We'll call it Part II -- Strength of Schedule.

What do I mean by this? Well, those experienced fantasy basketball players realize that most players play somewhere between two and four games a week. I don't think I've seen a player play five games a week (ed: Yet.), so we'll leave that out. For those who aren't sure what I'm talking about, take a look now. Examine say the Golden State Warriors' schedule for this example. Next week, they play on the 26th, 28th, and 29th of November and the 2nd of December. This encompasses the Monday-through-Sunday time frame of the fantasy game's Week 5. If you want that all in plain English, it means my beloved Warriors are playing four games in the next fantasy week.

So I'm sure you're wondering what this means for you and your fantasy team. If you're me (which would be really odd), it means you have less time to wait in between Golden State games. For you, it means you've got a head start for the week if you've got Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson, Andris Biedrins, or anyone else with fantasy relevance on the team.

This must sound a lot like what I covered last week. Don't worry, I wouldn't waste your time by going over the exact same thing this time around.

The direction of this week's article, although similar to last week's, is pointed more toward pre-week acquisitions and managing your team so that you can hope to avoid being under-scheduled. I'll also list out the teams who put up the most possessions per game or allow the most points per game. Both of these types of teams are conducive to fantasy points, and you'll want to have players on your roster who play them a lot. Granted sometimes the teams with the worst defenses are the ones who allow for the most possessions per game, so you might want to have players from those teams as well.

I'll give a quick example: the Warriors faced off against the Wizards last (Friday) night. The score? 123-115, Golden State over Washington. Not only was this important for me (another victory baby), but anyone who had..well, anyone worth having from either team, was rewarded. I mean, come on, Baron Davis and Caron Butler both posted triple-doubles. The main reason? Neither team plays great defense, and both play in games that allow for the most possessions. So it's safe to say you're going to want players either on a team like Washington, or a team who faces them often. If you're still confused about what I'm talking about, I'll show you soon.

Here are Week 5's four-game, three-game, and two-game teams (in alphabetical order for your convenience):

4 :: Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves, New York Knicks, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs, Seattle SuperSonics, Washington Wizards

3 :: Atlanta Hawks, Detroit Pistons, Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, New Jersey Nets, New Orleans Hornets, Sacramento Kings, Toronto Raptors, Utah Jazz

2 :: Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls

Well, to be honest I don't think there are usually that many four-game teams in a given week, but I could be wrong. There is quite a bit of information to be taken from this knowledge regardless. The first thing I think about is that it should be a good week for me; I have four players with three-game weeks, and the rest of them have four-game weeks.

What you can do with this information is up to you, but the most efficient way of looking at it is to determine what categories you will be short in. If you have Raymond Felton and/or Kirk Hinrich, you're very likely going to be pretty short in assists. You may even want to seek help if all of your point guards have three-game weeks. The solution to that specific problem is to pick up a guard (who distributes the ball decently, of course) who's got four games in the coming week. Off the top of my head, the following players could be available and would give you solid help for the week: Daniel Gibson, Mike James/Rafer Alston, Derek Fisher/Jordan Farmar, Sebastian Telfair, Nate Robinson, Louis Williams, Jarrett Jack/Steve Blake, Earl Watson, or Antonio Daniels.

Of course that's a very specific example and may not fully solve your situation. It will be very helpful if you're in need of assists to win the week, however. You just need to pay close attention to your needs when attempting to patch up your weaknesses for any given week.

Since that's a rather large list of players to choose from, it can be overwhelming to choose just one to go with for the week when trying to win as many categories as possible. So, let's look at how to narrow down your choices. It would seem logical to think that a team who scores a lot will be conducive to production in other fantasy numbers (FG%, rebounds, 3's, assists, etc.). Figuring that to be reasonable, I'll list out the top ten teams in points scored per game and the top ten teams in points allowed per game:

Top Ten PPG (for) ::

*    Phoenix Suns - 108.1
*    Denver Nuggets - 107.7
*    Utah Jazz - 106.7
*    Los Angeles Lakers - 106.6
*    Golden State Warriors - 106.1
*    Memphis Grizzlies - 104.6
*    Dallas Mavericks - 103.2
*    Boston Celtics - 102.9
*    Orlando Magic - 102.8
*    Indiana Pacers - 101.8

Top Ten PPG (against) ::

*    Golden State Warriors - 110.1
*    Seattle SuperSonics - 108.8
*    Memphis Grizzlies - 107.6
*    Sacramento Kings - 106.0
*    Indiana Pacers - 104.8
*    New York Knicks - 103.9
*    Minnesota Timberwolves - 102.1
*    Cleveland Cavaliers - 102.0
*    Phoenix Suns - 101.1
*    Los Angeles Lakers - 100.3

Quite basically and quite generally, any team that appears on both top ten lists (Golden State, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Memphis, Indiana) is prime for fantasy help in categories related to scoring (points, 3's, assists, etc.). The rest of the teams on either list are going to be helpful as well, as if they're scoring or giving up a lot of points, there are sure to be a good number of possessions going around to either team. For purposes of giving a good example, we'll narrow those assist choices down to Derek Fisher/Jordan Farmar, Sebastian Telfair, Nate Robinson, or Earl Watson. To give you one top choice for this example, we'll look at the top three choices in terms of assists: Jordan Farmar, Sebastian Telfair, and Earl Watson.

If any or all of those three are available, either one will likely be a safe choice. Obviously Watson would be the top choice because of his assists-per-game average, with Telfair and Farmar coming in second and third respectively. For the further purpose of this example, let's compare their schedules. Watson and the SuperSonics face the Lakers, Magic, Pacers, and Warriors next week. Telfair's T-Wolves face the Hornets, Mavericks, Spurs, and Grizzlies. Farmar and the Lakers face the SuperSonics, Nuggets, Jazz, and Magic.

Watson, already on a team who gives up a lot of points, is facing three teams mentioned in the above lists (each mentioned twice, as well). Telfair's schedule is terrible, so ignore him. Farmar's schedule isn't bad, but Watson's assists-per-game average and strength of schedule is better than any of the other two options.

So, there ends the most basic form of the process of using schedules and strengths of schedule to give your team that much-needed boost before each new fantasy week begins. It may be more work than you'd like to put in, but hey, you can say that about any aspect of fantasy sports if you wish to win consistently. All you have to do is schedule some weekly article reading (preferably ones written by yours truly) and you'll have a lot of the work done for you.

Waiver-Wire Wonders ::

Antonio Daniels :: PG, Washington Wizards
Breaking News: Gilbert Arenas is going to miss three months after undergoing knee surgery. Well, I'm a few days late, but Antonio Daniels is a must-add if he's available in your league. He will likely be the starter for the duration of Arenas' injury hiatus, and has already put up spectacular numbers as a fill-in starter (three games): 39.1 minutes, 48.2 FG%, 0.7 3's, 84.6 FT%, 6.3 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 2.7 steals, and 13.0 points. Needless to say, he'll be one of the biggest pickups of the season if Arenas is out the full three months (if not longer).

Jordan Farmar :: PG/SG, Los Angeles Lakers
Oddly enough, the second-year guard is actually averaging more assists than PG Derek Fisher and is third on the team with 3.0 a game. The UCLA product has been given slightly more minutes recently (22.3 over the past four) and is doing a lot more with the extra time. Averages of 48.6 FG%, 1.8 3's, 4.8 assists, 2.8 steals, and 12.0 points over those last four games make my point.

Andray Blatche :: SF/PF, Washington Wizards
Another third-year player making an impact, and this one is being felt fast. Blatche has been stealing minutes away from Brendan Haywood since November 20th when Haywood dealt with early foul trouble. In two games since then (one start), AB has put up average stats of 32.8 minutes, 62.1 FG%, 0.5 3's, 100.0 FT% (one shot), 10.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 0.5 steals, 3.0 blocks, and 19.0 points. Blatche is still raw and young, but his intensity on the defensive end could bring him additional minutes even when Haywood is fully healthy.

Jamario Moon :: SF, Toronto Raptors
Currently a defensive specialist, Moon went undrafted after entering the 2001 NBA draft following his sophomore season. In his two years playing college ball for Meridian C.C., Moon put up 20.8 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. He clearly has potential on the offensive end, and has been rolling as a starter over six games: 30.5 minutes, 45.1 FG%, 70.0 FT%, 6.7 rebounds, 1.3 TO, 1.2 steals, 1.3 blocks, and 9.5 points. Make the pickup before his offense rolls around.

Walter Herrmann :: SF/PF, Charlotte Bobcats
This is more of a speculation listing; I'm sure some of you heard his name as a preseason sleeper. He's been very limited in the minutes played category all season, but after Gerald Wallace left Friday night's game with a calf strain, Herrmann put up nice numbers off the bench. As most owners saw at the end of last season, Herrmann can put up great numbers from a big when given minutes, so if Wallace is out for any length of time, give Walter a look.

Sean Williams :: C, New Jersey Nets
Once considered a lottery pick out of BC, Williams dropped to 17th overall in this year's draft. His skillset and athleticism are quickly becoming apparent, especially to Jason Kidd, and this kid has averaged nearly 9 points, 5 rebounds, and over 2 blocks a game. Williams received two starts recently, putting up nice big-man numbers, but Jamaal Magloire got the start last game while coach Lawrence Frank shakes things up to help generate more wins for the team. If Williams receives consistent starts, he'll be quite a waiver-wire pickup.

Charlie Villanueva :: SF/PF, Milwaukee Bucks
Charlie-V may not be available, but if he is, grab the former UConn star ASAP. Yi Jianlian is still starting for the Bucks, but Villanueva has earned nearly 28 minutes per game over the last three. You can imagine how strong his numbers have been since then, but I'll help you out and list them here: 52.8 FG%, 1.3 3's, 100 FT% (six shots), 8.3 rebounds, 0.3 steals, 0.3 blocks, and 16.0 points per game. If this trend of Yi struggling and V producing continues, you can expect a switch in starters very soon.