In-Season Strategy: Analyzing the Schedule
In-Season Strategy: Analyzing the Schedule

This article is part of our In-Season Strategy series.

October is finally here, and with it, brings the start of another exciting NBA season. The Warriors enter the year with another great chance to win the title, especially after scooping up DeMarcus Cousins over the summer. The rest of the league has undergone some significant changes, ones that include LeBron James joining the Lakers and Kawhi Leonard being dealt to the Raptors.

It's also that fantastic time where you build what will hopefully be a winning fantasy basketball squad. In an effort to do that, many people hunt for some sleepers or busts that could prove to be the difference in being the champion or finishing toward the bottom of your league.

Another aspect that should not be overlooked is the NBA schedule itself. Yes, every team plays 82 games, but if you are playing in a head-to-head league, knowing the intricacies of the NBA schedule can give you an edge over your opponents.
Let's dive into the schedule on both a monthly and weekly basis to see what opportunities are out there for you to exploit to your advantage.

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October

There will be no rest for the defending champs, who dive into the season with a league-high nine games in October. Cousins still isn't ready to return, and even though the Warriors like to use a lot of small lineups, this many games in such a short time frame could mean a lot of Jordan Bell and Kevon Looney up front.

On the flip side, the Rockets, Thunder and Grizzlies play the fewest games, with only six each. The added practice time early on could be valuable for the Rockets, who are trying to figure out how to integrate Carmelo Anthony.

In terms of the weekly schedule, the Hawks, Nuggets, Rockets, Heat and Thunder are all at a disadvantage with only two games during Week 2. Week 3, which runs into November, also brings the first two of only five instances this season where a team plays five games in a week. That first dubious honors belong to the Sixers and Blazers.

November

The Pelicans, Magic, Hawks, Sixers and Jazz will be busy during the first full month of the season with each team playing 16 games. This is great news if you drafted Anthony Davis, who is now the unquestioned leader of the Pelicans and one of the top options in fantasy.

Most teams play either 14 or 15 games during November, but the Mavericks and Pistons will further ease into the season with just 12 games each. The Kings are the only team to play 13 games.

Week 5 brings the biggest swing of the year, with the Warriors playing five games and the Pistons playing just one. Even with how productive Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin can be, it's tough to start them that week. It also wouldn't be all that surprising to see the Warriors rest a couple of their star players at some point during that busy stretch.

December

It will be a busy holiday season for the Suns, Spurs, Cavaliers and Mavericks with all four teams playing a league-high 16 games in December. The Cavaliers will have be especially busy, as they have a stretch of five consecutive weeks with four games played each that started in November and stretched into December. No other team plays at least four games in more than four consecutive weeks all season.

The Nuggets play the fewest games of the month with just 12. Other than them, the Magic, Hawks and Sixers will also see their schedules quiet down with 13 games each. The rest could be crucial for the Sixers, who play the most games (24) across October and November.

January

Around the beginning of January is when teams can start signing players to 10-day contracts, which may create some opportunities for you on the waiver wire.

The Clippers, Grizzlies, Magic, Nuggets and Pistons tip off the New Year in style with 16 games apiece. The Knicks and Warriors bring up the rear with 13 games each. In the Knicks case, that will be approaching the one-year mark since Kristaps Porzingis tore his ACL. If he is going to play this season, this might be around the time that he is approaching his return.
Looking at the weekly schedule, the Nuggets play five games Week 13. No other team plays fewer than three games that week, but it still leaves you with a significant advantage if you drafted players including Nikola Jokic, Gary Harris and Jamal Murray.

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February and the "Halfway" Point

The schedule isn't split exactly down the middle once teams hit the All-Star break, but now is the time to take stock of where things stand.

The Nets, Clippers, Grizzlies, Pelicans, Magic, Suns, Spurs and Raptors will enter the All-Star break having each played 59 games, the most in the league. This doesn't mean you want to sell off your studs like Davis and Leonard, but you might want to consider trading away some of the supporting players on these teams, if you have any, since they won't have as many opportunities to contribute down the stretch. Every game counts.

If you are looking for teams to target acquiring players from, the Heat and Pistons will have played the fewest games at the break at 56 each.

The Knicks have an edge as the only team to play three games Week 18. Week 19 brings the only balanced week of the season with every team playing two games.

March

We're coming down the home stretch with March being the last full month of the season. The Wizards will be busy making up for lost time playing a league-high 17 games. Nine teams play a league-low 14 games, including the Warriors and the 76ers. That could provide crucial rest as both teams prepare for what they hope will be lengthy playoff runs.

Week 23 brings the final instance this year where a team plays five games in a single week. That team, oddly enough, is the Warriors. Their overall light schedule for the month should help them that week, but it would be surprising to see all of their stars play all five games with the playoffs rapidly approaching.

Weeks 22 through 24 will be when the playoffs are run for many head-to-head leagues. During that stretch, the Kings and Wizards are the only teams to play four games each week.

April

The long grind comes to a close in April. Most teams play either five or six games in the month, except for the Clippers, Pelicans and Wizards, who play just four games each.
The majority of teams play four games apiece during Week 25. However, the Bulls, Clippers, Grizzlies, Pelicans, Thunder and Wizards play three games each. If your league is still running at this point, that one game difference could be crucial if you are making a push to win the title.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mike Barner
Mike started covering fantasy sports in 2007, joining RotoWire in 2010. He currently focuses on the NBA. Before RotoWire, Mike wrote for KFFL.com.
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