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Fantasy: Using Game Counts to Win Your League

The Cleveland Cavaliers have the worst playoff schedule in fantasy basketball. Here’s how to fix game count issues…

Joel Brigham

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Fantasy basketball (the head-to-head kind, at least) is kind of weird in that it doesn’t always matter who the best players are; it matters which of the best players are playing the most games in a given week. If Andre Drummond plays five games in a week where Anthony Davis only plays three, Drummond probably is going to be the more valuable fantasy asset during that particular matchup.

Knowing that, it’s important to be aware how weekly game counts will play out the rest of the season for certain players and teams. Any trade you make from here on out should take this information into consideration, as there are some teams with great fantasy schedules down the stretch and some that aren’t quite so good.

More importantly, there are some teams with schedule issues during the most important part of the season: the playoffs.

Here’s a look at how game counts could come into play the rest of the fantasy season:

Games Left This Season

The following are the total number of games that each teams plays between now (Monday, January 12, 2015) and the end of the season:

48: Golden State Warriors
47: Boston Celtics
46: Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans, Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors
45: Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn Nets, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami HEAT, Oklahoma City Thunder, Sacramento Kings, Washington Wizards
44: Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, L.A. Clippers, L.A. Lakers,Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, Utah Jazz
43: Charlotte Hornets, Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks
42: New York Knicks, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns

What to take away from this: Someone with Klay Thompson or Stephen Curry on their roster is going to get six more games out of those players for the rest of this season compared to someone rostering Nikola Vucevic, Goran Dragic or Eric Bledsoe. If there are any Celtics you feel are worth dealing for, feel free to do so there, too. Minnesota, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Toronto have lots of games left, too, while Charlotte, Indiana and Milwaukee do not.

Teams With Bad Weeks Coming

While most teams play three or four games in a standard week, these teams have weeks in which they play only one or two games. Note that Weeks 16 & 17 bookend All-Star weekend, so teams play fewer games those weeks, and Weeks 22-24 are the fantasy playoffs:

Week 12 (1/12/15): Charlotte Hornets (2), Milwaukee Bucks (1), New York Knicks (1), Phoenix Suns (2).
Week 14 (1/26/15): Charlotte Hornets (2), San Antonio Spurs (2).
Week 16 (2/9/15): Boston Celtics (1), Charlotte Hornets (1), Philadelphia 76ers (1), Phoenix Suns (1), Portland Trail Blazers (1), Toronto Raptors (1).
Week 17 (2/16/15): Brooklyn Nets (1), Memphis Grizzlies (1), Minnesota Timberwolves (1), Utah Jazz (1).
Week 19 (3/2/15): New York Knicks (2).
Week 20 (3/9/15): Dallas Maverick (2).
Week 22 (3/23/15): Orlando Magic (2).
Week 23 (3/30/15): Cleveland Cavaliers (2)
Week 24 (4/6/15): L.A. Clippers (2), Philadelphia 76ers (2).

What to take away from this: While the next few weeks look bad for the Hornets, keep in mind that they’re one of only three teams to play 12 games during championship week, so it might be worth suffering through a few weeks with Kemba Walker, who’s been very, very hot lately. If you make it to the playoffs, Charlotte has value.

Not that anyone is dying to play any Knicks players right now, but they’ve got some especially bad weeks on this list, as well. Meanwhile, Orlando, Cleveland, Philly and the Clippers all have troublesome weeks at various times during the playoffs, and that could be a challenge for contenders, particularly if they own multiple guys from those teams.

Teams With Good Weeks Coming

Occasionally the calendar works where a team sneaks in an extra game or two during a week of head-to-head, and while there aren’t a whole lot of these instances the rest of the season, there are a couple of note:

Week 17 (2/16/15): Oklahoma City Thunder (3; everybody else plays only 1 or 2 that week).
Week 20 (3/9/15): New York Knicks (5).

What to take away from this: If you bump up against Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook or Serge Ibaka in Week 17, you’re going to be in some trouble. Heaven forbid you hit someone that has two of those guys. As for the Knicks, it will be interesting to see if they make any more trades or whether or not Carmelo Anthony is playing at that point. There could be some really interesting waiver guys available from the Knicks in Week 20, particularly since fantasy teams will need important wins at that point with just two weeks to go before the postseason.

Total Number of Games During Fantasy Playoffs

The last thing you want to do is have a great regular season then end up in a championship game you simply can’t win because your players don’t have enough games that week. Looking at this list will give you a sense of where you may be at season’s end, hopefully to give you a sense as to whether or not you will need to make any trades to find comparable talent with a more favorable playoff schedule.

8: Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic
9: Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, L.A. Clippers
10: Atlanta Hawks, Detroit Pistons, Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Pelicans, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards
11: Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Miami HEAT, Minnesota Timberwolves, New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trail Blazers, Sacrameneto Kings, Utah Jazz
12: Charlotte Hornets, L.A. Lakers, San Antonio Spurs

What to take away from this: People who own LeBron James, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving and Nikola Vucevic are going to struggle down the stretch. If those guys are paired with Pau Gasol, Jimmy Butler, Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis, Kenneth Faried, Ty Lawson, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul or DeAndre Jordan, your struggles in the fantasy postseason are going to be very real.

Conversely, owners with any Hornets, Lakers or Spurs could be in for a nice little postseason treat, though the Spurs are tough to gauge late in the season because they’re so well-known for resting their studs down the stretch. If their playoff position is solidified, it might not be all that crazy to see Tim Duncan, Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili miss a game or two when it really matters.

Another thing to note is that the Clippers and Sixers only play two games in championship week, which will be hard to deal with when there are eight other teams playing four games in Week 24. No one is saying to trade Griffin, Paul or Jordan, but you might want to at least give it some consideration if you can do an apples-for-apples sort of trade that sets you up better for the long haul.

For the most part, if the majority of your guys are in the 10-game and 11-game groups, you’re probably going to be pretty competitive. Now would be the time to cash out your Cavs, though, Love in particular since he’s been playing so well of late and his high-usage teammates won’t be injured all season.

Winning fantasy isn’t all about games played, obviously, but it’s something to keep in mind down the stretch. Don’t wait too long to make offers involving these guys, though; as the year winds down, your league mates will figure out just how bad the Cavaliers’ playoff outlook is in fantasy. They won’t want those guys any more than you will.

Good luck with the rest of your seasons, and may the game counts be ever in your favor.

Joel Brigham is a senior writer for Basketball Insiders, covering the Central Division and fantasy basketball.

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Draft Kings

DraftKings Preview: Best Value Plays 4/13

Cody Taylor shares his list of top bargain players (under $6,000) on DraftKings tonight.

Cody Taylor

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Each Wednesday, we help you build your DraftKings lineups for the upcoming night of action. The point of these articles is to highlight relatively cheap players who are poised to do well given their recent success and upcoming matchup.

Tonight features 14 games on the schedule as most teams wrap up their regular season. With nearly every team in action tonight, you will have plenty of options when building your DraftKings rosters. Everyone wants superstar players in their lineup, but in order to afford those players, you’ll need some of these value plays on your squad as well.

If you haven’t done so already, be sure to enter our DraftKings league before 7 p.m. ET tonight. It’s FREE for new users! Here are six bargain players to keep an eye on tonight – all of whom will cost you less than $6,000:

PG: Seth Curry, Sacramento Kings – $5,000

With the Kings shutting down five of their top scorers for the rest of the season, look for Curry to continue to see plenty of playing time. Curry is coming off of his best game in the NBA in which he recorded 20 points, 15 assists, three rebounds and three steals on Monday night against the Phoenix Suns.

Curry’s career night was good for 54.3 fantasy points. Since March 25, Curry has seen a much bigger role with the Kings as he’s averaging 28.7 minutes per game after playing sparingly before that. He’s averaging 15.7 points, 3.7 assists and 2.4 rebounds per game while shooting 54 percent from three-point range during that time frame.

Honorable Mention: Tim Frazier – $5,900

SG: Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers – $5,000

Before you laugh at this selection, consider what we know going into Bryant’s last game. It’s been reported that Lakers head coach Byron Scott plans on letting Bryant play as much as he wants and Scott stated on the record that he’s instructing other players to “get KB the ball.” Knowing the type of player that Bryant is, he’ll want to play big minutes and go out with an impressive performance. Field goal percentage isn’t factored in for DraftKings’ scoring system, so Bryant can shoot it as much as he wants without negatively impacting your team.

He has flashed some vintage Kobe performances a couple of times already this month, as he dropped 35 points on the Houston Rockets on Sunday and he scored 34 points against the Boston Celtics back on April 3. The Utah Jazz desperately need a win tonight (as well as a Houston loss against Sacramento in order to make the playoffs), and Bryant would love nothing more to player spoiler one last time in front of the home crowd at Staples Center. It’s also worth noting that Utah will be without their defensive anchor Rudy Gobert. This is the final time you can have Kobe in your lineup and he may be a steal at $5,000.

Honorable Mention: Evan Fournier – $5,100

SF: Kent Bazemore, Atlanta Hawks – $5,100

Bazemore has been arguably one of the best fantasy players over his last four games for the Hawks. Over this stretch, Bazemore is averaging 17 points, eight rebounds, 3.8 assists, 2.8 steals and 1.5 blocks per game, which has translated to 41 fantasy points per game.

Bazemore has proven this season that he can contribute on both ends of the floor and make his presence felt in a variety of ways. On April 1 against the Cleveland Cavaliers, he scored only seven points, but added 12 rebounds, six assists and three blocks, which was good for 36.5 fantasy points. The Hawks should continue to play their starters with playoff seeding on the line heading into the final night of action.

Honorable Mention: Maurice Harkless – $4,600

PF: Marvin Williams, Charlotte Hornets – $5,300

Williams is another starter who you can count on playing since the Hornets are still fighting for playoff seeding. Some of the league’s best players could be getting some rest tonight with playoff positions already locked up, but Williams seems likely to play as he normally would.

Williams has been very consistent over his last six outings, as he’s scored at least 24 fantasy points in each of those games. The Hornets are up against the Orlando Magic tonight, and Williams went off for 26 points, nine rebounds, two assists and a block the last time the Hornets and the Magic faced off on March 16.

Honorable Mention: Jabari Parker – $5,900

C: Mason Plumlee, Portland Trail Blazers – $4,700

Plumlee has been very productive over the past several weeks. Since March 1, Plumlee has scored fewer than 20 fantasy points just twice (in a span of 21 games). He’s a guy who comes in at price lower than $5,000 and he seems likely to give you at least 20 fantasy points.

He has proven that he can do a little bit of everything, as he’s averaging 12.4 points, 8.4 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.6 blocks and 1.2 steals in five games during the month of April.

Honorable Mention: Jonas Valanciunas – $5,000

UTIL: Toney Douglas, New Orleans Pelicans – $5,500

The Pelicans have been ready for the offseason for quite some time now given all of the injuries they have endured this season. Douglas has been a direct beneficiary of those injuries, starting in 17 out of the Pelicans’ last 18 games.

Douglas has turned in four-straight outings with at least 30 fantasy points and has been one of the team’s leading scorers in each of those games. Look for that production to continue as the Pelicans face off against a Minnesota Timberwolves team that ranks 26th against opposing point guards.

If you are taking our advice tonight, let me know how your team did by reaching out to me on Twitter, @CodyTaylorNBA.

*****

We encourage you to give these players a look as you build your starting lineups for tonight. Here are contests you can enter now:

Sharpshooter:
– Last chance to play before the playoffs start
– Prove your NBA knowledge
– Make every game more exciting
– FREE for new users
– Must join by Wednesday, April 13th at 8:00 pm EST
– Salary cap style drafting: $50,000 to select PG, SG, SF, PF, C, G, F and Utility

Giant Double Up:
– Last chance to play before the playoffs start
– Prove your NBA knowledge
– Make every game more exciting
– Must join by Wednesday, April 13th at 8:00pm EST
– Salary cap style drafting: $50,000 to select PG, SG, SF, PF, C, G, F and Utility

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Draft Kings

DraftKings Preview: Best Value Plays 4/6

Who are the best value players on DraftKings? Cody Taylor gives his top options cheaper than $6,000.

Cody Taylor

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Wednesday in the NBA is typically one of the busiest nights of the week as most teams are in action. There are eight games set to tip off tonight, leaving you with plenty of options when building your DraftKings lineups.

The key to winning in DraftKings is having some cheaper players on your rosters who will perform well and allow you to afford players like James Harden, Kemba Walker and Paul George (among others). We’re here to help you set your lineups by highlighting several cheaper players who seem poised to do well given their recent success or upcoming matchup.

If you haven’t done so already, be sure to enter our DraftKings league before 7 p.m. ET tonight. It is FREE for new users! Click here to draft your team. Here are six bargain players to keep an eye on tonight – all of whom will cost you less than $6,000:

PG: Tim Frazier, New Orleans Pelicans – $4,600

Frazier seems like a safe bet to have in your lineup for the remainder of the season. The Pelicans have been battered by injuries this season, and Frazier will be relied on heavily. Frazier began the season with the Portland Trail Blazers, but averaged less than eight minutes per game — he’s averaging 28.1 minutes in 11 games with the Pelicans.

Frazier has proven that, when given an opportunity to play extended minutes, he can contribute all across the board. He’s averaging 13.5 points, 6.3 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game during his brief stint in New Orleans, which has translated to 30 fantasy points per game. He’s been on a tear lately, as he’s averaging 37.9 fantasy points over his last four outings.

Honorable Mention: Shane Larkin – $4,300

SG: Evan Fournier, Orlando Magic – $4,500

Fournier should be a player you can count on for at least 20 fantasy points or so. Outside of a few players like James Harden, Victor Oladipo and C.J. McCollum, there are really not a lot of the top names in action tonight at shooting guard, so this may be where you opt to go cheaper.

Since the beginning of March, Fournier has been a consistent fantasy option as he’s scored fewer than 20 fantasy points only four times (in a span of 17 games). He’s shown that he can get hot as well as he recorded 22 points, three assists and two rebounds on Sunday against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Honorable Mention: James Ennis – $3,500

SF: Maurice Harkless, Portland Trail Blazers – $4,100

Harkless is another player who has greatly benefited from an increased role. After playing sparingly for most of the season, Harkless has started the past eight games in a row for the Blazers and has been a solid fantasy option in the starting lineup.

Harkless is coming off of his best fantasy performance of the season after recording 20 points, a career-high 16 rebounds, two assists and two steals last night for the Blazers, which was good for 48.5 fantasy points. In 11 games as a starter, Harkless is averaging 13.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.1 steals and nearly one block per game. During his current stretch as a starter, he’s averaging 29.1 fantasy points per game.

Honorable Mention: Jordan Hamilton – $4,200

PF: Thomas Robinson, Brooklyn Nets – $4,700

We’re seeing many teams having to go with some of their deeper role players and Robinson fits that bill. He’s seen a huge spike in playing time over the past week or so as he’s earned the start in three out of the Nets’ last four games. He’s averaging 13.3 points and 12.3 rebounds during that stretch, which has been good for 36 fantasy points per game.

Robinson is a good candidate to earn the bonus points DraftKings hands out for double-doubles as he’s turned in four-straight double-double performances. It seems like a safe bet to continue to ride with Robinson in your lineups until he cools off. With just five games remaining for the Nets, keep Robinson on your radar as the regular season winds down.

Honorable Mention: Markieff Morris – $5,300

C: Cody Zeller, Charlotte Hornets – $4,200

Zeller has been playing very well over the past week or so for the Hornets. He’s turned in four-straight outings with at least 20 fantasy points, including back-to-back performances with over 30 points last week.

He turned in one of his better all around performances of the season on Sunday, recording eight points, six rebounds and five steals against the Cleveland Cavaliers. With several of the top centers in action tonight, you may want to slide Zeller into your utility spot.

Honorable Mention: Mason Plumlee – $4,400

UTIL: Elfrid Payton, Orlando Magic – $5,600

Payton has been playing better in recent weeks after having an up-and-down season. Payton has scored at least 25 fantasy points in each of his last seven games. During that stretch, Payton recorded his first triple-double of the year, scoring 20 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, which was good for 53.5 fantasy points.

Given his ability to rebound and distribute the ball, he can go off on any given night and come close to notching another triple-double. If you are in need of a utility player or another guard, Payton could be your guy.

 

If you are taking our advice tonight, let me know how your team did by reaching out to me on Twitter, @CodyTaylorNBA.

 

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Draft Kings

DraftKings Preview: Best Value Plays 3/30

Who are the best bargain plays on DraftKings? Here are a number of guys cheaper than $6,000 to play.

Cody Taylor

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Wednesday in the NBA is typically one of the busiest nights of the week as most teams are in action. There are nine games set to tip off tonight, leaving you with plenty of options when building your DraftKings lineups.

The key to winning in DraftKings is having some cheaper players on your rosters who will perform well and allow you to afford players like Stephen Curry, Hassan Whiteside and Kawhi Leonard among others. We’re here to help you set your lineups by highlighting several players who seem poised to do well given their recent success or upcoming matchup.

If you haven’t done so already, be sure to enter our DraftKings league before 7 p.m. ET tonight. It is $3 to play (or FREE for new users) and it has a $10,000 first-place prize (and a $100,000 total prize pool). Click here to draft your team. Here are six bargain players to keep an eye on tonight – all of whom will cost you less than $6,000:

PG: Toney Douglas, New Orleans Pelicans – $4,900

It seems as though just about any player you can get your hands on from the Pelicans could be a safe bet. The team announced on Tuesday that Jrue Holiday and Alonzo Gee will miss the rest of the season, which leaves the team with seven players on the injured reserve out for the rest of the year.

Douglas comes in as a solid option for you tonight and he won’t break your budget. In his increased role, he’s become a very reliable fantasy option as he’s scored at least 20 fantasy points in 10 out of his last 11 outings. If you’re looking for a cheap option at point guard, Douglas could be your guy.

Honorable Mention: Shelvin Mack – $6,000

SG: Josh Richardson, Miami HEAT – $4,700

Richardson has benefited from an increased role with the team in recent weeks. His minutes per game have increased from 15.7 in January to a season-high 29.1 minutes per game in March. He’s averaging 12.8 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists during the month of March.

He earned his second start of the season for Miami on Monday against the Brooklyn Nets in place of a sick Goran Dragic. Richardson would be in line to earn the start again tonight against the Los Angeles Lakers if Dragic can’t go, but Richardson should still be a great option for you even if Dragic does play. Miami has Dragic listed as questionable for tonight’s game, so keep an eye on his status closer to tip off.

Honorable Mention: J.J. Redick – $4,700

SF: Mirza Teletovic, Phoenix Suns – $4,700

With only a couple of the top small forwards in action tonight, Teletovic could be an option for you if you want to go cheaper here in order to save of your money for some other players. Teletovic and the Suns face off against a Milwaukee Bucks team that ranks 29th against opposing small forwards.

He’s been a reliable option over the past week or so as he’s turned in five-straight outings with at least 20 fantasy points. During that stretch, Teletovic has averaged 15 points and 5.2 rebounds for the Suns.

Honorable Mention: Matt Barnes – $5,300

PF: JaMychal Green, Memphis Grizzlies – $5,000

Green is another guy to target tonight on a very favorable matchup against a Denver Nuggets team that ranks 28th against opposing power forwards. Green has proven that he can contribute big games, as he’s turned in some performances with over 20 points for the Grizzlies.

There are a lot of the top power forwards in action tonight, so Green may be a guy you want to put in your forward or utility slots. The Grizzlies have been decimated by injuries this season so Green will have plenty of opportunities during games to contribute.

Honorable Mention: Patrick Patterson – $3,900

C: Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors – $5,100

Valanciunas has put together a solid week of performances as he’s scored at least 20 fantasy points in four-straight games. He’s a prime candidate to earn the bonus points DraftKings hands out for double-doubles as he’s recorded 19 double-doubles this season.

Valanciunas faces a great matchup tonight as the Atlanta Hawks are the fourth-worst team in the league against opposing centers. He could be a great option for your team as a utility player as well.

Honorable Mention: Bismack Biyombo – $4,300

UTIL: D.J. Augustin, Denver Nuggets – $4,700

If you took our advice on Augustin last week, he turned in a solid outing for you. Last week against the Philadelphia 76ers, Augustin recorded 22 fantasy points after having nine points, five assists, two assists and two steals for the Nuggets.

After that outing, he turned in performances with 39.8 and 41.5 fantasy points. If you are in need of a cheap utility guy, Augustin could be your guy since he’s been playing so well as of late.

If you are taking our advice tonight, let me know how your team did by reaching out to me on Twitter, @CodyTaylorNBA.

*****

We encourage you to give these players a look as you build your starting lineups for tonight. Here are two contests you can enter tonight:

$100,000 Hot Shot:
– Make every shot and rebound more exciting
– $10,000 first-place prize and a $100,000 prize pool
– $3 to play or FREE for new users
– Must join by Wednesday, March 30th at 7:30pm EST
– Salary cap style drafting: $50,000 to select PG, SG, SF, PF, C, G, F and Utility

$5 Double Up:
– Make every shot and rebound more exciting
– $5 to play – finish in the top half of the contest and you double your money for a $10 prize
– Must join by Wednesday, March 30th at 7:30pm EST
– Salary cap style drafting: $50,000 to select PG, SG, SF, PF, C, G, F and Utility

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