The All-Star Break has come and gone. The NBA Trade Deadline has too. Barring any significant buyouts, the rest-of-season rosters are set. We don’t have to worry about anymore game-changing movement. By this point, we know what to expect from players and teams for the most part. Some rotations may be dabbled with but nothing too severe (hopefully).
With that said, fantasy playoffs are fast approaching. It’s time to start planning accordingly. In the words of the great Herm Edwards, “You play to win the game.” Let’s discuss some tips and tricks to help you topple that cocky juggernaut team and win your league.
If you’re competing in a H2H league, it’s important to pay close attention to your match-up. This may sound obvious to the savvy vets out there but you’d be surprised how many people are ignorant to all the little intricacies and tidbits a fantasy GM could be doing to win.
Let’s go over some of the main items I’m referring to in regards to paying attention to your match-up. Take note that it’s usually pretty crucial to utilize a streaming spot, unless you’re the cocky juggernaut we mentioned earlier. If you’re confident enough in your team that you feel you don’t have to stream, more power to you.
My first tip is to check to see if your opponent is punting any particular category. If they are, then you won’t have to try so hard to win in that stat. You can use your streaming spot to focus on other categories. If your opponent has his team built around Giannis, then he likely is weak in FT%, 3’s, and/or TO’s, giving you the clear to bolster other stats instead.
Conversely, look to see if there is any particular category in which your opponent seems to commonly dominate in. This puts an emphasis on the aforementioned tip to always know the team you’re playing against. If your opponent seems to always win in one particular category, like Assists, then use that to your advantage. Instead of streaming a player who would give you a bump in Assists, go another route. Focus instead on a category that you feel you have a better chance of taking your opponent down in. If they have a very strong core in Assists, 3’s, and FT%, use that streaming spot to bolster your Rebounds, Blocks, FG%, and/or TO’s. Remember, you don’t have to be better than your opponent in every category. You only have to be better than them in one more stat than they’re better than you in.
Lastly – and this goes for all leagues, including those of the Points variety – if you feel like it’s a long shot for you to win your match, a common strategy is to play your highest upside lineup, as opposed to your safer, lower ceiling lineup. You have to shoot for the stars if you think your chances of winning are minimal.
Taking Advantage of Schedules
Next, we’ll look at the fantasy playoff schedules. You should know by now that the Kings and Wizards hold the best playoff schedules this season because they play the most games. Those two teams each play 12 games over the normal fantasy playoff schedule time, whereas the rest of the league plays only 11 or fewer. I think it’s safe to invest in most Kings as it appears they’ll be making a postseason push. The Wizards are a little different because we don’t know what their direction will be by that time. They have a clear path for a full-on tank rest-of-season but it’s impossible for us to know for sure if they’ll actually pull that trigger. There are several veterans on this team that might not be too happy about a tank. Beal, Ariza, and Green are a few names I’m on the fence about. Obviously, they currently appear to be decent players to be holding for the playoffs. But they also might be the first players to sit down the stretch if Washington opts to better their draft position. This situation makes the Wizards’ rotational youngsters quite valuable. That means if you own Thomas Bryant, Bobby Portis, Tomas Satoranksy, or maybe even Jabari Parker, you might find yourself in an enviable position when the fantasy playoffs roll around.
Outside of those two teams, there are a few that should still be considered strong for playoff time. Plenty of teams have an 11-game schedule, but the ones in the best position to succeed are listed below. The following teams play against what appears to be some of the easiest competition for fantasy purposes.
Utah seems to have the best 11-game schedule of all teams over the fantasy playoffs. Of the eleven games the Jazz are scheduled to play from March 11 to March 31, eight of them are against teams in the top 10 easiest fantasy competition list! That includes the Hawks, Suns (twice), Knicks, Wizards (twice), Bulls, and Lakers. Kudos to you if you own any of Utah’s primary options.
Also, Houston has a light load over the fantasy playoffs. They’re scheduled to play six games against teams in the top 11 of the fantasy ease rankings. Across weeks 22-24, the Rockets will play the Hawks, Hornets, Suns, Timberwolves, Pelicans, and Kings. If your league’s playoffs stretch to the end of the season, you’re still in luck with Houston. That’s because three of their final five games are also against some of the easiest competition.
Lastly, the Lakers also make the list of 11-game teams who could produce nicely for you during the playoffs. They have a cakewalk through the Bulls, Knicks, Kings, Wizards, Hornets, and Pelicans within weeks 22-24.
Possible Waiver Options
So we’ve now discussed teams with nice fantasy playoff schedules. That’s all well and good but what does it mean for you? With most leagues’ trade deadlines either passed or coming up quick, trading for a player in an opportune position will be difficult. However, that doesn’t leave you high and dry with no moves to make. Let’s take a look at some players you can target on the waiver wire. The following players are still available in at least 50% of Yahoo leagues.
- Derrick White – White got off to a slow start this season but got things on track to the tune of a top 45 overall fantasy ranking over the past 2 months before getting injured. Now returning from injury, White should get things going again.
- Marcus Smart – Regardless of how deep the Celtics are, Smart has hustled his way to a top 100 ranking, including a top 65 spot over the past 3 months.
- Kenrich Williams – Right place, right time, Williams finds himself in a very nice spot. As a young player on a team with little depth chart competition, he should see all the playing time he can handle down the stretch.
- PJ Tucker – Averaging over 35 minutes per game, Tucker has been a top 80 player up to this point, including a top 40 over his last 4 games. With the Rockets holding one of the best 11-game fantasy playoff schedules, Tucker is in a great spot to keep it up.
- Jeff Green – As discussed previously, Green is one of the Washington vets who is in a good position to succeed if given the opportunity.
- Jae Crowder – I mentioned above that Utah has the best 11-game schedule in the league during fantasy playoff time. Crowder could be a great value play against the easiest fantasy competition the NBA has to offer.
- Dwight Powell & Maxi Kleber – With very little depth chart competition besides each other, you’d think Powell and Kleber could step up into standard league relevance but that’s hardly been the case yet. Just keep an eye on them.
- Delon Wright – As the #116 player over the past 4 games, Wright is just barely scratching the surface of the standard league radar. While Memphis may not be the most exciting system to improve a player’s fantasy stock, I expect Wright to better his ranking at least a little bit more, especially if Mike Conley sees rest time/fewer minutes down the stretch.
- Patrick Beverley – Beverley has been a top 40 player over the past month, and, if we’re to believe Steve Ballmer’s claims that the Clips are still pushing for the playoffs, he could potentially remain on the shallower league radar.
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – After an exciting start to the season, SGA has dropped off the last couple months. Whether the Clippers are pushing for the postseason or not, SGA should be seeing more playing time and usage down the stretch if they want to see what he’s got.
- Landry Shamet – Clipper number 3 on this list, Shamet has found himself a comfy home in LA, playing about 30 minutes a game while starting in Doc’s new 3-Guard lineup. If you need 3’s, FT%, and positive TO contributor, Shamet’s your guy.
- Thomas Bryant – This one is iffy. Dwight Howard seems to be close to a return, and Bryant came off the bench in his most recent game (although he completely dominated in that performance). Bryant is young enough that he shouldn’t lose minutes if Washington hits the tank button. He’s also good enough that he’ll continue seeing minutes if the Wizards want to stay legitimate.
- Elfrid Payton – Will Payton finally be able to maintain health? Time will tell, but with New Orleans falling deeper into the early lottery each day, they might want to play their young, upcoming FA’s as much as possible down the stretch.
Now that we’ve gone over the most appealing fantasy playoff schedules and some waiver wire options to consider, my final tip for you fantasy fiends is one that goes hand-in-hand with streaming and choosing who to start. If you find yourself lacking in a certain category that you wish to improve upon, it’s vital to know which teams tend to give up the most points in each category. For example, if you’re falling behind in Steals, it’s very helpful to know that the Suns have yielded the most Steals to opposing teams over the past month. You can use that knowledge to your advantage by streaming/starting players who are matching up against the Suns, if you’re in need of Steals.
Here’s a list of each category and which teams are best to target if you’re in need of them:
Over the past month:
WAS (by a wide margin), ATL, SAS
LAL, ATL, WAS
SAC (by a wide margin), DAL
WAS (by a wide margin), ATL, LAL
PHX & LAC (by a wide margin), ATL, LAL
BKN (by a wide margin), CLE, PHX
SAS & WAS (by a wide margin), PHX
SAS, LAL, CHI
On the season:
ATL (by a wide margin), NOP, WAS
MIL, NOP, ATL, MIN
SAC (by a wide margin), NYK
ATL (wide margin), WAS, NOP
ATL (very wide margin), PHX
CHA (wide margin), NYK
CLE & WAS (wide margin), ATL, PHX
POR, SAS, CLE
In closing, remember that there’s no universal scheme or strategy to help all fantasy GM’s. Everyone’s situation is different. Tweeting the Unicorns your personalized questions is always an option. Also, keep in mind that we started an affordable patreon system where you can get inside access and join a Discord group where you’ll have the option to interact with the Unicorns, as well as like-minded fantasy GM’s, 24/7.
We hope you found this article useful. Good luck winning that championship, fantasy fiends.