In typical head-to-head formats, the first week of a three-round playoff setup is Week 21 (March 17-23), followed by Week 22 (March 24-30) for round two and Week 23 (March 31 - April 6) for the championship matchup.
All 30 teams are ranked here by how favorable their schedule is for the fantasy playoffs, primarily focusing on number of games, but also using strength of opponents and the assumed motivation by each team to field its best lineup. In this season, more than any in recent memory, bad teams will be actively tanking during the fantasy playoffs, so matchups against teams like the Bobcats, Magic, 76ers, Suns, Celtics, Kings and Jazz will be weighted more favorably than those against the teams that may actually have a shot at a playoff spot.
Tier One: Teams with 12 Games in the Fantasy Playoffs
1. Atlanta Hawks
Week 21: (4) @CHA, TOR, NOR, @TOR
Week 22: (4) PHX, @MIN, POR, @WAS
Week 23: (4) PHI, CHI, CLE, @IND
The Hawks have the appealing combination of the maximum number of games during the fantasy playoffs and the likelihood of having a lot on the line in the final weeks in terms of making the playoffs and/or playoff seeding. Atlanta also has the benefit of a game against the Bobcats and two against the Raptors in the first round of the fantasy playoffs. Al Horford, Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver should all be looked upon favorably on draft day.
2. Brooklyn Nets
Week 21: (4) PHX, CHA, BOS, @DAL
Week 22: (4) @NOR, @CHA, CLE, MIN
Week 23: (4) HOU, @NYK, DET, @PHI
Like Atlanta, Brooklyn has some very favorable matchups in the first round of the fantasy playoffs. They also should have something to play for at this point in the season, with the Atlantic Division title likely hanging in the balance.
3. Toronto Raptors
Week 21: (4) @ATL, @NOR, OKC, ATL
Week 22: (4) @CLE, @BOS, BOS, @ORL
Week 23: (4) @MIA, HOU, IND, @MIL
The Raptors have some nice matchups, especially in the second round of the fantasy playoffs, but the big question is whether the Raptors will actually be in tank-mode at this point. If Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas, Rudy Gay or DeMar DeRozan are nicked up, they may be sitting on the bench for some of these games as Toronto looks to improve their draft lottery odds.
4. Indiana Pacers
Week 21: (4) PHI, @NYK, CHI, @MEM
Week 22: (4) @CHI, MIA, @WAS, @CLE
Week 23: (4) SAS, DET, @TOR, ATL
The Pacers could be in contention with the Heat for the No. 1 seed and at the same time could be fighting to hold off the Bulls, Nets and Knicks for the No. 2 seed. Paul George, Roy Hibbert, George Hill, David West and Danny Granger should all be startable come playoff time.
5. Miami Heat
Week 21: (4) @CLE, @BOS, MEM, @NOR
Week 22: (4) POR, @IND, @DET, @MIL
Week 23: (4) TOR, MIL, MIN, NYK
The Heat play the maximum number of games in the fantasy playoffs, but like we saw last season, they could have little to play for down the stretch. It's hard to downgrade a player on draft day because their team might be too good, but that might be the case with Miami's big guns. LeBron James only played in four of Miami's final 10 games last season, which could prove disastrous in weekly leagues if it happens again.
Tier Two: Teams with 11 Games in the Fantasy Playoffs
6. Dallas Mavericks
Week 21: (4) BOS, MIN, DEN, BKN
Week 22: (3) OKC, LAC, SAC
Week 23: (4) GSW, @LAC, @LAL, @SAC
The Mavs maybe should have aimed to tank this season, but Mark Cuban's game theory approach to fielding a winner this year means that Dallas could very easily be in the hunt for one of the final playoff spots in the West. This, coupled with eight-straight home games to start the fantasy playoffs leaves me pretty bullish on guys like Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon for the Mavs' 11-game fantasy postseason run.
7. New York Knicks
Week 21: (3) IND, @PHI, CLE
Week 22: (4) @LAL, @SAC, @PHX, @GSW
Week 23: (4) @UTA, BKN, WAS, @MIA
The Knicks have some pretty favorable matchups throughout the fantasy playoffs and should have a lot on the line during this stretch. Carmelo Anthony, Raymond Felton, Tyson Chandler and J.R. Smith could all spearhead postseason success in your fantasy league.
8. Chicago Bulls
Week 21: (4) OKC, @PHI, @IND, PHI
Week 22: (3) IND, POR, @BOS
Week 23: (4) BOS, @ATL, MIL, @WAS
We know that the Bulls should be battling for playoff seeding at this point in the season, and we also know that coach Tom Thibodeau likes to keep a pretty tight rotation, especially in key games. Owners of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler will also benefit from some great matchups, including two games against Philly in the first round and back-to-back games against the rebuilding Celtics at the end of March.
9. Washington Wizards
Week 21: (4) @SAC, @POR, @LAL, @DEN
Week 22: (3) PHX, IND, ATL
Week 23: (4) @CHA, BOS, @NYK, CHI
The Wizards start the fantasy playoffs with four games on the road, but they don't play a strong defensive team until they face the Pacers at home in the second round. It may sound strange, but there's a possibility the Wizards actually contend for a playoff spot this year, so they could be doing everything in their power to win these games, which will mean a lot of minutes for John Wall and Bradley Beal.
10. New Orleans Pelicans
Week 21: (3) TOR, @ATL, MIA
Week 22: (4) BKN, LAC, UTA, @SAS
Week 23: (4) SAC, @DEN, @UTA, @POR
Other than a Week 21 matchup at home against the Heat, the Pelicans' schedule plays out very nice for owners of Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, Ryan Anderson, Jrue Holiday and Al-Farouq Aminu. With their offseason acquisitions, New Orleans could finally be back to playing meaningful games in March and April.
11. Detroit Pistons
Week 21: (3) @DEN, @PHX, @LAC
Week 22: (4) @UTA, CLE, MIA, @PHI
Week 23: (4) MIL, @IND, @BKN, BOS
The Pistons could very easily be fighting for a playoff spot in the East this year, and they have the ideal setup of four games in each of the final two rounds of the fantasy playoffs. The core four of Brandon Jennings, Josh Smith, Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe should be key contributors to fantasy teams with aspirations of being league champs.
12. Denver Nuggets
Week 21: (4) LAC, DET, @DAL, WAS
Week 22: (3) @OKC, @SAS, SAS
Week 23: (4) MEM, NOR, @MEM, @HOU
Round 2 could be a tough one for owners of Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee, with a matchup against the Thunder and two against the Spurs. But with four games in the first and final playoff rounds, the Nuggets can be viewed highly by forward thinking fantasy minds on draft day.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves
Week 21: (3) @DAL, @HOU, PHX
Week 22: (4) @MEM, ATL, LAL, @BKN
Week 23: (4) LAC, MEM, @MIA, @ORL
Except for games against the Suns, Lakers and Magic, the T-Wolves have a really tough playoff schedule. Still, there's value in numbers, and Minnesota has 11 games in the fantasy playoffs, meaning there is no need to downgrade Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin or Nikola Pekovic at your drafts.
14. Memphis Grizzlies
Week 21: (3) UTA, @MIA, IND
Week 22: (4) MIN, @UTA, @GSW, @POR
Week 23: (4) @DEN, @MIN, DEN, @SAS
We can assume that these games will be critical for the Grizzlies, but matchups at Miami and against Indiana in the first round should prove to be real grinders. If you own Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph or Mike Conley, you're probably not going to bench them, but it could be a struggle to advance to the second round of the playoffs if your team has multiple Grizzlies. However, after the first round, those guys could help win your league, with matchups against several uptempo teams.
15. Cleveland Cavaliers
Week 21: (4) MIA, OKC, HOU, @NYK
Week 22: (4) TOR, @DET, @BKN, IND
Week 23: (3) @ORL, @ATL, CHA
The Cavs could be battling for their first playoff berth since LeBron James left after the 2009-10 season, but they face difficult matchups throughout the fantasy playoffs. The final round of the playoffs is the least ideal time to only have three games on the schedule, as your team will likely be facing the other juggernaut of your league if you're fortunate enough to get there. It's nice to have four games in each of the first two rounds, but with games against Miami, Oklahoma City, Brooklyn, New York and Indiana, posting great offensive numbers will be a challenge for Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Anthony Bennett.
16. San Antonio Spurs
Week 21: (3) @LAL, @SAC, @DEN
Week 22: (4) PHI, DEN, @DEN, NOR
Week 23: (4) @IND, GSW, @OKC, MEM
There are a couple stretches during the fantasy playoffs where we could see coach Gregg Popovich rest some key players. The Spurs have three road games in four nights during Week 21 and a similar run in Week 23. However, while this could affect Tim Duncan and maybe Tony Parker, young guys with seemingly unlimited energy like Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green could be spared a rest night.
17. Los Angeles Lakers
Week 21: (3) SAS, WAS, ORL
Week 22: (4) NYK, @MIL, @MIN, PHX
Week 23: (4) POR, @SAC, DAL, @LAC
It's difficult to envision the Lakers competing for a postseason spot, and it's even more difficult to imagine Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash all being healthy down the stretch. However, the players that are healthy should be very startable in the fantasy playoffs, with four games in each of the final two rounds, and a storied franchise tradition that would make blatant tanking a difficult proposition.
18. Phoenix Suns
Week 21: (4) @BKN, ORL, DET, @MIN
Week 22: (4) @ATL, @WAS, NYK, @LAL
Week 23: (3) LAC, @POR, OKC
The Suns only have one game against a guaranteed non-contender in the fantasy playoffs (Orlando). Since we can reasonably assume Phoenix will be pretty terrible, and should be in the hunt for top-three lottery odds, players like Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and Marcin Gortat might not be played as though the team is trying to win at all costs.
19. Philadelphia 76ers
Week 21: (4) @IND, CHI, NYK, @CHI
Week 22: (3) @SAS, @HOU, DET
Week 23: (4) @ATL, CHA, @BOS, BKN
The 76ers have a really tough schedule in the first two playoff rounds - facing the Pacers on the road, and the Bulls twice in the first round, as well as just three games in the second round, one being at San Antonio. They also have one of the worst teams in the league, meaning they will be doing everything in their power to maximize their Andrew Wiggins odds all season, and especially in the final weeks. Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner are the primary fantasy options on the team, but if either is ailing at all, the team will likely find a way to rest them down the stretch.
20. Portland Trail Blazers
Week 21: (3) MIL, WAS, @CHA
Week 22: (5) @MIA, @ORL, @ATL, @CHI, MEM
Week 23: (3) @LAL, PHX, NOR
Of the teams with 11 games during the fantasy playoffs, the Blazers are the only one with just three games in two of the playoff rounds. Sure, with five games in the second round, they might be the best team to have for that week, but with just three games in the first round and the championship round, the odds of riding Lamarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard and Nicolas Batum to wins in those two weeks are less than that of other teams with 11 games over that three-week stretch.
Tier Three: Teams with 10 Games in the Fantasy Playoffs
21. Houston Rockets
Week 21: (3) UTA, MIN, @CLE
Week 22: (3) @CHA, PHI, LAC
Week 23: (4) @BKN, @TOR, OKC, DEN
It's not an ideal first two rounds for James Harden, Dwight Howard and Chandler Parsons owners, but if you can claw to the championship matchup, the stars on the Rockets will be a big help in bringing home the hardware.
22. Oklahoma City Thunder
Week 21: (3) @CHI, @CLE, @TOR
Week 22: (4) DEN, @DAL, SAC, UTA
Week 23: (3) SAS, @HOU, @PHX
The Thunder have some pretty favorable matchups throughout the fantasy playoffs and should be in a dogfight with the Clippers, Grizzlies and Spurs for home-court advantage throughout the Western Conference Playoffs.
23. Boston Celtics
Week 21: (3) @DAL, MIA, @BRK
Week 22: (3) TOR, @TOR, CHI
Week 23: (4) @CHI, @WAS, PHI, @DET
Coach Brad Stevens and star point guard Rajon Rondo don't profile as guys who would welcome losing games down the stretch to improve lottery odds, but luckily for Celtics brass, the team should be bad enough to lose those games without tanking efforts. We would expect guys like Jeff Green and Rondo to play significant minutes, but the team only has three games in each of the first two playoff rounds, so their production won't be ideal until the championship round.
24. Milwaukee Bucks
Week 21: (3) @POR, @GSW, @SAC
Week 22: (3) @LAC, LAL, MIA
Week 23: (4) @DET, @MIA, @CHI, TOR
As is owner Herb Kohl's want, the Bucks could very well be in the hunt for their annual right to get whopped by the the Heat in the first round of the playoffs. Owners of Larry Sanders, Ersan Ilyasova and O.J. Mayo should get the minutes they're looking for, but with only six games in the first two rounds, it could be tough to ride your Bucks to the championship round.
25. Charlotte Bobcats
Week 21: (3) ATL, @BKN, POR
Week 22: (3) HOU, BKN, @ORL
Week 23: (4) WAS, @PHI, ORL, @CLE
Naturally the Bobcats have to be taken very seriously in the hunt for Wiggins, meaning that if Al Jefferson or Kemba Walker are at all ailing towards the end of the season, there's a solid chance they could get shut down. Combine that with only 10 games in the fantasy playoffs, and the Bobcats don't offer much in terms of postseason reliability from a fantasy perspective.
26. Sacramento Kings
Week 21: (3) WAS, SAS, MIL
Week 22: (3) NYK, @OKC, @DAL
Week 23: (4) @NOR, LAL, @GSW, DAL
The Kings don't offer a ton in terms of appealing fantasy options, and the one player who will get taken early in most leagues, DeMarcus Cousins, could find himself facing a suspension at this point in the season for accumulating 16 or more technical fouls, as was the case last season. Of course, this is by no means a guarantee, and the more pressing issue here is that the Kings play just three games in each of the first two rounds of the fantasy playoffs.
27. Utah Jazz
Week 21: (3) @HOU, @MEM, ORL
Week 22: (4) DET, MEM, @NOR, @OKC
Week 23: (3) NYK, NOR, @GSW
The Jazz have made it clear this offseason that Wiggins is their goal for the 2013-14 season, which means a lot of minutes for their youngsters. However, their young players - Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Trey Burke - are the only ones who will draw significant interest in fantasy drafts, so playing time shouldn't be an issue for owners. However, playing just three games in the first and final round of the fantasy playoffs is a cause for concern.
28. Orlando Magic
Week 21: (4) @GSW, @PHX, @UTA, @LAL
Week 22: (3) POR, CHA, TOR
Week 23: (3) CLE, @CHA, MIN
The Magic, like the Celtics, won't have to rest players to ensure they remain bad down the stretch, but just three games in each of the final two rounds of the playoffs could spell trouble for owners of Tobias Harris, Victor Oladipo and Nikola Vucevic.
29. Los Angeles Clippers
Week 21: (2) @DEN, DET
Week 22: (4) MIL, @NOR, @DEN, @HOU
Week 23: (4) @MIN, @PHX, DAL, LAL
On the one hand, you'd love to own Chris Paul and Blake Griffin in the final two rounds of the fantasy playoffs. But first you have to get there, and with just two games scheduled for round one, owners who used their first round pick on Chris Paul could be in big trouble.
Tier Four: Teams with Nine Games in the Fantasy Playoffs
30. Golden State Warriors
Week 21: (3) ORL, MIL, SAS
Week 22: (2) MEM, NYK
Week 23: (4) @DAL, @SAS, SAC, UTA
The Warriors are the only team with just nine games during the fantasy playoffs, which means Stephen Curry, David Lee, Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala will be tough to ride to a league title in head-to-head leagues. If you are fortunate enough to win your first round matchup with just three games on the schedule, the difficult decision of whether or not to bench someone like Curry with just two games on the docket in the second round will loom large.