This article is part of our NBA Draft Strategy series.The NBA did an excellent job building up hype in advance of releasing the 2017-18 schedule. They first amped up the excitement by releasing the opening week and Christmas Day slate. Now that the entire schedule has been released, it's time to examine and gain the advantage when it comes to fantasy basketball.
Though every team plays 82 games, there are still plenty of opportunities to take advantage of your opponents by knowing the intricacies of the schedule. Below, we'll break it down both on a monthly and weekly basis.
OctoberIn an effort to help players get more rest without sitting out games, the NBA is starting the season about two weeks earlier than last year. The leaders out of the gate are the Nets, Mavericks, Warriors, Rockets and Pistons, with each team playing eight games in the month.
Very thoughtful of the NBA to ease Bulls fans into what is shaping up to be a brutal season. Chicago only plays five games in October, the fewest of any team. The Knicks, Heat, Wizards, Raptors and Clippers play the next fewest number of games with six each.
In terms of the weekly schedule, all teams play either two or three games in Week 1 and either three or four games in Week 2. The first significant discrepancy is in Week 3 – which stretches into November – as the Nets only play two games during that week. Twelve teams play four games in Week 3, including the Spurs and Timberwolves.
NovemberThe Celtics and Suns have the upper hand in November, with both teams playing 16 games. The Pistons won't see as much action this month as they only play 12 games, fewer than any other team.
The Hornets, Grizzlies, Timberwolves and Trailblazers each only play two games in Week 4 while the Celtics, Nets, Pacers, Heat, Thunder and Suns each play four games. As the majority of the league is playing three games or fewer, this is your first chance to take advantage of the schedule on a larger scale.
Week 5 is one of the more evenly distributed weeks of the month as only the Thunder play two games. All of the other teams play either three or four times.
*One key weekly advantage you can gain is using your Timberwolves players in November as they are the only team to play four games in three consecutive weeks (Week 5 through Week 7).
DecemberThe Celtics, Thunder and Grizzlies lead the month with 17 games. Damian Lillard and company get to rest up for the holiday season as the Trail Blazers play the fewest games in December (13).
There will be plenty of opportunity to cash in on Isaiah Thomas, Gordon Hayward and the rest of the Celtics as they are the only team play at least four games in all four weeks.
The Bucks, Timberwolves, Pelicans, Magic, Kings and Raptors are the only teams to have just one week with four games in the month.
JanuaryAround 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 NBA continues to showcase the Timberwolves in the first half of the season, as they play 17 games in January, more than any other team. Coach Tom Thibodeau likes to lean on his key players, so expect Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins to put up some big numbers for the month.
The Atlantic Division won't get as much run in January as the Celtics and Sixers play the fewest games in the month at 12. Not only do they play the fewest games in the month overall, but both teams also play only one game each in Week 13. No other teams play fewer than two games in any week in the month.
February and the "Halfway Point"The schedule has never been split exactly down the middle once teams hit the All-Star break, but it's even more lopsided this year with the season starting earlier. Now is the time to take stock of where things stand.
At the break, the Timberwolves will have played the most games in the league at 61. No other team has played more than 59 games. You'll want to consider moving Timberwolves players at this point as fewer games remaining means fewer opportunities for you to accumulate stats. Of course, that doesn't mean you should rush out to deal Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins or Jimmy Butler, but games remaining is something to keep in mind when you're weighing a possible trade decision.
Consider targeting players on the Cavaliers and Sixers as each time will have only played 55 games up to this point, the fewest in the league. The next-fewest are the Grizzlies and Clippers with 56 games, so players on those teams are slightly more desirable, as well. In terms of the weekly schedule, the only five-game week of the season comes in Week 20, which stretches into March. Which star-studded team gets this honor you ask? That would be none other than… the Sacramento Kings.
It's also important to note that the NBA trade deadline falls on February 8, considerably earlier than in seasons past.
MarchThis is the last full month of the season. The Heat, Kings, Raptors, Grizzlies, Clippers, Cavaliers and Sixers are all making up for lost time and playing the most games in the month at 16. Two teams with playoff aspirations get some important rest this month as the Timberwolves and Celtics play just 13 games.
The Timberwolves (Week 20) and the Raptors (Week 24) are the only teams to play just two games in a week this month. The Raptors make up for that, though, considering they play four games each in Week 21 through Week 23.
AprilAs the excitement for the playoffs build, the regular season comes to a close in April. The Magic, Lakers and Sixers lead the final month with 7 games each. If you are making a push to win your league, check the waiver wire for any players on these teams who are available and playing sufficient minutes.
Seven teams bring up the rear with only five games in the month, including the Suns, Knicks and Heat. The Timberwolves, Thunder and Raptors play the fewest games in Week 25 with two each. In the final week of the season (Week 26), most teams play two games, save for the Hawks, Hornets, Mavericks, Warriors, Pacers and Suns, who each play just once.