The NBA season is more than half over, which means that the fantasy playoffs are roughly seven weeks away. For some teams, the next seven weeks will be a mad scramble to get into the playoffs. Others teams have already secured their playoff spot and are now focused on strengthening their fantasy teams for a playoff run. This week's rest-of-season rankings will be focused on identifying players who can help you prepare for your fantasy playoffs.
So much of being prepared for the fantasy playoffs comes down to understanding the NBA schedule, which is unbalanced from week to week. As a result I asked RotoWire's NBA schedule guru and Langston Galloway superfan, J.J. Calle, to share some tips to help prepare for the fantasy playoffs. In addition, I've provided rankings and auction values weighted for the number of games each NBA team will play during the fantasy playoffs. Today's rankings and advice is meant for Yahoo! leagues. Look for a similar post meant for ESPN leagues in the near future.
Nuggets of Wisdom from J.J. Calle
All stats and schedule quirks are accurate as of 1/24/15. For a full breakdown of the Yahoo! head-to-head playoffs, consult this article.
In default Yahoo! head-to-head leagues, six teams qualify for the playoffs. The top two teams earn a bye. The playoffs are comprised of three one-week matchups: Week 21 (March 16-22), Week 22 (March 23-29), and Week 23 (March 30-April 5). 10 NBA teams play 12 games, 12 teams play 11 games, four teams play 10 games, and four teams play nine games during that three-week stretch.
If you're guaranteed a bye during the first round, add players from the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers to your target list. Both teams play three games during Week 21, followed by four games apiece the final two weeks, joining the other 10 teams that play 12 games throughout the standard fantasy playoffs. You'll also want to discount players on the Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic. They play a minimum five games over the final two weeks after playing four games each in Week 21. The Magic play two games during the semifinals, and the Cavaliers play two games during the finals.
The Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets are equipped with seven quality games apiece, permitting you to shuffle those players into your lineups on slower nights in leagues that don't lock at the beginning of the week. The Washington Wizards and Orlando Magic possess a league-low one quality game each. The Magic's one quality game lands on the first game of Week 21. In fact, by my count, the Magic plays the fewest games (36) and are scheduled for a minimum six quality games the rest of the season.
Additionally, be mindful of all the situations that could hold players out of games during the fantasy playoffs: the upcoming NBA trade deadline (February 19), teams with draft picks to protect might rest players at the end of the season (Los Angeles Lakers, Sacramento Kings), teams locked into a playoff seed would have nothing to gain by playing their starters at the end of the season, and understand coaching track records when it comes to resting players, etc.
Also, consider home/away splits and performance on back-to-backs. The Portland Trail Blazers are a machine at the moment, but they always travel the furthest of any NBA team by season's end. They struggled near the end of last season and play a league-high five back-to-backs during Week 21-23. Denver plays 70 percent of their fantasy playoff schedule away from their altitude advantage. Brian Shaw plays Kenneth Faried two fewer minutes in road games (28.6 to 26.0), and Faried averages three fewer rebounds on the road (10.6 to 7.2), which is a gap of about five rebounds per 100 possessions. The Sixers play eight of their 12 games during Weeks 21-23 on the road. Michael Carter-Williams averages almost two fewer assists in road games (8.1 to 6.3). Nerlens Noel's numbers drop off noticeably in road games, as seen below:
On a team level, the Sixers are significantly worse on the road in most categories (rebounds are a wash). Their pace is nearly identical in both settings, per NBA.com:
I was surprised when I dug up the Blazers' numbers. Collectively, they're actually better the second night of a back-to-back if you ignore small sample size. See for yourself:
|0 Days Rest||10||105.9||45.2||23.9||7.4||5.5||11.5||44.8%|
|1 Day Rest||27||101.9||45.7||21.7||6.8||4.9||9.6||44.6%|
|2 Days Rest||5||101.4||47.4||22.6||6.8||4.0||10.6||43%|
Yahoo Fantasy Playoff Rankings & Auction Values
Below are rankings and auction values based on RotoWire Projections for the Yahoo! fantasy playoffs. These rankings and auction values are intended for head-to-head leagues where RotoWire recommends focusing on the six positive counting categories (pts, rebs, asts, stls, blks, three-pointers), even if that strategy makes your team non-competitive in the other three categories. As a point of reference, I've also included the rest-of-season rankings for each player so that you can identify players whose value is different in the playoffs compared to the rest of the season.
Here are a few players who stuck out to me:
Klay Thompson (Regular Season: 11th, Playoffs: 4th): Not only did Thompson put up an incredible 37-point quarter recently, but he is on pace to become the 3rd player ever to average over three assists, rebounds, and three-pointers made in a season. He's also averaging more than one steal and one block per game. No team plays more games during the fantasy playoffs than the Warriors, who play 12.
Kemba Walker (Regular Season: 22th, Playoffs: 11th): The Hornets also have 12 games during the fantasy playoffs, and are suddenly back in playoff contention.
Anthony Davis (Regular Season: 7th, Playoffs: 14th): Davis has been a monster this season, but the Pelicans have only 10 games during the fantasy playoffs. If you can trade Davis for a package that includes DeMarcus Cousins or Draymond Green in head-to-head Yahoo! leagues, I would recommend pulling the trigger.
Gordon Hayward (Regular Season: 23rd, Playoffs: 16th): The Jazz play 12 games during the fantasy playoffs, with only three back to backs.
LeBron James (Regular Season: 5th, Playoffs: 18th): LeBron's Cavs have only 9 games during the fantasy playoffs, so if you can get anything close to top-5 value for him in a trade, you've got to do it.
|Playoff Rank||Playoff Value||Player||Team||ROS Ranking|
|157||$ -||Tiago Splitter||SAS||188|
|158||$ -||Nene Hilario||WAS||163|
|159||$ -||Jared Dudley||MIL||160|
|160||$ -||Jason Smith||NYK||140|
|161||$ -||Luis Scola||IND||199|
|162||$ -||Reggie Jackson||OKC||161|
|163||$ -||Gerald Green||PHO||142|
|164||$ -||David Lee||GSW||189|
|165||$ -||James Johnson||TOR||165|
|166||$ -||Marreese Speights||GSW||184|
|167||$ -||Taj Gibson||CHI||136|
|168||$ -||Tim Hardaway||NYK||166|
|169||$ -||Kevin Garnett||BRO||183|
|170||$ -||Omer Asik||NOP||139|
|171||$ -||Kyle Singler||DET||179|
|172||$ -||Alan Anderson||BRO||182|
|173||$ -||Carlos Boozer||LAL||171|
|174||$ -||Marco Belinelli||SAS||207|
|175||$ -||Timofey Mozgov||CLE||129|
|176||$ -||C.J. Watson||IND||202|
|177||$ -||Spencer Hawes||LAC||178|
|178||$ -||John Henson||MIL||174|
|179||$ -||Tristan Thompson||CLE||145|
|180||$ -||Bojan Bogdanovic||BRO||175|
|181||$ -||Iman Shumpert||CLE||154|
|182||$ -||Jason Thompson||SAC||176|
|183||$ -||Jerryd Bayless||MIL||177|
|184||$ -||Alex Len||PHO||169|
|185||$ -||Shabazz Napier||MIA||200|
|186||$ -||Mike Dunleavy||CHI||158|
|187||$ -||Devin Harris||DAL||181|
|188||$ -||Bismack Biyombo||CHR||218|
|189||$ -||Terrence Ross||TOR||190|
|190||$ -||Jason Terry||HOU||197|
|191||$ -||Tyler Zeller||BOS||208|
|192||$ -||J.J. Hickson||DEN||180|
|193||$ -||Derrick Williams||SAC||185|
|194||$ -||D.J. Augustin||DET||195|
|195||$ -||Hollis Thompson||PHI||219|
|196||$ -||Kosta Koufos||MEM||194|
|197||$ -||Wayne Ellington||LAL||203|
|198||$ -||Gerald Henderson||CHR||214|
|199||$ -||Ersan Ilyasova||MIL||193|
|200||$ -||Evan Fournier||ORL||170|