This is not a drill, people! The NBA is back, and it is time to CELEBRATE! Break out your Fortnite dance moves, but first set your fantasy lineup as your first step on the path to ULTIMATE DOMINATION this year!
Pause. I'm a little too krunk. Let me let it breathe and dial back from 15.
OK, I'm back.
As I was saying, the NBA season tips off Tuesday so it's time to get our weekly forecaster up and going. As usual, in the space that follows, I'll point out teams which, through a combination of several factors -- including number of games played, rest, home vs. away, offense caliber, opponent defense and strength of opponent overall (among others) -- project out as having the most favorable fantasy matchups for the next week. However, with this being the first week of the season, there are some important things to consider.
First, the Forecaster is heavily influenced by the recent performances of every team in the league. Since there are no recent games to pull from, though, the Forecaster is currently leaning heavily on last season's numbers. But we're coming off an offseason during which players changed teams, new talent was added through the draft -- and many squads just aren't the same as they were last season.
For example, the Forecaster doesn't know that LeBron James is now playing for the Los Angeles Lakers instead of the Cleveland Cavaliers, nor that Kawhi Leonard is now the new King in the North with DeMar DeRozan in the Alamo, events that dramatically change four different franchises.
Second, one of the big benefits of the Forecaster is that it helps point out useful streaming options over the course of the long season. However, since there haven't been any actual games since your fantasy drafts, most of us will be playing the guys we drafted instead of mining the free-agency wire.
We get that. However, there is still a lot of utility in having a quantitative approach that gives a good general idea about what to expect to start the season. Instead of guiding stream options, I'll help you make the tough decisions about whom to lock into your first-week starting lineups.
There have been injuries during the preseason and roles that were up for grabs, which mean that some of the players whom you drafted are already seeing value shifts that make lineup questions more pertinent.
So, without further ado, let's examine this first week and find some value plays.
Matchup ratings are based upon a scale from 1 (poor matchup) to 10 (excellent matchup). These are calculated using a formula that evaluates the team's season-to-date and past-10-games statistics, opponents' numbers in those categories and performance in home/road games depending on where the game is to be played. The column to the left lists the team's total number of games scheduled, as well as home games, and lists the overall rating from 1-10 for that team's weekly schedule.
The week ahead
The season tips off Tuesday, and there are no teams with four games during the first six days of the season. Instead, 18 teams have three games and 12 have only two. Five teams have great Forecaster Ratings of 8 or higher, indicating very favorable matchups on a scale of 1-10, while nine teams have ratings of 3 or lower. Let's start with the latter.
The Chicago Bulls (Forecaster rating of 1), Phoenix Suns (2), San Antonio Spurs (2), Dallas Mavericks (3), Lakers (3), Memphis Grizzlies (3), Portland Trail Blazers (3), Sacramento Kings (3) and Washington Wizards (3) have the lowest Forecaster scores for the coming week.
All nine teams play only two games, and number count is one of the most important parameters for weekly leagues. As always, this doesn't mean that you absolutely sit every player on any of these teams. At all. If you have James, Damian Lillard or John Wall and they're healthy, you play them, period. But if you are trying to decide whether to start guys like Marvin Bagley III, Rudy Gay or Jaren Jackson, then maybe a low team score on the Forecaster might tip the argument.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Denver Nuggets (Forecaster rating of 10), Golden State Warriors (10), Houston Rockets (10), Philadelphia 76ers (10), Oklahoma City Thunder (9) and Indiana Pacers (8) have the highest Forecaster scores of the week. All five play three games, which gives their borderline players more opportunity to produce on what should be good offensive units with favorable schedules.
Here are some startable/streamable options worth considering from those teams:
Dennis Schroder, Oklahoma City Thunder: The Thunder traded for Schroder in the offseason as part of a salary-dumping move, but he also gave them a strong sixth-man candidate with impact-starter upside. With Russell Westbrook still recovering from last month's knee surgery, and the real possibility that he misses action in the coming week, Schroder has a good chance to produce out of the gate.
Markelle Fultz, Philadelphia 76ers: Fultz is one of the most intriguing players in the NBA to start the season, fresh off a rookie season ruined by a shoulder injury that led to crazy speculation as to whether he'd ever be able to shoot again. The 76ers have announced that Fultz will start at shooting guard to open the season, and they have a track record of top-three picks who lost seasons to injury then burst onto the scene in a big way down the road. Fultz has a favorable opening schedule to try to replicate the big early impressions of his teammates.
Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Pacers: Sabonis burst onto the scene for the Pacers last season, establishing himself as a nightly double-double threat whenever Myles Turner was out. Turner is healthy and expected to start at center, but Sabonis should still get major minutes. He's coming off a string of double-doubles in the preseason, and with the extra game, he has a solid chance to produce starter numbers to open the season.