Fantasy basketball forecaster: Jan. 21-27

Kawhi Leonard and his Toronto Raptors teammates are primed for an impact week in fantasy basketball. Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

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Read below for the fantasy basketball Forecaster

In weekly transaction leagues, the schedule is one of the most important factors in determining how to fill out your fantasy basketball lineups. All fantasy teams have a hierarchy of player calibers, with a set of "best players" surrounded by a cast of lesser but still productive players from which to draw your weekly starting lineup.

All things being equal, a manager would start their best players every week and fill out the rest of their lineup based on variables such as matchups. All things, however, aren't equal.

The schedule changes the bottom line, because teams can play a different number of games, against a different caliber of opponents, with different breakdowns of home vs. road, back-to-backs, rest nights, etc. All of these things matter, and as I've noticed this season, they often matter even more than a player's caliber.

For example, would you rather get two games of a great player at 35 minutes per night against tough competition, or four games of a lesser player at 30 minutes per night against high-paced, weak competition? When looking at it quantitatively, it's surprising (to me) how often the correct answer is actually the lesser player -- yes, based on schedules, sometimes even star players should sit for a week.

Thus, below, we have the Forecaster, which provides a scheduling and matchup tool to help you make better-informed lineup decisions for the upcoming week.

We also take your weekly prep to another level with my new weekly projection rankings. Here, you'll find my top-150 weekly rankings, based on ESPN standard points-league scoring, so you can compare players and determine who you should start, sit, stream or drop for the week ahead. I also note several typical starters whom you might want to sit, and several bench/free agents whom you might want to stream.

Without further ado, let's check out the Forecaster.

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 columns to the left list the team's total number of games scheduled, as well as home games, and the overall rating from 1 to 10 for that team's weekly schedule.

The week ahead

There are a lot of games this week, with 18 teams playing four games during the period. Only two teams play twice, and 10 teams play three times. The unusually high number of teams playing four times shifts the entire Forecaster scale upward, such that only teams with at least four games even had a chance at receiving very high scores. Meanwhile, there are more teams with three games among the very low scores than usual, and both teams with only two games earned minimum Forecaster scores.

The Houston Rockets, due in large part to the recent exploits of James Harden and the friendly Mike D'Antoni offense, earned a perfect 10 on the Forecaster. The Toronto Raptors joined them at 10, with both teams playing four games in this period. The Oklahoma City Thunder turned their four games into a score of 9, while each of the LA Clippers, Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz turned four games into a Forecaster score of 8.

On the other side of the coin, the Charlotte Hornets and Indiana Pacers are the two teams that play twice, and both have a 1 Forecaster score. All four of the other teams at the bottom -- the Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn Nets, Detroit Pistons, San Antonio Spurs -- have three games this week that translate to 3s on the Forecaster.

Check out my weekly player rankings to see our take on which players may be worth starting or sitting this week due to the combination of the schedule and injuries.