The fantasy basketball playoffs begin in just over a month, and if you've played this game before you know that will be here before you know it. Now is the time to set yourself up for a deep playoff run by stacking your roster with players who have favorable schedules from Week 20 on.
So which teams and players are the ones to have? And which should be avoided at all costs?
Here are Eric Karabell, Eric Moody, Jim McCormick and Steve Alexander to explain.
Four teams have the best playoff schedules
Paying attention to the schedule is important in head-to-head playoff leagues and it all depends on when your league's playoffs run. For simplicity sake, I looked at Weeks 20-24 and here's the break down.
Four teams (HOU, MEM, OKC, PHI) play 19 games during Weeks 20-24 and they have the best fantasy playoff schedules. There are no two-game weeks to be found and these teams all go four times in four of those five weeks. That's great news for players like Jalen Green, Alperen Sengun, Ja Morant, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Joel Embiid.
The 18-game teams are also void of any two-game weeks and are going to be highly sought after come playoff time (BKN, GSW, MIL, POR, SAC).
The teams with 17 games (bulk of the league) are the middle-of-the road playoff schedules but beware of CHA, CHI, MIA, NYK and SAS. Each of them have a two-game week tucked in there, but also have three four-game weeks.
The teams with 16 games (DEN, DET, LAC, MIN, PHX, TOR, UTAH) have it rough and the Nuggets and Nikola Jokic have a pair of two-game weeks during that stretch, which is disappointing. All but one of the 16-game teams have a two-game week, with the Raptors being the lone exception.
The Cavaliers are the only 15-game team but if your playoffs start after Week 20, you avoid any two-game weeks. So in some ways the Cavs' schedule might be better than some of the teams with more games during those five weeks. -- Alexander
Target 76ers, avoid Clippers, Cavaliers, Jazz and others
Philadelphia is one of several teams with four scheduled games in five of the final six weeks, but we should look how the 76ers treat stars Joel Embiid and James Harden now. This should benefit Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris the most. This duo will get all the shots they desire in the final month, and backup C Montrezl Harrell should gain value, too. Meanwhile, the Clippers get only one four-game week in the final five weeks, and that includes a two-game week to start the playoffs. The Clippers are already extra careful with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. The team will still sit them periodically, but unlike the 76ers with more games, it may make these stars a fantasy liability. -- Karabell
There was one team that immediately caught my eye, the 76ers, who end the fantasy season with three consecutive four-game weeks. When looking at the NBA schedule, managers with Joel Embiid or James Harden have to be excited. Those with Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris also benefit. Fantasy managers with Cavaliers players such as Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen may be disappointed to find out Cleveland closes the season with four consecutive three-game weeks. If you want to boost your lineups further, I would suggest having a disposal player on your bench where you can insert a streamer. -- Moody
Not only is it likely prudent to try and trade Kawhi Leonard while he's looked so great lately, it makes even more sense when you evaluate the Clippers' brutal fantasy playoff schedule. The Bulls, Jazz, and Clippers are the only teams that play just five total games in the first two weeks (Weeks 21 and 22) of the playoffs in ESPN hoops formats. We also find Los Angeles with the fourth-toughest remaining schedule based on opponent winning percentage; more evidence that moving Clippers players could prove savvy. With Utah potentially in the lottery hunt by then and the Bulls facing a franchise crossroads, these rosters also present some real risks for managers down the stretch. Miami is another team with some real schedule concerns, as the Heat play just five total games between Weeks 22 and 23, deep into the heart of fantasy contention for a team famous for resting star players. Conversely, the thriving Kings join the Grizzlies as the only two teams in the NBA that play at least four games in each of the final four weeks of the season, canvassing the entire fantasy postseason. With the Kings chasing their first playoff berth since 2006, you can assume Domantas Sabonis, De'Aaron Fox and company finish at full speed. -- McCormick