Fantasy basketball forecaster: March 11-17

This week's schedule looks quite promising for Paul George, Russell Westbrook and their Thunder teammates. AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer

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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 things 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 seen this season, they often matter 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 weekly projection rankings. Here, you'll find my top-200 weekly rankings, based on ESPN standard points-league scoring, so you can compare players to determine which players to start, sit, stream or drop for the week ahead. I also provide 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 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 to 10 for that team's weekly schedule.

The week ahead

It's showtime, folks. For most leagues, this week is either the last week of the regular season or the first week of your fantasy basketball playoffs. This is not a drill. It's time to put your absolute best lineups on the table to make that last push for the chip. We can help with that.

There are 10 teams with four games this week, 18 teams with three games, and two squads with only two games. As a result, schedule is the dominant factor in the extremes of this week's Forecaster with almost every four-game schedule near the top and the two-game teams towards the bottom.

The Houston Rockets are the only 10 on the Forecaster this week, with four games and their offense playing at a dominant level. The Utah Jazz and Washington Wizards managed 9s, also with four games, while the Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder utilize their four games to score 8s. The Lakers are probably the biggest question mark of those teams, as it is unclear just how much to expect them to play LeBron James moving forward.

On the other hand, the Memphis Grizzlies have the lowest score of the week with a 1 due to their mix of poor offense and only two games. The Golden State Warriors also play only twice, but their offense is so strong that they still managed a 4 on the Forecaster. The Dallas Mavericks scored a 2 and both the Atlanta Hawks and Phoenix Suns scored 3s, all with three games apiece.

As always, I recommend checking out my weekly rankings to see my take on which players may be worth starting or sitting due to the combination of the schedule and injuries.