Fantasy basketball forecaster: March 25-31

Russell Westbrook and his Oklahoma City Thunder teammates are positioned for a big week in fantasy, thanks to a tasty schedule. AP Photo/June Frantz Hunt

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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

We are firmly in championship time of the season, with many leagues starting their finals this week. After the bonanza of games in the last session, this one has a much more modest slate with 20 teams playing three games, nine playing four and one playing only two.

On the larger front, this could be somewhat beneficial for player availability with fewer back-to-backs and three-games-in-four-nights scenarios that promote resting veterans. However, the sparsity of games clearly pushed the four-game teams up the scale.

The Oklahoma City Thunder sport the only perfect 10 on the Forecaster, one of six teams with four games and scores of at least 8 this week. The LA Clippers used their four games to earn a 9, while the Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers and Washington Wizards earned 8s. The Golden State Warriors and New Orleans Pelicans earned 8s with only three games, something that would have been unheard of if this week were as busy as last.

On the other side of the coin, the Sacramento Kings earned only a 3, despite playing four games, due to a challenging schedule. All four games are on the road, including a nasty back-to-back in Houston and San Antonio to end the week. The Atlanta Hawks and Phoenix Suns also earned 3s with three games, while the Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls and Dallas Mavericks turned their three games into scores of 2. The New York Knicks play only twice, so they unsurprisingly produced the minimum score of 1 this week.

As always, I recommend you check 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.