Fantasy basketball forecaster: Dec. 30-Jan. 5

Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers are set up for a big week. Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

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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. However, all things 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-150 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.

The week ahead

While there are no days off this week, it is still holiday season and the schedules are relatively light. There are 18 teams playing three games and three playing only two. Only nine teams play four games, but that means the players on those teams have the chance to accumulate big numbers. As one might expect, all three of the teams with only two games are among the lowest Forecaster scores. Two teams with three games sneak into the high scores, and their schedules have a lot in common.

The Clippers and Trail Blazers earned perfect 10s on the Forecaster with four games apiece. The Clippers play four relatively weak defenses with only one back-to-back, while the Trail Blazers manage four games with zero back-to-backs to earn their high score. The Bucks and the Warriors both scored 8s with only three games, but both have zero back-to-backs and play two games against the defensively struggling Timberwolves and Spurs with a third game against a defensively suspect Midwest foe (the Bulls and Pistons, respectively).

On the other side of the coin, the 76ers and Bulls both earned 1s on the Forecaster: the 76ers with two tough road games against the Pacers and Rockets; and the Bulls with three brutal home games against the Bucks, Jazz and Celtics. The Rockets and Pelicans turned their two games into scores of 2 and 3 on the Forecaster, respectively, while each of the Hawks, Hornets and Knicks earned 3s with their three games.

As always, we recommend you checking out those weekly projection rankings to see our take on which players from may be worth starting or sitting due to the combination of the schedule and injuries.


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.