Posted: Monday March 5, 2012 11:04AM ; Updated: Monday March 5, 2012 11:05AM

Navigating schedule, strategy crucial in making NBA playoff push

Story Highlights

Teams safely in playoffs should add injured players like Anderson Varejao

Deron Williams, Nets play league-low eight games over last three weeks

For those in keeper leagues, keepers should be traded for immediate help

By Erik Ong, Give Me The Rock, Special to SI.com

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Although injuries have limited him to 13 games, Andrea Bargnani could prove crucial for many an NBA fantasy playoff team.
Although injuries have limited him to 13 games, Andrea Bargnani could prove crucial for many an NBA fantasy playoff team.
AP

The fantasy basketball playoffs aren't too far away. "What?" you may be exclaiming, "... but we just came from the All-Star break!" Well it's true; the playoffs are about 3-4 weeks away. Don't forget those first two months missed thanks to the lockout.

If your team is in good shape and atop your league's standings, then you have little to worry about. In fact, it would be wise for you to start stashing some injured players who are projected to return close to your scheduled fantasy playoffs. If they make a successful return to 100 percent health (or close to it) they could be instrumental during a playoff campaign. Some of these aforementioned players include Anderson Varejao, Andrea Bargnani, Zach Randolph, Eric Gordon and Wilson Chandler, possibly even Al Horford. If these players are in your league's free agent (FA) pool, feel free to grab them and wait out their recovery time.

Another strategy to consider is to study the fantasy playoff schedule grid, and set up your team with players from teams that have a favorable number of games played during the fantasy postseason.

• Four teams have 16 games over the last four weeks (Charlotte, Cleveland, Memphis, and San Antonio)

• Four teams have 12 games over the last four weeks (Atlanta, Chicago, Minnesota, and New Jersey). NJ has a league-low eight games over last three weeks and finishes off the year with two three-game weeks and a two-game week.

That being the case, Deron Williams and Kris Humphries owners may want to consider trading them away in exchange for players with more favorable schedules.

On the other hand, if your team is hanging onto that last playoff spot by a thread, or if you happen to be 3-4 games behind the team occupying that said spot and want to make a final push to make it into fantasy's postseason, then here are some strategies you may wish to employ.

1. The number of games played is a key factor in the head-to-head format. Drop any injured players who may be weighing down your team. Every productive game under your team's belt counts.

2. Go for broke. The goal during the short term is to win as many categories in each week's matchup as possible. Trying to "win them all" improves your opportunities to end up with 7-2 and 6-3 finishes, which helps in closing the gap with that team holding onto the last playoff spot.

3. For teams playing in daily changes format, maximize the value you get out of your allotted number of adds and drops for the season. It may have been overlooked by some league commissioners that we are playing a shortened season and may not have adjusted the number of maximum moves teams can make for the season. Take advantage of that and boost contested categories weekly. There is no sense in preserving these moves for the playoffs if your team misses the cut in the first place.

4. If you happen to be in a keeper league, it makes sense to trade away some of your players who have "keeper value" in exchange for guys who can provide you with some immediate productivity so that you can win now.

5. If your team has been decimated by injuries, it might be the right time to trade away one of your best players in exchange for two or more lower ranked guys. Roster depth and effectively improving the overall quality of the played games that your team records can boost your chances. A big trade can also help address specific needs while mitigating the losses in your team's core strengths.

6. If your team has been struggling due to its lack of competitiveness in most of the counting categories (PTS, AST, 3PTM, REB, BLK, STL), then you may want to consider retooling your team's mode of attack. Focus on winning both shooting percentages and turnovers while competing in three out of the six counting categories. Again, in daily changes leagues, it is highly recommended that you utilize your moves to boost the categories in which you're competing. For example, players like Steve Novak and Matt Bonner can be streamed in to boost your team's 3PTM at very little risk to your team's competitiveness in FG shooting and TOs.

 
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