Fantasy basketball forecaster: Jan. 7-13

Guard Jamal Murray and the Denver Nuggets get a boost with a five-game slate of action this week. Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Click here for weekly rankings and start/sit recommendations

Read below for the fantasy basketball Forecaster

In weekly transaction leagues, the schedule is one of the most important factors to consider when 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."

All things being equal, a manager would start their best players every week and fill out the rest of their lineup based on variables 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 noted this season, they often matter even 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 new 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 with my comments below.

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

The lighter holiday period is over, and this week is heavy with games. More than half of the teams in the NBA play four games, while 13 teams play three times and one team plays the maximum five games. This schedule density means only elite offenses with at least four games on the schedule have a chance at a really high Forecaster score, whereas the basement scores are populated by teams with three games.

The Denver Nuggets are the only team to play five games, and thus are the only squad with a perfect 10 score on the Forecaster. The Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers both earn a 9 on the Forecaster this week, and the Utah Jazz earned an 8, with each team playing four games.

On the other hand, the Chicago Bulls and Memphis Grizzlies scored the minimum of 1 on the Forecaster, while the Brooklyn Nets and Indiana Pacers were good for 3s. All four teams play three games this week. The Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors marked the high scores of the teams with only three games, as each earned 7s on the Forecaster.

Check out my weekly player rankings to see which players may be worth starting or sitting this week due to the schedule and injuries.