NBA Futures: Clippers, Raptors Among Losers for 2023-24 Schedule
Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Paul George #13, Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers.
The NBA schedule was released last week, and while the NBA schedule, given its more balanced nature, pales in importance to the NFL schedule, there are still things to learn for fans and bettors alike.
Effort is the greatest commodity over the course of an 82-game season as teams are prone to rest, take games off, have dead legs, etc. With that in mind, here's a look at four futures plays to consider through the prism of the schedule.
Bet Timberwolves Division Early, Nuggets Late
The Timberwolves are +700 to win the Northwest Division, which makes sense given the Nuggets' lofty win total (54.5) and status as the defending champs. But there's a good chance Minnesota could leads the division early.
Minnesota could get off to a great start. The Wolves have just four back-to-backs in the first half of the season, the fewest in the league, and 11 rest advantage games, which is the most in the league.
The Wolves have a 6-1 ratio of rest advantage to disadvantage games in the first quarter of their season. Five of their first 11 road games are vs. non-playoff teams from last season (though that includes Dallas and New Orleans, who are expected to be better).
The closing schedule is tougher. The Wolves have seven back-to-backs from the All-Star break through the end of the season, which is tied for the most in the league. However, the context of those back-to-backs matters as Minnesota gets 17 of those final 28 games at home.
In fact, five of those seven back-to-backs are at home. Teams at home on the second night of a back-to-back have won 56% of the time since 2003. There's very little dropoff in win percentage for teams at home in a bad rest spot.
Denver, interestingly, is in the opposite spot. The Nuggets' schedule is brutal early, but lightens up significantly later.
The Nuggets travel the most miles (over 16,000) in the first quarter of the season. By comparison, Indiana, with just over 7,000 miles, travels the fewest.
Denver has six back-to-backs in the first quarter of the season. A road-heavy, rest-light schedule up front isn't great for a team coming off a championship that lost significant depth in the offseason.
But from All-Star break to season's end, Denver has 15 of 27 at home, three rest advantages to two rest disadvantages and is in the middle of the pack in terms of miles traveled (The Nuggets always rank high in milage because of their location.). The Nuggets are also tied for fewest back-to-backs in that stretch with three.
This projects with a strong possibility that the Wolves get off to a better start than Denver, significantly shortening the Wolves' odds and lengthening the Nuggets' by January. Then, with Denver's easier closing stretch, there will be an opportunity to hedge. This requires a great deal of things to go right, but that's always a risk with futures.
Long story short: The Wolves have value at +700 to win the division, and there will be exits with Denver later on, provided you aren't sold on the Thunder making a huge jump into the top two in the division.
Raptors Face Extinction-Level Schedule
While everyone tries to figure out what the Raptors are doing with their roster, this schedule doesn't do them any favors.
Toronto has 14 back-to-backs, which is the middle of the pack, but 12 of those are on the road. Since 2017, teams on a back-to-back at home win 55% of the time, compared to 37.5% on the road. (For reference, road teams have won 43% overall in that span and 45% when on at least one day's rest.)
Toronto has an even number of rest advantage and disadvantage games, but their disadvantage games are a high mark league-wide.
The Raptors have a tough start with four back-to-backs in their first 20 games. That makes for a difficult start, but teams would rather have back-to-backs early than late.
Toronto finishes with five of eight on the road, including matchups with the Lakers, Bucks, Timberwolves, Pacers (a game with possible play-in repercussions), the Nets on a back-to-back and a two-game set in Miami.
I have the Raptors as underdogs in eight of their 11 home games in their first 20 games.
Injuries and depth are certainly concerns for the new-look Suns, with Bradley Beal in for Chris Paul and Frank Vogel replacing Monty Williams, but the schedule is set up for them to succeed.
I have the Suns favored in 17 of their first 23 games. Phoenix is tied for the second-most rest advantage games this season. Things get tougher in the back half of the schedule, but the Suns have a real chance to get off to an extremely hot start.
The Suns' schedule is cake up front. They have the third-easiest schedule in their 53 games before the All-Star Break, more home games than road games and the majority of their back-to-backs are at home.
Clippers Are Heavily Screwed
Whether it's because the Clippers get the leftovers at Crypto.com arena, a league decision to test the Clippers' willingness to "take the regular season seriously" as they've promised, or just bad luck, this team is up against it with this schedule.
In the final 40 games, the Clippers:
- Rank first in miles traveled and have 10% more than second-place Sacramento and 48% more than median San Antonio.
- Have nine back-to-backs.
Seven rest disadvantage games, tied for second-most
Play 18 home games compared to 22 on the road.
The Clippers also have a nightmare of an April schedule with two back-to-back sets that comprise of their final seven games. Included in that April slate are games against Sacramento, Denver, Utah (twice) and Phoenix (twice) on a road/home back-to-back.
Finally, the Clippers have the most 3-games-in-4-nights sets in the league this season (25). They have 10 road back-to-backs compared to just five at home and are tied for the most back-to-backs overall.