Moore: NBA Schedule Release Takeaways & Impacts on Win Totals

Moore: NBA Schedule Release Takeaways & Impacts on Win Totals article feature image
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Photo credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Joe Ingles, Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell

  • On Monday afternoon, the NBA released the 2019-20 regular season schedule.
  • Matt Moore (@HPBasketball) dissected the schedule and gives his main takeaways, including which win totals have value after the release.

Breaking news for you: The NBA announced the 2019-20 regular season schedule Monday, and it turns out all 30 teams play 82 games. Shockwaves, I tell you. Shockwaves.

However, for all the “I bet they play 41 at home, 41 away” jokes that pop up, schedules are not created equal. You don’t play every team the same amount as everyone else, and when you play them and where matters a lot in determining how a season goes. Schedules also have a sizable impact on win total over/unders, which often have narrow margins to begin with.

Here’s a look at key takeaways after the release of the 2019-20 NBA regular season schedule.

A CLIPPED BEGINNING

Here’s the good news for the Clippers. Before December 1, they play 21 games, 13 of which are at home in the friendly confines of Staples Center. They travel the sixth-fewest miles in that time. They also play the most games with rest advantage, defined as having one more day between games than their opponent.

So they’ll be in good fatigue condition for the onslaught headed their way.

Bear in mind that Paul George does not have a timeline for his return from surgery on both shoulders. It’s been speculated he could be out until mid-November at least. Meanwhile, starting off the year without George, the Clippers face the fifth-toughest schedule in October and November, followed by the 11th-toughest schedule in December (by Vegas win totals).

That stretch includes games vs. the Lakers (which makes their home game essentially a road game), Warriors, Jazz (2X), Spurs (2X), Bucks, Blazers, Raptors, Rockets (2X), Pelicans (2X) and Celtics… all before December 1.

The over/under for the Clippers is as high as 56.5 at some places. They have two new stars who fundamentally reshape the roster, along with the rest of a team that made the playoffs but really played together for only about six weeks after the deadline trades.

The value on the under was already significant. A rough start when they are without George only reinforces that.

SMOOTH JAZZ

Oh, man, did things fall in line for the Jazz.

It’s true that the Jazz travel the most miles in the league of any team this season, but also:

  • They’re tied for the fewest back-to-backs in the league.
  • They have a remarkable 12 games at home vs. opponents on a back-to-back, in Utah’s altitude. By comparison, Denver has only six.
  • Their middle stretch, between December and the All-Star break, is comparably very easy for a West team. They should fatten up the record there.
  • They are tied for the fourth-most rest advantage games.
  • Their December-into-January stretch is light on heavy hitters until the end of the month, at which point the league enters its weird “two weeks before the All-Star break and everyone just wants to go on vacation” mode.
  • Their closing schedule sets up nicely for a late push, with a stretch of East lottery teams at home, followed by division games against Portland and Denver (twice) that, while challenging, also mean they can push to make up ground if they are locked in a division seeding battle.

The Jazz have a profile of a team that will feast on the regular season, beating inferior teams. They had a subpar record vs. teams under .500 and division teams last year, a sign of how much they underperformed relative to potential. Expect those two key target areas to improve this year, and with that schedule it’s going to be a big win-count year for them.

THEY LOVE LA (LAKERS)

Last year, the Lakers had one of the toughest schedules in the league, especially upfront. The travel and fatigue definitely put them up against a wall they couldn’t survive once the injuries hit them. The league was considerably nicer this season.

The Lakers are 23rd in total miles traveled this season, down from top-five last year. After the All-Star Game, they’re tied for the fourth-most home games. Of their final 14 games, eight are against teams expected to be under .500, and two more (Sacramento and Detroit) are expected to be right around there. They are bottom-10 in strength of schedule in both October/November and April, opening up a potential hot start and a strong finish.

The Lakers’ win total is as low as 49.5 at some books (including Westgate), and that’s a soft number relative to the team’s roster improvements and schedule. Even with the expected struggles of a new team around LeBron, the schedule is built to allow for it; they should coast pretty easily to over 50 wins.

HAWKWARD ENDING

The Hawks have the 30th-ranked strength of schedule in the last full two months of the season by opponent Vegas win total. This is particularly important because teams in that range, even with the adjusted lottery odds, are more likely to be outright tanking.

If the Hawks can hang in until late in the season, given the low expected bar for making the playoffs in the East (between 35 and 40 wins), that closing run could put them well over the top of the 32.5 low mark they have at DraftKings.