NBA Return Schedule - Winners and Losers Analysis
When making the return schedule for the NBA, there are bound to be winners and losers no matter how much thought goes into the process of being fair. Let's take a look at which teams may have gotten the biggest advantage, and which teams caught some unlucky breaks.
One way to look at this is by strength of schedule. There are of course many other factors and ways to slice this, but let's focus on this one as it can show discrepancy quite well.
First I ranked all 22 teams in order of their remaining strength of schedule based on the games each team had left to play in the original regular season. Then I ranked them by the new remaining strength of schedule to see how hard their new schedule will be. I looked at it this way because the NBA had discussed that strength of schedule will be a critical component to deciding the remaining schedule for the final 8 games of the regular season. The variance is looking at the difference between their new and old strength of schedule (most teams should be going up in terms of strength of schedule as they can only play the remaining top 22 teams). Then I compared the variance in rank of their new schedule relative to their old schedule. Here are the results:
Dallas Mavericks - The Mavericks see a negligible increase in their opponents win percentage with the new schedule, but they move from having the 4th hardest remaining schedule, to now having the 15th hardest remaining schedule. This presents a nice opportunity for them to try and move up the standings to avoid a first-round showdown with either the Lakers or Clippers.
New Orleans Pelicans - New Orleans had the easiest strength of schedule of the remaining teams prior to the break, and the new schedule treats them exactly the same. For a team battling to get a chance to make the play-in for the last spot in the West, this presents a huge opportunity for Zion Williamson and the Pelicans. They are also the only team with a remaining strength of schedule to be below .500! Remember, these are the top 22 teams in the NBA -- talk about good luck!
Philadelphia 76ers - Much like New Orleans, the Sixers had it easy before the break, and now they remain with the 2nd easiest strength of schedule. If the Sixers can take advantage, they should be able to move up from their current 6th position in the East, and maybe even move into the top 4.
Miami Heat - The Miami Heat won't be amused. Their schedule got significantly more difficult. Compared to before the break, their opponent win-percentage is about 14% more difficult moving them from the 14th most difficult schedule, to now the 2nd most difficult. In a tight Eastern Conference race, this could mean a slide and facing a tougher first-round opponent for the young squad.
Toronto Raptors - Toronto had a tough schedule to begin with, already with the 6th most difficult remaining schedule prior to the break. With the new shuffle, they now have the single most difficult schedule of all teams remaining. Being in a race to protect that coveted 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference from Boston, the Raptors cannot take any days off if they want to secure an "easier" first-round opponent.
Los Angeles Lakers - This likely won't have any implications for the standings, but it is interesting to see how the Lakers went from the 18th easiest schedule before the break to the 3rd most difficult. Maybe this is because the NBA wanted to schedule some big time matchups featuring Lebron during the re-start? Who knows. As mentioned, the only saving grace here is that their valuable first-seed should not be impacted by this.
Who do you think is going to be impacted most by the new schedule? Leave a comment below!