We are almost halfway through the 82-game marathon that is the NBA regular season and the Denver Nuggets sit with a 20-18 record, just outside of a spot in the playoffs. This year has had its ups and downs. During some stretches of the season the Nuggets have looked like a serious playoff contender, capable of becoming an interesting team to watch when postseason rolls around. At other times, Denver has gone through extended periods of mediocre play and looked like a lottery team. Which team will we see over the second part of the regular season? The schedule would indicate the latter.
The NBA schedule, as constructed, allows some teams to have a more comfortable run through the regular season than others. In case you missed it, Ed Kupfer, a Houston Rockets analyst, did the numbers and it turns out the Nuggets face the toughest remaining schedule out of any NBA team. A simple visualization of this can be seen below (via Ed Kupfer):
Kupfer calculated the average win% of every opponent of every team up until this point of the season and then did the same for the remaining schedule. Up until now, the Nuggets’ average opponent was ranked right in the middle at 15. Moving forward, things are going to get a whole lot tougher.
Some of this is obviously because the Western Conference is significantly better than the Eastern Conference. As you can see, the red dots and lines (which represent the West) are dominant at the top on both sides. Denver has gone through slumps this season and the tougher the competition, the harder it will be to avoid those slumps moving forward. I took the liberty of looking at the Nuggets’ remaining games and some other interesting stats.
Obviously, Denver will be playing more against the West than the East. Here are the remaining games:
More than 60% of the Nuggets’ remaining games are against the West. To make matters worse, out of the 17 games against Eastern Conference, nine of them are on the road. Denver has done well against the East this season, going 9-4. Six of those games have been on the road, during which the Nuggets went 4-2. Overall, the East isn’t that scary, although there will be quite a few tricky games along the way and Denver is below 0.500 on the road overall this season.
The Nuggets have been terrible playing against the top eight teams in the West — in their 13 games against playoff teams Denver is just 4-9. Out of the remaining 27 games against the West, Nuggets will meet teams currently in the top eight 17 times.
Perhaps the toughest stretch in the whole schedule will be the last 12 games of the season. Half of those games will be on the road and all 12 will be against Western Conference teams.
Last 12 opponents for the Nuggets in 2013-14: 2x San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, 2x Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Pelicans, 2x Houston Rockets, 2x Golden State Warriors, Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Clippers.
Needless to say, if the Nuggets have any intentions of making the playoffs this season, they will likely have to build up some momentum going into April. One thing is certain — the schedule will not do Denver any favors in the coming months.