Following yesterday’s NBA schedule release, Kalen offered his initial thoughts and observations about what’s on tap for the Nuggets in 2014-15, and in case you missed it I’d recommend checking that out before proceeding. Here I’ll dig a little deeper into the nuts and bolts of the schedule, and break down the numbers regarding road trips, home stands, back-to-backs and the like.
Given that complaining about the schedule has become somewhat of a tradition among NBA fans, I have no doubt that some of our readers will disagree with my take. But having sliced and diced the schedule in various ways, I’d argue that this is just about as reasonable and fair a schedule as any NBA team could ask for. There is nothing comparable in 2014-15 to last year’s Nuggets playing 17 of their first 23 games on the road, for example. There are, of course, tougher and easier stretches of the season, but there’s really nothing excessively brutal or unfair. The schedule stays on a fairly even keel throughout the season.
Home stands and road trips
Both the longest home stand and the longest road trip for the Nuggets in 2014-15 are five games, and there is only one apiece. The five-game home stand bridges the end of February and beginning of March, and features games against the Nets, Suns, Jazz, Pelicans and Bucks. Later in March, they head out for their five-game road trip, visiting the Pelicans, Grizzlies, Rockets, Heat and Magic.
Additionally, Denver has three four-game, and two three-game home stands. They don’t have any four-game road trips, but they have six three-gamers. All in all, the home stand versus road trip situation shakes out pretty equally.
Back-to-backs and 4-in-5s
The Nuggets have 21 back-to-backs in 2014-15, and four 4-in-5s. On the second game of 16 of those back-to-backs (or in other words, in 76 percent of them), their opponent will have rested.
At first glance, that may seem a little unfair. But consider that Denver will also play 18 games when their opponent is on the second night of a back-to-back, and in 15 of them (or 83 percent), they’ll be nice and rested up, too. So, as with the home/road picture, there is not too great of a discrepancy between own and opponent back-to-backs.
Roughly speaking, the arc of difficulty in terms of opponent strength is shaped like a smile. The Nuggets will start off the season facing a somewhat high concentration of tough competitors early on, followed by an easier stretch through mid-season, and ending with another tough run down the home stretch.
In the chart below I’ve used ESPN’s forecast of the 2014-15 standings (West here and East here) for the projected winning percentage of Denver’s opponents. Granted, some of those predictions are bound to be slightly off or even way off (I think they went low on the Nuggets, for example, in predicting 38 wins). But as a yardstick to roughly take measure of opponent strength, they’re functional for our purposes here.
As you can see, the months with the highest projected opponents on average are October/November (.540) and April (.538), bookending the Nuggets’ season. Following November, there is a steady decrease in opponent difficulty straight through February, until it swings up again in March. Denver’s average projected opponent win percentage for the entire season is .509. Even in the most difficult or easiest months, the numbers don’t deviate too far from that. (The greatest deviation is .437 in February).
Even before the release of the schedule, we already knew that the beginning of the season would be challenging for the Nuggets, as they work on reintegrating returning players and coalescing in Brian Shaw’s second year as head coach. So a tough November may be the schedule’s most unfavorable aspect for Denver.
On the other hand, if they can do just good enough in those first two months to stay in sight of the playoff picture while they’re hopefully getting their act together, they’ll be well positioned to make some noise in 2015 as they face some easier competition.
One final note on the month-to-month situation is that the contrast between home/road and opponent strength tends to be another balancing factor in Denver’s schedule. December sees some stiff competition, but they also play 56 percent of their games at home. Conversely, while they have a run of easier opponents in February, they only play 40 percent of their games at home that month. Things just seem to pretty much even out in this schedule, at least inasmuch as could be expected.
If you’re a fan of seeing the Nuggets on the nationwide stage, then one of the more disappointing aspects of this season might be the fact that they only have five national television broadcasts this season. I personally don’t mind. They were a lottery team last season, and they don’t have any real marquee stars to drive up ratings. And frankly, I like this team better flying under the radar, as underdogs trying to defy low expectations. But I will miss seeing them on TNT more, since that’s just fun.
As always, thanks for reading and keep it dialed in here at Roundball Mining Company for all your latest Nuggets news and analysis.
You can follow me on Twitter here: @denbutsu
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