2019-20 NBA schedule release: One key takeaway from each team's slate, including potential slow start coming for Clippers

NBA schedules are simultaneously homogenous and wildly random. Over the course of an 82-game sample, the schedule normalizes for the most part. But within those slates are individual nooks and crannies that either favor or hurt teams in ways unique to them. Some teams have to go on long road trips because of arena commitments. Others are hurt by geographic isolation. And sometimes, the schedule-makers just put teams in accidentally disadvantageous positions. 

Below is the most important takeaway from every team's schedule. For some, these points are minor. For others, it will change the entire course of their seasons. 


The Hawks are a prime candidate for this season's "surprise team to get off to a hot start." Six of their first eight games are at home, and seven of their first eight opponents either missed the playoffs last year or were a seven-seed or lower.   

The Celtics follow up  Kyrie Irving's  Nov. 27 homecoming with ... another game against the  Nets  two nights later. If things do get heated in Round 1, that makes for a very interesting dynamic the second time around.   

The final 10 games on Brooklyn's schedule are relatively easy. They have a home-and-home against a  Milwaukee Bucks  team that may have clinched home-court advantage by then, two dates with the  Cleveland Cavaliers , one against the  Chicago Bulls , one against the  Dallas Mavericks  and only one against a team that won a playoff series last year (the  Portland Trail Blazers ). If  Kevin Durant  were to return late in the season, he'd find a fairly welcoming schedule.   

The Hornets had better win one of their two opening home games against the Bulls and Timberwolves, because after that, an 0-10 start becomes a legitimate possibility. They immediately go on a four-game road trip through California after that, followed by two Eastern Conference playoff teams,  Zion Williamson  and then the Philadelphia 76ers.   

This will either be a blessing or a curse depending on how competitive the Bulls wind up this season, but their final five games are against the  LakersClippers , Nets, Magic and Celtics. They could face a lot of backups due to clinched seeding in that span.   

If you're looking for the worst nationally televised game of the season, look no further than the Nov. 8 clash between the Cavaliers and Wizards.   

Kristaps Porzingis  gets to knock both of his Knicks games out early. They travel to Dallas on Nov. 8, and less than a week later, Porzingis plays at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 14.   

The Nuggets have 24 nationally televised games this season. The Nets, who just signed Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, have only 20. The NBA isn't fully market-proof, but the message here is clear. Quality is what matters to the league right now.   

Divisions aren't particularly important in the NBA, but it's worth noting that the Pistons draw their Central Division-rival Pacers three times in the first three weeks of the season, before Oladipo is scheduled to return. That could matter when it comes to seeding.   

The All-Star break has tentatively been set as a target for  Klay Thompson's  return. If that is indeed when he comes back, he'll get to play nine of his first 11 games at home.   

The Rockets won the lottery when it comes to back-to-backs. They play only 11 of them, whereas the league average is 12.4. Five of their opponents on the second half of those back-to-backs missed the playoffs last season, while five more were knocked out in the first round.   

The Pacers will open the season without  Victor Oladipo , but the schedule gives them a bit of a buffer. They play the Cavaliers twice as well as the  HornetsWizards  and Bulls in their first 10 games.   

The schedule-makers were not kind to the Clippers. As they await the return of Paul George from shoulder surgery, they open the season with eight of their first 11 games coming against playoff teams. One of the three that doesn't is against the Lakers. The Clippers will probably start slowly.   

The Lakers (43) and  Warriors  (42) are the only teams in the NBA to play more than half of their games on national television.  

Mike Conley  will return to Memphis in early November, but Grizzlies fans will have to wait until March 28 to finally welcome  Marc Gasol  back to the FedEx Forum.   

File this away as a strange coincidence: The Heat play three games in a row in January against teams they once battled in the NBA Finals. They take on the  Spurs  on Jan. 15 and the  Thunder  on Jan. 17 before circling back to the Spurs on Jan. 19.   

The Bucks will play 34 games on national television this season, the sixth-highest total in the NBA and among the higher numbers you will ever see from a small-market team that doesn't employ  LeBron James .   

If the Timberwolves can stay in the playoff hunt, their end-of-season schedule is so favorable that they might just be able to sneak in. Nine of their final 13 games are at home, and one of their road games is against the Knicks, and they don't have to play on the road against either Los Angeles team until the final week of the season, when both could be resting players.   

The Pelicans are second among non-playoff teams (behind the Lakers) with 30 nationally televised games. They will be on national television more than nine playoff teams from last year, including the NBA champion Raptors. Fans around the nation will see plenty of Zion Williamson.   

The Knicks have the same number of nationally televised games as the  Timberwolves , and this somehow feels insulting to both teams.   

Every game in which a significant member of last year's roster is returning to Oklahoma City for the first time will be nationally televised.  Paul George  comes back on NBA TV on Dec. 22,  Russell Westbrook  comes home on ESPN on Jan. 9, and  Jerami Grant  plays his first game in Oklahoma City with the Nuggets on ESPN on Feb. 21. The whole world gets to see how happy the old Thunder players are with their new teams.   

You may not find a harder stretch on any team's schedule than this seven-game gauntlet the Magic face in December: a road game against the Bucks, home dates with the Lakers and  Rockets , and then a four-game Western Conference road trip against the  PelicansJazzNuggets  and Blazers.   

The 76ers get three of their four matchups with the Bucks after the trade deadline. Not only should this lead to roster shake-ups throughout their matchups, but their April 7 matchup could determine home-court advantage in the Eastern Conference.   

The Suns will play seven nationally televised games this season, but more than half of them will come against their more famous division rivals: the Lakers, Clippers and Warriors. If you can't beat 'em, play near 'em.   

The Blazers lead the league in travel miles almost every year due to their remote location in the Pacific Northwest, and this season shouldn't be an exception. In some instances, the scheduling is just cruel. In late January and early February, for example, they have an eight-day stretch in which they play six games, alternating between home and road for each one. That's a 960-mile trip to Los Angeles and back, a 1,240-mile trip to Denver and back and a 766-mile trip to Salt Lake City and back all in a bit more than a week.   

If the Kings are going to make the jump into the playoffs this season, they are going to have to earn it. Their April schedule includes two games against the Lakers and one each against the Clippers, Nuggets, Warriors and Spurs.   

This year's rodeo road trip in February is absolutely brutal. Six of their eight opponents made the playoffs last year, and one of the teams that didn't is the Lakers.   

The Raptors close the season with a five-game stretch against non-playoff teams, and then a finale against the  Orlando Magic . Do not be surprised if they go into the playoffs hot.   

The Jazz close their season against the Nuggets in what could be a battle for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.   

Remember that awful Wizards-Cavs ESPN game? The Wizards are a candidate for worst NBA TV game as well. Unless you're really into  Jabari Parker's  revenge, odds are you won't be tuning into Hawks-Wizards on Jan. 10.   

Sam Quinn joined CBS sports as a basketball writer in 2019. Prior to that, he wrote for 247Sports and Bleacher Report. He is a New York native and NYU graduate who also has roots in Florida and Califo... Full Bio

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