NBA schedule: Examining trips, back-to-backs, tough stretches for all 30 teams
A look at the context of the schedule and who plays who when, and how far they travel during the season
The NBA schedule was released Tuesday, and all the big games have been broken down and hyped. But while many experts will note everyone plays every team at least twice and it's all pretty standard, that misses a lot of context. Given travel and the difference in when games are played impacts whether the opponent is rested. With that in mind, here's a deeper look into schedule trends for all 30 teams.
Information courtesy of the well-designed Presidual schedule analysis app.
Travel miles: 40,292
- The Hawks start with a 4,500-mile road trip that includes going from Dallas to Charlotte to Brooklyn ... then Miami. The tank is on, my friends.
- Their longest road trip finishes March, which is a really rough time for it, and includes a visit to Golden State.
- They close with six of seven games vs. teams with legit playoff hopes in the East.
- They have a fairly balanced December schedule. This matters because if they somehow come out of November with a surprising start, the may be able to boost themselves into being a playoff contender with a more balanced December schedule. Make it to Jan. 1, and confidence about staying in the race grows.
- Burying the lede: This is all unlikely, the Hawks are almost assuredly going to be very bad.
Travel miles: 54,022
- The first month is brutal. They play Golden State, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Cleveland, Miami, Toronto, and Milwaukee (twice) before Nov. 17.
- The balance comes later, as the Celtics face a lot of likely lottery teams for the final month-plus, including three of their four final games (vs. Chicago, Atlanta and Brooklyn, all at home), which could determine if they get the No. 1 seed.
- Their longest trip is in late January, including a cross-country flight to L.A,, then a back to back vs. the Lakers and Clippers, then a jaunt to Golden State to face the champs, and then hitting Denver on the way back.
Travel miles: 40,999
- Six of their first eight games are against likely lottery teams. Hey, Brooklyn's supposed to be terrible again, but they're going to have a chance to win some games early.
- That ends abruptly, starting Nov. 7, when the Nets face 10 straight playoff-contenders, including Golden State, Cleveland, Boston and Houston.
- They have two five-game road trips to the West that finish with an East game (Charlotte and Boston). Those final games after a long flight at the end of a long trip are brutal.
Travel miles: 41,196
- Charlotte has a four-games-in-six-days trip in early February that features two back-to-backs. That's a brutal stretch at a crucial time.
- Ten of Charlotte's final 15 games are on the road.
- Charlotte has 10 of 16 games at home in December, but also face Golden State twice and Boston that month.
Travel miles: 41,550
- Chicago has 11 of its first 17 games on the road, including games vs. the Spurs (twice), Thunder (twice), Raptors (twice), Golden State and Cleveland. Their season could effectively be over by the middle of November.
- They have a home-heavy January, with few games vs. top opponents.
- If they somehow manage to hang in, their final three games are winnable (home vs. Brooklyn, at Brooklyn, home vs. Detroit).
Travel miles: 39,219
- From Feb. 27 on, the Cavs play only four games against three teams (Toronto, Washington, L.A. Clippers) who finished among the top four in their conference last season.
- January, as is typical for contenders, features games vs. top teams -- including Boston, Toronto, Golden State and OKC.
- Cleveland doesn't go West of Texas until Christmas vs. the Warriors; their schedule is largely a cakewalk.
Travel miles: 47,738
- Fifteen of their first 24 games are at home, though they face nearly every strong team in that stretch: Golden State three times, San Antonio three times, OKC three times, Boston twice, and Memphis twice.
The good news is that after March 13, the only really strong teams they face are Cleveland and Toronto. If they manage to survive their start, they could make a late push.
Travel miles: 44,984
- They play five of their first seven on the road, followed by a six-game homestand.
- January is where they are going to have to make hay. They play San Antonio twice and Golden State, but most of the month is home-heavy vs. mid-tier teams.
- Denver has a seven-game trip and a six-game trip, the latter to the East coast in late March. They are not going to have an easy time if they are on the 8th-seed bubble.
Travel miles: 38,525
- Aside from rough stretches in December and January, the schedule is largely balanced between stronger and weaker foes.
- They face a six-game West-coast road trip covering nearly 5,000 miles in March, including a back-to-back. It's not ideal timing and could provide separation for their competition should Detroit falter.
- Their February schedule is mostly weak and at home, so if they are to make a push, that may need to be the time.
Golden State Warriors
Travel miles: 50,515
- Eleven of the Warriors' first 13 games are against squads with at least reasonable expectations of making the playoffs.
- They have 29 of their 41 road games before the All-Star Break, which leaving only 12 after the break. But cutting the season in half (there are more games before the break than after), the allocation is pretty even: 20 road games coming by Game 41, 21 after.
- Very little about their schedule will matter since they will absolutely roll through the league.
Travel miles: 48,126
- Seven of the first 10 are on the road, including the opener at Golden State and the next night at Sacramento, and another back-to-back 10 days later. It's a tough open.
- Houston has 10 of its final 16 at home, but two back-to-backs in the final 11 days. They play only a handful of playoff-caliber teams in the final month, but two are vs. the Spurs, who figure to be pursuing their typical rest plan.
- Much of their travel in late December through January is over long distance, some 14,000 miles in a month and a half.
Travel miles: 37,624 (league low)
- Indiana is on the road for six of its final eight, including two vs. the Warriors, because apparently after trading Paul George the league basically left them for dead.
- Outside of that late-season trip, there's only one other prolonged West team trip in January.
- Eleven of their first 18 are on the road, including games vs. Thunder, Spurs, Cavs and Rockets. A difficult finish and a rough start doesn't breed confidence for exceeding low expectations.
Los Angeles Clippers
Travel miles: 50,410
- They open with a pretty soft 7 of 9 at home. Then, they play 8 of 9 on the road, including games at San Antonio, OKC and Cleveland.
- And in a reversal of that, the Clippers are on the road for 9 of an 11-game stretch in March, but then finish with 5 of 6 at home.
- They have four four-game-plus trips.
Los Angeles Lakers
Back-to-backs: 13 (tied for league low)
Travel miles: 53,104
- They have two East trips between Nov. 8 and Dec. 14, with the additional road games sprinkled in. That's going to be a long month.
- Also, to end that second road trip, they face Cleveland before hosting the Warriors on Dec. 18. Then they visit the Rockets two nights later before flying to Golden State for a game two nights after that. Fun times.
- They close vs. five potential playoff teams, but some could be resting and all are in L.A. (One is "at" the Clippers.)
Back-to-backs: 16 (tied for league high)
Travel miles: 44,070
- In December, the Grizzlies go to Phoenix and visit the Lakers the next night (Dec. 26-27), then travel to the Bay to take on Golden State before visiting the Kings the next night (Dec. 30-31) ... then go back to L.A. to face the Clippers on Jan. 2. In most cases, games at the Lakers and Clippers on the same trip come in consecutive games. It's an outlier to go up and down the coast like that.
- In the event they are scrapping for a playoff spot, they figure to control much of their own destiny over the final 10 games (vs. LAL, at MIN, vs. POR, at UTAH, at POR, at NO, vs. SAC, vs. DET, at MIN, at OKC). And there's a good chance the Thunder are resting players in No. 82.
Travel miles: 48,472
- After their first game (at Orlando, a short trip), they have six home games, three against likely lottery squads and one back to back.
- Of course, then they go on a six-game West road trip featuring back-to-back games at the Clippers and Golden State (Nov. 5-6). Finishing a back at Golden State is not bad, since it's a likely loss.
- They have only five games West of the Mississippi after Jan. 22.
Travel miles: 43,041
- Boston, Cleveland twice, and OKC -- all before Nov. 10. They have a tough opening schedule.
- Their closing schedule is Brooklyn, at New York, Orlando and Philadelphia. However, that comes after a West-powerhouse-heavy end to March.
- Nine of their 15 January games are at home, with six against potential East playoff teams. That's an important month.
Travel miles: 55,139
- Four of their first six are against the Spurs, OKC twice, and the Jazz.
- They have two five-game home-stands -- in November and January.
- Of their final 16 games, 11 are against teams expected to be in playoff contention.
New Orleans Pelicans
Back-to-backs: 13 (tied for league low)
Travel miles: 50,223
- Starting Feb. 2, they play 10 of 15 games on the road. Some of that is because of Mardi Gras, but it's still a lot of road games.
- They have one of the toughest closing stretches ... if no one is resting. They're at Golden State, at the Clippers, then home for the Spurs.
- Their longest homestand is four games; they have three four-game road trips.
New York Knicks
Travel miles: 44,446
- The schedule is crazy un-balanced. For starters, they have three five-game homestands when many teams have none.
- But that's balanced by a stretch between Dec. 25 and Feb. 3 when they play an insane 16 of 20 games on the road, including a seven-game trip.
- They face Cleveland in consecutive games to end the season, so essentially if they're in range, LeBron James' resting habits will determine if they make the playoffs.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Travel miles: 44,887
- Four of their final seven are on the road, all vs. teams with playoff hopes -- including San Antonio, Golden State and Houston.
- The Thunder have no road trips of more than three games.
- A December stretch sees them travel to Brooklyn, come home for a game, then go for a three-game East coast road trip.
Travel miles: 47,630
- Their schedule is balanced, with two four-game West trips -- one in November, one in March.
- Orlando ends March with a seven-game homestand vs. mostly mid-tier East teams.
- They close vs. Toronto, Milwaukee, and Washington, so if they're (somehow) on the bubble that could hurt.
Travel miles: 47,839
- The Sixers have four trips of four or more games.
- Their April schedule is favorable. It's almost entirely teams that should be resting and lottery squads. If they manage to get within range, that could help get them into the playoffs if they beat teams they should (a weird thing to say after so many years of tanking).
Travel miles: 49,855
- Among their final eight are games vs the Warriors twice, the Clippers, Rockets and Celtics.
- They have four road trips of four games or more, including a six-game stretch in December.
- They fly from Portland to Brooklyn, play back to back at the Nets and Washington (Oct. 31-Nov. 1) as part of a five-game trip. Bad teams typically get crushed by early schedules.
Portland Trail Blazers
Travel miles: 55,298 (league high)
- Between Nov. 17 and Dec. 18, they play 11 of 16 on the road.
- During that stretch, they have two separate East trips, and on the latter, go from Golden State to Miami for games on Dec. 11 and 13.
- And seven of their final 10 are also on the road, with nine vs. potential playoff teams.
Back-to-backs: 16 (tied for league high)
Travel miles: 49,211
- In January, they play 9 of 11 on the road, though most are vs. West teams.
- The good news is that between February and March, they play 19 of 27 games at home.
- That's comforting, because they open with 20 of 33 on the road. The hole should be dug pretty deep by the time they get to that homestand. That's half their road games before Dec. 26.
San Antonio Spurs
Travel miles: 45,489
- Ten of their final 15 are at home.
- They face Golden State, Minnesota, Boston, Toronto, and OKC by Nov. 17.
- They have 9 of 12 in February on the road for the rodeo road trip, including two at Golden State.
Travel miles: 37,818
- After two relative gimmes to start -- vs. Chicago and the Sixers (though they always lose to the Bulls and the Sixers should be better), the Raptors go on a six-game trip which includes the Spurs, Warriors and Portland-Denver on a back-to-back.
- They roll through half their road games before 2018 starts.
- Their final four, Indiana, Orlando, Detroit and Miami are very winnable.
Back-to-backs: 16 (tied for league high)
Travel miles: 48,051
- From Dec. 9 through mid-January, they play 12 of 16 on the road, including two East trips.
- In their final 10 games, they face Golden State twice, along with San Antonio, the Clippers ... and the Blazers in their finale. They're going to have to earn a playoff spot.
Travel miles: 41,319
- Their long trips are almost all East games, which should make it easier, though they do go from L.A. to Brooklyn for some reason.
- From Jan. 17 through Feb. 23, they're home for only three games.
- They face Boston on April 10, which could be a very interesting game for seeding purposes.
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