The NBA schedule is typically released in the first couple weeks of August. Very soon we will be diving into a new release. How many back-to-backs will the Pelicans have this season? Will Anthony Davis be on national television a couple more times? Might the Pels find themselves playing on Christmas Day? (That will probably get leaked a little early, the Christmas Day schedule is a big deal.)
We might be able to ascertain is who the Pelicans might be playing more often than others in the Western Conference. The NBA scheduling formula is rather formulaic, as explained in this detailed post at NBA Stuffer. We know the Pelicans will play every team in the Southwest Division four times; twice at home and twice on the road. They will also play every Eastern Conference team twice for a home-and-home.
Remaining are ten Western Conference teams. The Pelicans will play six of these franchises four times; again twice at home and twice on the road. However, they will play two teams three times (hosting twice) and two other teams three times (hosting just once). The greater frequency against bad teams the better. In this respect we can look again to NBA Stuffer to see who the Pelicans will be playing three times.
A five year rotation determines which out-of-division conference teams are played only 3 times.
Who and Where
First, let's take a look at who and where the Pelicans played last season.
|Oklahoma City Thunder||2||2||3W|
|Portland Trail Blazers||1||2||0W|
|Golden State Warriors||2||2||1W|
|Los Angeles Clippers||1||2||1W|
|Los Angeles Lakers||2||2||4W|
The Pelicans had a decent, but not spectacular draw last year. Of the teams who finished in the top nine in the standings New Orleans played the maximum number of possible road games (16). Now let's take a look at what the Pels schedule looked like five years ago; in 2010-11.
Not a whole lot better. Two trips to the Oracle Arena is awful; but missing the defending champs even once should be seen as a good thing. Getting the Clippers two times at home and only making one return trip is a net positive. Missing out on additional games against both the Nuggets and Timberwolves, projected lottery teams, is less than ideal. However, making just one trip to the altitude of Denver, regardless of the quality of the team, is a good thing.
Rest for the Weary
The other piece of the puzzle are back-to-backs and the dreaded four games in five nights. Last season New Orleans had 20 back-to-backs. They went .500 in such games; and the only Western Conference playoff participant with more was the San Antonio Spurs (21). The Pels also had two four-in-five stretches; December 6th-10th (2-2) and March 6th-10th (3-1). Of those eight games five were on the road.
One final piece is how often the Pelicans have rest advantage; specifically playing opponents on the second night of a back-to-back. Only the Cleveland Cavaliers (11) and Oklahoma City Thunder (10) had fewer than the Pelicans 12 games against opponents on the second night of a back-to-back. Every other Western Conference playoff team had at least 18 such games; the up-and-coming Utah Jazz led the league with 27.
Ideally the Pelicans will not only get a relatively easy slate but one (or more) of the six Western Conference heavyweights above them will get an incredibly difficult draw. An especially difficult schedule for the Memphis Grizzlies or Oklahoma City Thunder (breaking in new head coach Billy Donovan) could give the Pelicans a more realistic road into the top six.
Hopefully the NBA finds a way to feature Anthony Davis and pals on national TV more often this season as well.