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2016-17 NBA Schedule: New Orleans Pelicans to be tested early and often

The stiffest part of the schedule will come in the months of December and January.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans learned their fate on Thursday when the NBA released the 2016-17 regular season schedules for all 30 teams.

At first glance, the schedule appears incredibly balanced as the opponent’s win-loss records from last season both before and after the All-Star game are precisely the same. However, a comparison of the two opponent .510 win percentages among the rest of the league reveals the Pelicans first half schedule is noticeably more difficult (6th) than in the second half (16).

The months of December (.535) and January (.544) are to blame for the disparity, yet a strength of schedule ranking of fourth in both months means we will get a good read on the Pelicans early. If the team has a record hovering around .500 at the start of February, New Orleans could legitimately be looking at a playoff berth. Barring of course another devastating amount of injury, the team should have an opportunity for a strong finish as February, the easiest month (25th SOS ranking), March (17th SOS ranking) and April (16th SOS ranking) all sit in the bottom tier of difficultly.

For a more complete look at the strength of schedule rankings, please follow the twitter link below and be sure to thank Jared Dubin for putting forth the effort in assembling the data for all 30 teams.

Other factors can also influence how the Pelicans will fare in the W/L column, namely rest, and it appears they have drawn the short end of that stick. New Orleans is scheduled to play in 17 back-to-backs, while catching 13 opponents on the second night of a back-to-back. Additionally, the Pelicans are scheduled to have a rest advantage in 20 games while a disadvantage in 25 contests.

This imbalance in rest is best viewed in the graph below. Please note how New Orleans is set to enjoy the fourth worst rest advantage in the league. YUCK! (Sidenote: have a look at the ridiculous advantage the Los Angeles Clippers will enjoy just prior to the playoffs!)

The New Orleans Pelicans are scheduled to appear in 14 national games (9 NBAtv, 4 ESPN, 1 TNT, 0 ABC). Two of those televised contests will occur within the first three games of the regular season.

After an opening night matchup against the Denver Nuggets, the Pelicans will host the Golden State Warriors in the second game of the young season that will be aired on ESPN. Following a look at the newly assembled Stephen Curry-Kevin Durant combination, the Pelicans will then fly overnight to San Antonio to battle the Spurs. This second game of their first back-to-back will broadcast on NBAtv.

For a handy look at the full schedule, refer to Scott Kushner’s tweet below.

It’s hard to not notice the Pelicans facing the Warriors twice in the first seven games of the schedule. Theoretically it’s better than facing a 73-win team twice in the first three games as last season but still!

Some other key matchups at home include the Milwaukee Bucks and potential trade target, Greg Monroe, on November 1st, the World Champion Cleveland Cavaliers on January 23rd, and the Houston Rockets on February 23rd, featuring the homecomings for both Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon, smack dab in the middle of Mardi Gras.

On the flip side, the noticeable gap in between home games in February indicates that perhaps the NBA is on the verge of awarding the 2017 All-Star game to New Orleans. The Pelicans play on February 8th inside the SKC and then not again until after the All-Star weekend. Officials would have a little more than a week to prepare for the extravaganza.