The NBA season release does not come with the same pomp and circumstance as the NFL schedule release as an 82-game schedule does not carry the same urgency as a 17-game schedule does. However, despite popular belief that the NBA schedule does not matter due to the volume of games there are many early observations we can make to aid our handicapping once the season begins. Below you will find an observation for each team’s schedule this season that we can either use once the campaign begins or when playing season-long win totals.
The hardest stretch for Atlanta is an 11-game stretch from Dec. 28 to Jan. 18 which sees the Hawks on the road for seven games, including a four-game west coast trip that includes games against the Warriors, Clippers and Lakers. This stretch also includes standalone home games against Milwaukee and Miami – the latter coming on MLK Day – and wraps with a road game in Dallas. Atlanta projects to be an underdog in five of those games and the home games are coinflip spots at best, giving the Hawks a tricky path to navigate early in 2023.
Boston was the best road team in the league last season with a 31-22 SU/33-18-2 ATS record away from home, and once the calendar flips to 2023 they will be able to show off the road prowess. From Jan. 1 to Mar. 30 the Celtics will play 24 of 41 games on the road. The bright side is that there are no true west coast trips for the Celtics during this stretch, but the last three games of a six-game road trip does bring them to Portland and Utah on back-to-back nights before ending in Sacramento.
The Nets were an atrocious home team last season, going 21-23 SU/9-34-1 ATS in both the regular and postseason at Barclays Center. Luckily they do not have to worry about that to open the season, as 12 of their first 20 games are on the road. That includes an early west coast trip with road games against the Clippers and Lakers on back-to-back nights and Ben Simmons’ assumed return to Philadelphia in late November. Side note: Don’t sleep on those first two home games against the Pelicans and Raptors, two teams consistently hovering around the Kevin Durant situation.
Supporters of Charlotte might want to take a break from Dec. 16 to Jan. 16 this season because the Hornets are put through a meat grinder for a month. Over the course of this 17-game stretch the Hornets will be on the road for 10 games, six of which come in the form of a west coast trip with games against the Nuggets, Clippers, Lakers, Trail Blazers and Warriors. Overall, the average win total of their opponent during this slog is 44.75 and that does not include whatever Brooklyn is by the time they host them on New Year’s Eve.
Chicago is participating in one of the NBA’s Global Games and will face Detroit in Paris on Jan. 19 at Accor Arena. The Bulls will get three days off before the game and two days off after so that game should not be a problem from a scheduling standpoint, but the team will have to make up for that five-day stretch later. From Feb. 6 to Feb. 16 Chicago must play seven games in 10 days, a stretch that includes two back-to-backs and meetings with Memphis, Brooklyn, Cleveland and Milwaukee.
The Cavaliers were a massive surprise last season in surpassing their win total by 16.5 games. Cleveland will not be surprising anyone this season and bettors will learn early how this team stacks up with the elite. Nine of their first 14 games will be on the road, including a five-game road trip that swings through the west coast. The average win total of their opponent is 43.6 and five of their opponents – the Celtics, Clippers, Warriors and Bucks – have win totals of 51.5 or higher.
Dallas has arguably the toughest opening schedule of any team in the NBA. They open the season in Phoenix where they are 5-point underdogs to the Suns before heading back home for a coinflip spot against Memphis. The Mavericks will then hit the road for a quick two-game trip to New Orleans and Brooklyn where they will likely be underdogs as well, the latter game dependent on what happens with Kevin Durant. After a trip to the Western Conference Finals a 1-3 start to the season seems probable for Dallas.
Finally healthy the Nuggets have title aspirations, but Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. are going to be thrown in the fire given how challenging the opening 20 games could be. Denver will be on the road for 13 of their first 19 games and just once will they play consecutive home games. Their opponents on the road include the Warriors, Trail Blazers, Lakers, Celtics, Bulls, Mavericks and Clippers. Denver has winnable home games during this stretch, but a .500 start through the first 20 games or so is not unrealistic.
The Pistons are a team I am high coming into this season – as high as one can be on a team with a win total of 28.5 – and I will be able to test my position on them early. Detroit has a brutal start to its schedule, beginning on Oct. 25 with a home series against Atlanta and continuing for the next 25 games. Over that span the Pistons’ opponents have an average win total of 45.7 and they will play just 11 home games. That includes a west coast trip with stops in Los Angeles for a back-to-back, Denver Utah and Phoenix.
Golden State Warriors
Golden State’s first five games present quite a challenge as they will be on nationally televised games four times facing the Lakers, Nuggets, Suns and Heat. However, four of the first five will be at home and the schedule softens up immediately after that. Eight of the Warriors’ next 12 games will be on the road, but they face just four opponents with a win total over 39.5 and six of their opponents have a win total of 32.5 or lower meaning Golden State has another hot start starting in the face this season.
Homecourt in the NBA last season was not very important and Houston is hoping that continues to be the case with a road-heavy schedule to start their 2022-2023 campaign. The Rockets will be on the road for 14 of 21 games from Oct. 26 to Dec. 8 and only once during this stretch will they play consecutive home games. Over the course of these 21 contests, they face the Clippers three times, the Warriors twice and the Suns twice. That is 33.3% of those games against opponents with projected win totals of 51.5 which is challenging to say the least for a team projected to win fewer than 30 games.
Indiana is projected by many to be the worst team in the league, so any stretch of games figures to be a challenge. However, may I direct your attention to a 22-game stretch from Oct. 24 to Dec. 7 that will have the Pacers on the road for 14 games. During this period they have a five-game road trip that includes the 76ers, Bulls and Nets twice, and they embark on a seven-game road trip to the west coast to close this stretch. To make matters worse they will likely be underdogs in every game but two over the course of these 22 contests – two home games against Orlando.
Los Angeles Clippers
With Kawhi Leonard returning from injury Los Angeles is primed to compete for a title, and their opening schedule will allow them to get off to a fantastic start. In their first 18 games the Clippers will face opponents with an average win total of 33.6 and 10 of those will take place at Crypto.com Arena. Los Angeles does have to deal with three back-to-back scenarios during this stretch, so it is likely Leonard missed a few games, but there is no doubt that the Clippers have a path to an incredible start in front of them.
Los Angeles Lakers
Ten of the first 15 games for Los Angeles will be at home, but their first 11 contests present quite a few challenges. During that 11-game stretch they face the Warriors, Clippers (twice), Nuggets (twice), Timberwolves and Pelicans. That is seven of the first 11 games against opponents with projected win totals of 47.5 or higher. A four-game homestand to close out the first 15 contests will see the Lakers faces three teams with win totals of 32.5 or lower but there is no doubt this opening stretch presents some challenges for Los Angeles.
Memphis finished last season with the best ATS win percentage both regular and postseason (63.0%) and they covered 60.0% of their road games. That experience will payoff for a 21-game stretch from Dec. 17 to Jan. 27 in which the Grizzlies will be away from home for 13 games. Thirteen of 21 games on the road is not particularly daunting, but that stretch does include two separate west coast trips where Memphis will face the Warriors twice, the Suns three times (once at home), the Nugget and Timberwolves. The Grizzlies showed up in high-level contests consistenly last season, but keep in mind Jaren Jackson Jr. could be out until mid-January as he recovers from a procedure on his foot.
It is a perfectly manageable start to the season for Miami which opens the schedule with 10 of its first 14 games in South Beach. However, they face Toronto and Golden State twice during that span along with home games against Chicago and Boston to open the 2022-2023 campaign. Following that they have 12 of 15 on the road with contests against the Raptors, Timberwolves, Celtics (consecutively), Grizzlies and Clippers. The Heat usually outperform expectations but they are worse with the departure of P.J. Tucker and could get off to an uneven start with this schedule.
Milwaukee will play 19 of the first 25 games on its schedule at home and against lesser competition. Six of their first 12 opponents have win totals of 28.5 or lower and they only have two back-to-back situations to deal with during this opening stretch. The Bucks are always a highly power rated team in the regular season and they are likely going to close as double-digit favorites in about nine of the first 19 games.
According to Positive Residual the Minnesota Timberwolves have the third easiest schedule in the NBA behind Denver and Utah. They also have 12 rest advantages in their schedule, tied for third most. The NBA did the Timberwolves a favor with their opening schedule as well. Five of the first seven games will be at home for Minnesota and they face six teams that have win totals of 31.5 or lower and three of those contests are against the San Antonio Spurs. Betting the Timberwolves over 47.5 was a win total best bet for me and I am even more emboldened after analyzing their schedule.
New Orleans Pelicans
The legitimacy of this team will be tested quickly when the 2022-2023 season begins. Eight of the first 11 games will be on the road and New Orleans will likely be an underdog in seven, possibly eight, of those games. They face three teams – Suns, Warriors, Clippers – with win totals of 51.5 or higher along with coinflip contests against the likes of the Nets, Mavericks, Hawks and Bulls. As the schedule stretches into November the Pelicans have a six-game homestand but they host the Trail Blazers, Grizzlies, Bulls, Celtics and Warriors. Zion Williamson should be back on the floor, but it’s a daunting task to open the season, nonetheless.
New York Knicks
Is Donovan Mitchell a Knickerbocker once the season begins? If he is, we all have Nov. 15 circled as the Knicks head to Salt Lake City to face the Jazz in a primetime spot. That game is the start of a five-game west coast trip for New York and the end of a 14-game stretch which will have them away from home for 10 games. Among their opponents are the Bucks, Cavaliers, 76ers, Hawks, Celtics, Timberwolves, Nuggets, Warriors and Suns meaning the Knicks – regardless of Mitchell’s team – will likely be underdogs in 10 of these games.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The league’s second-best cover team last season (49-31-2 ATS) has one of the hardest schedules, according to Positive Residual. Oklahoma City travels the 10th most miles of any team this season, does not have a surplus of rest advantages and must play in 13 back-to-backs. Their opening slate is particularly daunting with their opponent average win total of 46.3 for the first 11 games. It could mean a great betting opportunity for day-to-day bettors as a well-coached team like the Thunder will be catching quite a few points in the opening contests.
Orlando was particularly poor when playing at home last season with an abysmal 14-26-1 ATS record (35.0%), but they get a chance to buck that trend early. From Nov. 3 to Nov. 16 they have a seven-game homestand without a single back-to-back. Among their opponents will be Sacramento, Houston and Charlotte among some title contenders, but it’s a great opportunity for a young team to cover spreads and perhaps grab some victories which will be hard to come by for a group with the fourth lowest win total.
The 76ers’ schedule will not be confused with any of the easiest schedules in the league, but it is hardly one of the most daunting. According to Positive Residual the team has 10 rest advantage spots and only nine disadvantages, the latter figure being on the lower end of the curve. One of the portions of their schedule that sticks out is a 17-game stretch from Dec. 9 to Jan. 12 where Philadelphia will play 12 games at home and 10 total against teams with win totals of 39.5 or worse.
After winning 64 games last season the Phoenix Suns are primed for another solid campaign after being handed one of the more manageable schedules in the league. Positive Residual ranks their schedule eight easiest in the league and over the course of the season the Suns will have 11 rest advantages over opponents compared to six rest disadvantages, the only team with so few. Seven of the first nine games are at home for Phoenix as well, but the opponents are challenging with contests against the Mavericks, Trail Blazers (three times), Clippers and Warriors.
Portland Trail Blazers
It is not a surprise that Portland must travel the third most miles of any team given their geographical location, but their schedule does them no favors regardless. The Trail Blazers have more disadvantageous rest spots than advantageous and eight of their first 15 games are away from home. That includes a brief east coast trip with stops in Miami and Charlotte before wrapping up with Dallas, all of which takes place over the course of nine days and two back-to-backs.
Owning the eighth hardest schedule in the league will not help Sacramento’s quest for a playoff berth. The Kings’ first 12 games are particularly daunting as they will face the Warriors, Clippers and Heat all twice amongst other opponents. Sacramento projects to be an underdog in 10 of their first 12 games with the only spots as a potential favorite coming in the season opener against Portland and on Nov. 5 when they face the Magic in Orlando. A potential 1-11 or 2-10 start would probably be damaging to playoff run.
San Antonio Spurs
The annual rodeo road trip is where the eye is drawn immediately when examining San Antonio’s schedule and this one is a very manageable one, even for a team as lowly as the Spurs project to be. San Antonio only has one back-to-back to deal with on the nine-game trip and among their opponents are Detroit and Utah twice as well as a winnable road game against Charlotte. Having said that, the Spurs own the lowest win total and the hardest schedule in the league.
After a tumultuous few seasons of travel the Toronto Raptors were dealt a favorable hand this season with the second-fewest miles traveled and 13 rest advantages to just seven disadvantages. The Raptors also only have 12 back-to-back scheduling spots this season, tied for the fewest with nine other teams. Their opening 10 games are an incredible challenge littered with coinflip spots, but this schedule should allow the Raptors to maximize their wins this season.
Utah projects to have the second easiest schedule in the league which is great for what looks to potentially be the worst team in the league, especially if Donovan Mitchell is shipped off before the season begins. They do have 15 back-to-backs this season, but more rest advantages than disadvantages. They face San Antonio and Oklahoma City over the course of the first five games out of the All-Star break, but the closing schedule is rife with contenders which would allow this team to rack up the losses in the race for one of the three worst records in the league.
Washington would really like to make it back to the postseason after missing out last season, but that will be a challenge with one of the harder schedules in the NBA. They have more rest disadvantages than advantages according to Positive Residual and their 14 back-to-backs are tied with six other teams for second-most in the league.