After the schedule comes out, most of the discussion around it centers around back-to-backs. They can take a seemingly easy month and turn it into an incredibly difficult one. Having to play Wednesday night at home and then turn around and fly to Orlando for a game less than 24 hours is not easy.
But simply looking at back-to-backs is just the beginning. It’s only scratching the surface. The real meat and potatoes to the difficulty of a schedule comes down to not only the back-to-back, but what the team you’re playing on that second night comes in looking like. What if you’re playing your fourth game in five days but your opponent has had three days off? Those are the type of minor quirks in a schedule that can really make a difference come April.
In the Thunder’s case, they are in low end of back-to-backs with just 15. The Thunder are in the middle of the four games in five days though with two (seven teams have one or less), but are on the low end of three in four days with a back-to-back with just 11 (only two teams have fewer). Here’s how the whole thing shakes out for the Thunder:
SITUATION THUNDER OPPONENT
4 in 5 2 3
3 in 4 11 19
1 day rest 43 34
2 days rest 8 10
3+ days rest 5 3
Games against unrested opponent 16 15
B2B's on the road 13 9
Total B2B 15 16
A lot of this stuff is determined by geography and the Thunder typically wind up in this same position each year, or close to. And really, the NBA schedule is mostly fair for every team out there. It’s a pretty rare occurrence for someone to get a significantly tougher or easier draw. If you’re good, you’ll be fine. Everyone plays 41 home and 41 away. Everyone plays 82 games. And if you’re a solid or good team, you’ll maneuver through however many back-to-backs or four games in five days and end up with a quality record.
Here’s how the Thunder rank compared to the rest of the league (1 is least, 30th is most):
Four in five days: t-3rd
Three in four days: t-3rd
Total back-to-backs: 2nd
1 day rest: 30th
2 days rest: t-1st
3+ days rest: t-5th
But in terms of where the Thunder fit, it’s pretty favorable. They get fewer games against an unrested opponent (tied for sixth fewest with 16) but get a low number of their own back-to-backs. They do however get the most opponent three games in four days with 19. But they give back by fitting into the middle in both that regard and four games in five days and ranking dead last with 43 games coming on only one day of rest.
How would I assess the Thunder’s strength of schedule? It doesn’t matter all that much. There’s nothing abnormal in it, it’s comparable to everyone else and if the Thunder continue their trend upwards, it could be the toughest in the league and it probably wouldn’t stop them from finishing in the top two or three in the West.