Before the season even started you could imagine that the 2011/2012 schedule would be a highly imbalanced one. The reduction from 82 to 66 games and a crowded schedule leads to several problems that the NBA had to even out:
- Divisional games are promoted in relevance from 19.51% (16 of 82) to 21.21% (14 of 66). Chicago went 15-1 in their weak division last season while the Spurs (10-6) and the Mavs (8-8) suffered from a strong division. The league adjusted to the fact by reducing the divisional schedule from 16 to 14 games, but these set of games is still more important than others.
- Not every team will play non-conference teams twice. That means it is possible that one team plays the Heat, Celtics, Knicks, Bulls, Mavs, Lakers etc. twice while others only get them at home. One approach is to let teams with easier divisional games play better non-conference opponents twice or on the road.
- The intensity of the schedule could be vastly different. While some teams might play grueling stretches, others could get lucky.
I graded each team-schedule based on two components: Opponents average "Home/Road Efficiency Differential from 2010/2011" (Margin of Victory per 100 possessions) and an "intensity value", which I estimated using the following criteria:
- Every set of B2B games is worth one point
- Every set of B2B2B games is worth two points
- Whenever multiple sets of B2Bs or B2B2Bs are only separated by one off night (i.e. 4in5 with two B2Bs sandwiching one off night), these stretch of games gets an additions point value of (n*(n+1))/2, where n equals the total number of off nights during that stretch.
Sounds complicated but really isn't. Let's say a team plays a 4in5 (B2B-Off Night-B2B) . It's worth three points. Two for two sets of B2B games and one for a stretch of two B2Bs separated by one off night: (1*(1+1))/2 = 1
A 7in9 (B2B-Off Night-B2B2B-Off Night-B2B) is worth seven points. Two for two sets of B2B games, two for one set of B2B2B games and three for a stretch of multiple B2B or B2B2B games separated by two off nights: (2*(2+1))/2 = 3
- Tiebreaker: More venue-changes within B2B-sets.
Click through to see the results. If you're interested: Here is my intensity chart that I've created for the research.
|Team||Opp. Quality||Intensity Value||Opp. Quality Rank||Intensity Rank||Overall Rank|
As you can see, the Champions got both a very high rating in opponents quality and intensity. They have two 4in5, a grueling 9in12 after the All-Star-Break and a 6in8 at the start of the season. Only the Bobcats, Grizzlies and Pacers got an even heavier schedule in that regard. The Bobcats play two 4in5s, a 6in8, a 10in14 (!) and a 11in15 (!!), but at the same time they rank last in opponents quality. Combine that and you can live with the schedule.
Dallas also ranks fourth in opponents quality. That was to be expected, because the Champs will have plenty of national televised games and you know these games always feature two premier opponents. To sum it up:
- Toughest Schedule: Dallas Mavericks
- Easiest Schedule: New York Knicks
- Toughest Intensity: Charlotte Bobcats
- Easiest Intensity: Denver Nuggets
- Toughest Opponents: Oklahoma City Thunder
- Easiest Opponents: Chicago Bulls (divisional games ring a bell?)
- Notable Playoff-Contenders in the Middle of the Pack: Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat
- Notable Playoff-Contenders with an 'above-the-average' Schedule: Memphis Grizzlies, Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder
- Notable Playoff-Contenders with an 'below-the-average' Schedule: Phoenix Suns, Chicago Bulls, New Jersey Nets