All NBA teams have a rigorous 82 game schedule that is physically and emotionally draining. Though all 30 teams have 41 home games and 41 away games, not all schedules are made equal. For some teams, the 82 game schedule is relentless and unforgiving. The back-to-back sets of games number up to 20 and days off seem few and far in between. Road trips seem too long and home stands seem too short. The schedule does not help in making the road to the playoffs any easier.
Still, amongst the 30 teams, there are a few teams that have it easier than others. The schedule is not easy by any means for any team, but circumstances like fewer back-to-backs, shorter road trips and longer home stands can alleviate the grind. In a league where playoff spots can be decided by a differential of a single win, each and every opportunity to come out ahead has to be seized.
Here are the ten teams with the easiest schedules for the 2013-14 NBA season.
10. Golden State Warriors
The Warriors are looking to have an encore season of success and their schedule presents them with the opportunity to do so. Golden State only have 15 back-to-backs next season, good for second fewest in the league. On a team with players recovering from injuries (Stephen Curry, David Lee, Andrew Bogut), rest and days off are invitations for success.
The Warriors’ have two road trips that will shape their season. A seven-game road trip with stops in Miami and Brooklyn will test the mettle of the young Warriors, while a six-game road trip with visits to Detroit, Chicago, New York and Indiana will likely have the Warriors pining for home.
Thankfully, they have a stretch of eight of 10 games at home in January and February that will help close out the first half of the season strong.
9. Brooklyn Nets
The Nets are an old team of veterans that have not accomplished anything just yet. Large question marks loom over the franchise as their $101.6 million payroll demands nothing less than a championship. Fortunately, Brooklyn has one of the easier schedules in the league.
The Nets have 16 back-to-backs during the season, tied for third lowest in the league. Multiple players on Brooklyn’s roster are heaving sighs of relief that their old legs are being spared from grueling games two nights in a row. With rest, this roster can match up with any other in the league for small periods of time.
The Nets also have a seven-game home stand that will boost their morale. The Barclays Center is the nicest venue to play in, and the Nets have no complaints with living in a bit of luxury.
8. Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies play 18 back-to-backs next season, landing them smack dab in the middle of the pack. Their physical brand of basketball can only be matched by few teams in the league. As long as they dictate the pace of the game, the Grizzlies can use the back-to-backs to their advantage by clumping games together and taking longer breaks.
Memphis’ longest road trip logs in at five games while their longest home stand is six games. Neither number particularly stands out, but the Grizzlies play their 17 of their final 30 games on the road. Not extremely difficult, but not an easy situation either.
7. San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs have been the NBA’s best team for the past decade and a half. Despite having 19 back-to-backs and a grueling nine-game road trip next season, the Spurs carry an expectation of success, regardless of the team they are playing.
19 back-to-backs would be grueling for any team. The Spurs, though, have Gregg Popovich, who is not afraid to bench players for the sake of rest. San Antonio is a deep team that has multiple options trusted fully to carry out the team’s agenda on the court.
The nine-game road trip has been dubbed the Rodeo Road Trip in San Antonio. Though it’s unbearably long, the Spurs throughout recent years that do not shy away from the long road trip.
6. New York Knicks
The Knicks had an overall disappointing 2012-13 season. Despite their scorching hot start to the season, the Knicks fell off substantially and finished with 54 wins.
New York has 14 back-to-backs next season, fewest in the NBA. For a team with streaky shooters like Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith, days between games may not be entirely desirable, but over the course of a 82 game season, there won’t be many complaints about days off.
The Knicks will have play 10 of 11 games at home during January and February. Then, New York’s most difficult road stretch comes in February and March where they play eight of 10 games on the road. That stretch will be bookended by trips to Oklahoma City and Miami. If the Knicks can have a positive record during that stretch, they may be in line for another high-seeded finish in the Eastern Conference.
5. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers share Staples Center with their dreaded older brother, the Lakers. Fortunately for them, their situation permits them to play in Los Angeles more than 41 times a season, contributing to an overall easier season.
Los Angeles is scheduled to play 17 back-to-backs next season, putting them in the middle of the pack. The Clippers, especially with an infusion of young talent in J.J. Redick, Jared Dudley and Darren Collison, will have no problem in running the floor on consecutive nights.
The Clippers have a difficult stretch of games right after the All Star break, making visits in Phoenix, Memphis and Oklahoma City. This trip will surely test their ability to get back into gear, especially after all the All Star festivities.
In April to close the season, the Clippers play five of seven at home, with only one of those games being against a sure-thing playoff team in the Thunder. Los Angeles should be able to take advantage of their easy schedules and nab themselves another trip to the playoffs.
4. Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets have one of the best physical home court advantages in the league. The altitude of Denver allows the Nuggets’ players to run the court quicker. Next season, Denver’s schedule will allow them to make waves in a competitive Western Conference despite losing their best player in Andre Iguodala.
Denver plays 14 back-to-backs next season, tied for least in the league. Much of their success relies on their transition offense. Having days off between games benefits the Nuggets more so than any other team, allowing rest and recuperation.
Denver’s longest road trip of the season also stands at a measly six games. The Nuggets do not have any glaring road bumps in their season. If they can provide a concerted, consistent effort, they will have a successful season.
3. Miami Heat
The Heat are the best team in basketball. Regardless of the actuality of their schedule, this Miami team can go into any season knowing that they have the best player in the world and that advantage will make their season easier.
Even then, Miami has one of the easiest schedules in the league for next season. They have 17 back-to-backs scheduled. After having played two full postseasons, the Heat are likely to have a bit of wear and tear. Having a full day’s rest is something Miami will not take for granted over the course of the season.
Though they have two long road trips of six games each, the Heat have two long homestands of five games. Miami is one of the most basketball-savvy teams in the league and they will be sure to take advantage of each and every road trip or home stand.
2. Chicago Bulls
The Bulls are looking to have a championship season. With the return of Derrick Rose, Chicago hopes their team can legitimately contend for a title, and fortunately for them, their schedule helps more than hurts.
Chicago has 16 back-to-backs next season. For Rose, having fewer consecutive nights playing basketball is sure to be beneficial to his knee and psyche. For the rest of the Bulls team, the same benefits apply. Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer have racked up an ungodly number of minutes on the court over the past two seasons. If Chicago hopes to dethrone Miami in the East, they need to find rest wherever possible.
The Bulls’ longest road trip comes in the form of six games in March. Their longest home stand occurs twice at six games each. If the Bulls pull out 5-1 or 4-2 home stands, it’s likely their season is headed in the right direction.
1. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder had a disappointing end to the 2013-13 season. Now their eyes on set on next season as they look to return to the NBA Finals.
Oklahoma City is playing 15 back-to-backs next season, tied for second fewest in the league. With Russell Westbrook coming back from injury, the nights off give the Thunder a huge boost. The Thunder will only go so far as Westbrook does, and as long as Westbrook paces himself to recover fully from his injuries, Oklahoma City can look forward to a relatively easy season.
The Thunder finish the season with six of their last eight coming on the road. Their visits to Houston, Indiana and Los Angeles will be huge in their momentum going into the playoffs. The Western Conference is going to be a convoluted mess and playoff seeding implications may be on the line during these finals games. If Oklahoma City can grind out road wins to close out the season, it will only benefit them in the playoffs.
Oklahoma City also has two home stands of six games during next season. The Thunder only lost six games total at home during the last regular season. Two 6-0 home stands would really propel Oklahoma City to the top of the Western Conference. If they can seize the advantages they are given in the form of their schedule, expect the Thunder to tear through the regular season.
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