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Miami has the easiest schedule? Yes. But it makes sense.

Aug 22, 2012, 12:06 PM EDT

Miami Heat's James celebrates near the end of Game 5 of the NBA basketball finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Miami Reuters

We tend not to take “strength of schedule” into account much when talking about the NBA. That’s because the schedule is balanced — every team will play every other team in its conference four times and every team in the other conference twice (with mild tweaks, that would equal 86). Plus, unlike a short football season, the long NBA season kind of evens itself out.

But Ed Kupfer, whose day job is as an advanced stats guru for the Houston Rockets, had some fun with ESPN’s projected records for teams for this upcoming season and created a strength of schedule graph (which he tweeted out). (Hat tip to Tom Haberstroh of ESPN’s Heat Index.)

And Miami had the easiest schedule of anyone.

Followed by Indiana, Brooklyn, Boston and Chicago. The hardest schedule is the New Orleans Hornets, followed by Sacramento, Phoenix and Portland.

And this makes total sense.

Think about it. With Chicago down because Derrick Rose is out, the East is just not that deep with great teams. ESPN projects Miami with 60 wins, followed by Boston and Indiana with 50 down to the Hawks getting the eight seed at 40-42. (You can quibble with ESPN if you don’t like the projections.)

So Miami gets the easier conference and doesn’t have to play the best team in the conference even once (itself). Of course their schedule is easier. It’s also why the Lakers and Thunder have the easiest schedules in the West on this graph.

Also notice on the color coded graph (black for East, red for West) that all the teams in the West basically have it harder than the East, just because as a conference it is deeper (ESPN has Utah and Minnesota tying for the final playoff spot at 41-41; I’ll say now that is too low and that it will probably take 44-45 wins to get the last playoff spot in the West.)

It’s all a kind of fun, moot exercise. But if you want to hate Miami for this, too, go ahead. Nobody is stopping you.

  1. dysraw1 - Aug 22, 2012 at 12:12 PM

    great

  2. dls612 - Aug 22, 2012 at 12:17 PM

    I don’t think its easy cause eventually u gonna play every team! Unlike football!

    • dls612 - Aug 22, 2012 at 12:26 PM

      Don’t want my team looking at any other teams as to be easy! I hope my Heat feels the same. Play hard!

    • dls612 - Aug 22, 2012 at 1:50 PM

      The heat, thunder, Lakers, and other great teams all had a few losses against well below .500 teams! Whats easy about it !

  3. imthedudedude - Aug 22, 2012 at 1:08 PM

    Of course Phoenix has one of the hardest schedules. David Stern hates PHX. Every year he has us play the magic then heat on florida, back to back nights. This year he puts it in the first 5 games of the year, yeah thx!

    • miamatt - Aug 22, 2012 at 4:29 PM

      There’s not a team in the league that doesn’t get the Florida back to back in one order or the other. That’s what happens when teams are geographically close to one another, and it makes more sense for visiting teams to hit both cities at once when they are a long way from home. It’s no different then when east coast teams get Kings-Lakers or Clippers-:Lakers, etc.

      It usually comes at the end of a long road trip, and what has made the Florida back to back so unpalletable of late is simply that both teams have been strong.

    • eventhorizon04 - Aug 22, 2012 at 6:12 PM

      Uh, the Magic aren’t exactly as good as they were last year.

      Look up “Dwight Howard trade.”

      That back to back is much easier than it used to be.

  4. flyrocket31 - Aug 22, 2012 at 1:10 PM

    There’s 82 games in a Season!

    • zacksdad - Aug 22, 2012 at 3:06 PM

      That is why he stated with minor tweaks. 86 games equals his calculation (4 * 14) + (2 * 15). So each team probably plays four of the teams in the other conference only once.

  5. hannsta - Aug 22, 2012 at 1:26 PM

    What the Heat are playing only the Bobcats for a month straight?!?

  6. Mr. Wright 212 - Aug 22, 2012 at 3:56 PM

    This hack doesn’t even have the Knicks as a .500 team. Dismissed everything else after seeing that.

    • truthhurtstoo - Aug 22, 2012 at 5:38 PM

      knicks aren’t a .500 team. Move along…

  7. money2long - Aug 23, 2012 at 1:23 AM

    okay…i’m sorry for trying to start a conspiracy theory, and my following comment is in no way a shot at the heat faithful miami fans. but can this be a possibility?

    Stern…
    wanting to build off the momentum that his poster boy LeBron James has infused into his league with all the Michael Jordan comparisons…has he secretly talked to schedule creators to formulate a season for LeBron that will now place his talented Heat squad to challenge another Jordan record? The infamous 70-games won season.

    i dunno…call me crazy. but if this who easiest schedule thing is true, Stern may have had a hand in making sure the LeBron finds way to add to the attention his precious business is getting. stern is no stranger to conspiracy.

    • money2long - Aug 23, 2012 at 12:42 PM

      let me add to my comment by saying, the heat have the talent to win 70 even if they were given the toughest schedule. but i’m not so sure the schedule they have now was a mistake/coincidence. that’s all. hey, maybe the schedule they have now will mean more 4th qtr rests for wade and lbj throughout the season.

    • borderline1988 - Aug 23, 2012 at 1:05 PM

      Did you even read the article? Or did you just go straight to the comments section and post your reply after reading the headline only?

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