NBA Schedule Reform, or is Adam Silver “givin’ us the business”?

A funny thing happened last summer on the NBA’s way to schedule re-forum.

They started out with a 24-week model that had been in use for some forty years – and came away with a refurbished upgrade comprised of 168 playing dates.

Hold on … one hundred sixty-eight divided by seven equals twenty-four, right? So, isn’t it still a 24-week regular season?

Not exactly – you see, in prior years a team’s 82 games were fit into 24 calendar weeks (plus two days), 170 days total. Deduct the All-Star Break, a couple of holidays … those 82 games were being played in barely twice that many days. (In the shortened 2011-12 season, a 66-game slate was shoe-horned into a 124-day window.)

For 2017-18, the league has opened that window to 177 days (Tuesday Oct. 16 to Wednesday April 11). A six-day mid-February Hoop Fest, along with pauses on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and (God only knows why!) Monday April 2, brings the working total down to that misleading equivalent of 24 weeks.

That extra “wiggle room” has allowed Commissioner Adam Silver to exterminate what had been an NBAer’s worst recent scheduling “pest” – four games in five nights. (A good many teams had endured a “six-in-eight” stretch in ’11-12, and at least one was scheduled to play seven games in nine nights.)

Now, what the schedule-making devices were unable to abolish with just seven days of wiggle room were games on consecutive days – back-to-backs. (The total number of B2B’s was reduced by 57, just under two per team for the season – roughly 12 percent.)

But the NBA’s 1,230 game schedule will still require a team to go back-to-back over 430 times.

Through the season’s first 28 days and 200 (exactly!) games, 62 of those games featured at least one team playing the back end of a 2-fer – on eight occasions (e.g. Atl. at Bos, Nov. 6), both teams brought “tired legs” to the floor.

Certainly, the grind of a long season does indeed take its toll, and it behooves an entity like the NBA to (as much as possible) “protect” its players as well as ensure the quality and integrity of its product.

Their efforts to address “game congestion” – not to mention the propaganda accompanying its announcement – seems tacit admission that some degree of competitive imbalance is produced by B2B’s.

To what extent, then, does playing on a “second night” impact a team’s performance – and the outcome of games?

Unsurprisingly, “rested teams” have won 34 of 54 games (.630) against second-night guys – but only seven of 16 (.438) when playing in the tired team’s gym. (Home “plus” rested “equals” 27-11, .711)

[For the sake of comparison, in 2016-17 the overall winning percentage of Home teams was .584 (721-509).]

Including the semi-weekly encounters between two tired-legged teams, this season’s 70 second-night performances have yielded these per-game numbers (presented here with the respective overall team average through 200 games).

Tired Team / League Avg. 
37.8 – 85.1, .444     [FG%]    38.9 – 85.5, .455
10.4 – 28.4, .366 (.334)     [3FG% (3PAr)]    10.4 – 28.7, .360 (.336)
18.1 – 23.3, .775    [FT%]    17.4 – 22.7, .766
9.8 – 42.7 (.231)     [Reb (OR%)]    9.8 – 43.8 (.223)
15.4 (.139)     [TO (Pct)]    15.7 (.142)

Now let’s compare the numbers from the 54 “Tired vs. Fresh Legs” games for the same span:

Tired Team / Rested Team 
37.9 – 85.3, .444     [FG%]    39.9 – 84.8, .471
10.1 – 27.9, .362 (.326)     [3FG% (3PAr)]    10.4 – 29.2, .354 (.345)
17.7 – 23.1, .768     [FT%]    17.8 – 23.9, .742
9.8 – 42.4 (.219)     [Reb (OR%)]    10.0 – 44.8 (.234)
15.5 (.140)     [TO (Pct)]    15.3 (.139)

Perhaps one-sixth of an NBA season is too small a sample size …

… but see what happens when you extend 24 weeks to 168 days.

Shit just don’t add up. (Other than FG%, these stats don’t suggest such lopsided win-loss numbers.)

Abacus Revelation for the Road

Rather than revealing some additional bit of trivia, this “Afterword” is an admission of ignorance – and maybe a little curiosity.

I wonder if the NBA schedule attempts to make a relatively equitable distribution when it comes to playing AGAINST a tired team??

In the opening month, five teams – Atlanta, Dallas, Philadelphia, Portland and San Antonio – have yet to face a team playing “tired.” Ten teams have already enjoyed three “rest-advantage” games, while the Denver Nuggets have enjoyed such an edge in four of their first 14 tip-offs.