Posted by Royce Young
The schedule is out so let the analyzation begin. One of the many things to look at any time a schedule is released is the kickoff week. Often times, the first week or two can make or break a season for a team. Get off to a good start, you energize the fanbase, gain some confidence and build a little momentum. Get off to a bad one and the fans think "Here we go again," confidence takes a hit and already people are thinking lottery.
So who has the easiest go of it in the opening weeks? And who got the toughest draw?
Cleveland: Maybe the league was taking pity on the Cavs who had a rough offseason but Cleveland gets a favorable start. The Cavs kick off with a home game against Boston, but then other than a game against Atlanta, nine straight games against lottery teams, including Washington, New Jersey (twice) and Philadelphia.
Los Angeles Lakers: The champs get a favorable start as 7 of their first 10 are at home with the road games being against Phoenix, Sacramento and Denver. Most of the games are against sub-.500 teams from last season with only a couple against quality squads (Portland, Houston, Memphis). It should be another good beginning in Lakerland en route to defending the crown.
Orlando: The NBA hands a gift to the Magic who get to open a new arena with a batch of home games. It gets tougher for the Magic later down the line, but to start the season, Orlando gets 8 of its first 12 at home, with most of the tough games coming into the new Amway Center. The drawback is a couple back-to-backs but no set is against two contending teams.
Philadelphia: Any time you're breaking in the second overall pick you'd love to get a group of games against teams that he might be able to build confidence against. Evan Turner gets his first game against the Heat and then Atlanta. The schedule lightens a bit with tilts against Indiana, Washington, Indiana again and Cleveland, but then the Sixers face a tough five-game road trip including games at San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Dallas. Then a few weeks later in December, the 76ers have a six-game roadie against quality teams (Orlando, Boston, Chicago, Phoenix, Lakers, Denver, Golden State).
Memphis: Considering the Grizzlies start with five of their first seven on the road and then have home games Phoenix, Dallas and Boston, I'd say they qualify in the tough start category. Their road trip isn't brutal by any means (Lakers, Warriors, Suns, Kings) but it's definitely not easy. Memphis was a surprise team last season, but might struggle to get a hot start this year. The first month is littered with games against contenders and there's really no place for a three or four-game winning streak.
Phoenix: The Suns will be breaking in a number of new players and won't get a chance to ease into it. Phoenix starts on the road at Portland and Utah, then moves home for games against the Lakers, Spurs and Grizzlies. A four-game road trip waits later in November that takes them to Miami, Orlando, Charlotte and Houston. Phoenix plays more playoffs teams than not with eight of its 14 November games being on the road.