Thu. Jul 9th, 2020

NBA schedule release winners and losers: Pelicans, 76ers have smooth ride; Blazers, Raptors face uphill battle – CBS Sports

NBA schedule release winners and losers: Pelicans, 76ers have smooth ride; Blazers, Raptors face uphill battle  CBS Sports

Watch Now: NBA Releases Schedule For Restart In Orlando (1:05)

It’s been over three months since fans have looked at the NBA schedule for any meaningful reason, but that all changed on Friday when the league announced the schedule for the resumption of the 2019-20 season at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida starting on July 30. The slate of games for all 22 teams was revealed, with some teams coming up a little more fortunate than others.

The NBA tried its best to adhere to the remaining schedule before the shutdown, but, obviously, with eight teams staying home, adjustments needed to be made. With playoff spots and positioning still to be determined, the schedule will have a lot to do with how things shake out. Here is a look at some winners and losers based on their opponents in the eight seeding games in Orlando.

Winner: New Orleans Pelicans

It’s only fair because the Pelicans had the most favorable schedule remaining before the hiatus, but New Orleans now has every chance to make their move for the No. 8 seed in Orlando. Only three of their eight games are against current playoff teams, one of those coming against the Grizzlies, who they’re chasing for the final playoff spot out West. Another one of those teams is the Jazz, who will be playing their first game since losing their second-leading scorer, Bojan Bogdanovic, to wrist surgery. New Orleans is the only team that has a combined opponent win percentage below .500, and each of their last six opponents currently owns losing records.

Also, the second half of the Pelicans’ schedule pits them against four teams — the Wizards, Spurs, Kings and Magic — who could potentially have nothing to play for at that point in the seeding games. Many have picked Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and the Pelicans to chase down Memphis and make the playoffs, and this schedule makes that a real possibility.

Loser: Portland Trail Blazers

Portland was looking like a solid pick to get that final Western Conference playoff spot with the return of Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins from injury, but they were dealt a rough blow when Trevor Ariza elected not to participate in the Orlando restart. That already made them extremely shallow on the wing in a wing-heavy league, and this schedule certainly doesn’t help their cause. All eight of the Blazers’ games are against teams currently in the playoffs, with their toughest opponents (Celtics, Rockets, Nuggets, Clippers, 76ers) coming relatively early, when those teams are still vying for postseason position and have good reason to play their stars. Portland had the 16th-most difficult remaining schedule when the season was suspended, and it now has the fifth-hardest in Orlando, meaning Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and the Blazers have an extremely difficult road to the postseason.

Winner: Philadelphia 76ers

  • Aug. 1 vs. Pacers
  • Aug. 3 vs. Spurs
  • Aug. 5 vs. Wizards
  • Aug. 7 vs. Magic
  • Aug. 9 vs. Trail Blazers
  • Aug. 11 vs. Suns
  • Aug. 12 vs. Raptors
  • Aug. 14 vs. Rockets

After an up-and-down season, the 76ers have a chance to build up some serious momentum heading into the playoffs with this schedule. They lead off with the Pacers who may or may not have Victor Oladipo, then they get a run of five straight teams under .500. This means that Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and the Sixers could start their Orlando season at 6-0 and potentially move up a spot or two in the Eastern Conference standings.

Loser: Toronto Raptors

  • Aug. 1 vs. Lakers
  • Aug. 3 vs. Heat
  • Aug. 5 vs. Magic
  • Aug. 7 vs. Celtics
  • Aug. 9 vs. Grizzlies
  • Aug. 10 vs. Bucks
  • Aug. 12 vs. 76ers
  • Aug. 14 vs. Nuggets

It will be hard for Toronto to relinquish its sizeable three-game lead over the Celtics for the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference, but this is one gauntlet of a schedule. Six of the eight games are against teams with 39 or more wins, including the NBA-leading Bucks and Lakers. Potentially falling to No. 3 in the East holds particular significance, since the defending champs would then have to face the 76ers, Pacers or Heat in the first round as opposed to the Nets, Magic or Wizards.

Winner: Boston Celtics

  • July 31 vs. Bucks
  • Aug. 2 vs. Blazers
  • Aug. 4 vs. Heat
  • Aug. 5 vs. Nets
  • Aug. 7 vs. Raptors
  • Aug. 9 vs. Magic
  • Aug. 11 vs. Grizzlies
  • Aug. 13 vs. Wizards

As mentioned above, the Celtics have a decent chance to jump from No. 3 to the No. 2 seed in the East given their favorable schedule compared to the Raptors’ slog. Boston has the fifth easiest slate of the 22 Orlando teams, and they’ll be fully healthy — at least at the start — a luxury they haven’t had pretty much all season.

Loser: Miami Heat

  • Aug. 1 vs. Nuggets
  • Aug. 3 vs. Raptors
  • Aug. 4 vs. Celtics
  • Aug. 6 vs. Bucks
  • Aug. 8 vs. Suns
  • Aug. 10 vs. Pacers
  • Aug. 12 vs. Thunder
  • Aug. 14 vs. Pacers

The league tried to adhere as closely to the rest of the pre-hiatus NBA schedule as possible, but the Heat ended up on the wrong end of the “matchup balancing” stick. Miami had the easiest remaining schedule in the league prior to the shutdown, according to the AP’s Tim Reynolds, but they now face the fourth-toughest schedule in Orlando based on records versus only those 22 teams. The Celtics, Heat, Pacers and 76ers are in a battle for positioning for the third through sixth spots in the Eastern Conference, so Miami can’t be happy about its rough draw in the bubble.

Winner: Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers’ schedule is tough, but that doesn’t really matter — there’s virtually no way they give up a 5.5-game lead for the Western Conference’s top seed in just eight games. But the Lakers win the schedule release where they always win: National TV appearances. LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Co. will be showcased seven times on ESPN, TNT and ABC, most of the 22 teams headed to Orlando. This isn’t a surprise, but in an environment where players may have to manufacture new avenues of motivation and energy without fans, knowing your games are on national TV certainly can’t hurt.

Losers: Washington Wizards and Phoenix Suns

Not only do the Wizards and Suns have little chance of making the postseason, but their only nationally televised games are on NBATV, which a lot of fans don’t even get. They have zero games on ESPN, TNT or ABC, which can’t be too enticing for Wizards and Suns players still deciding whether or not to compete at Walt Disney World.

Winner: NBA fans

With all the recent doubts about the NBA restart between players opting out, team personnel testing positive for COVID-19 and the rising coronavirus numbers in Florida, the schedule release was a breath of fresh air for fans, who can finally start thinking about matchups and paths to the playoffs for their favorite teams. Something about seeing those team logos, dates and networks on the schedule makes everything seem more final, even if the reality is that the resumption of the NBA season is still teetering perilously on a number of factors. But for now, at least, we can more realistically start thinking about something we haven’t seen in over three months — actual NBA basketball.