The NBA is set to resume at the end of the month and the schedule has been out for about a week now.
Here are the biggest takeways we should have from the eight game slate:
1. It’s one of, if not the easiest schedule in the NBA
The Sixers caught a major break here and by a wide margin too. While most teams have a handful of 40+ win teams to deal with (MIL, LAL, LAC, TOR, DEN, UTA, OKC, BOS, MIA, HOU, DAL all have at least 40 wins) the Sixers only have two such matchups on their schedule—Toronto and Houston.
The other six games come against the Pacers and five teams below .500 (ORL, PHX, WAS, SA, POR)—which is pretty miraculous considering the top-heavy composition of the bubble. For lack of a better way to describe it, the Sixers have 6 “soft” matchups and 2 “hard” matchups. Most of the league has something like 4 or 5 “hard” matchups and just 2 or 3 games with teams below .500. Make no mistake, the Sixers got off easy here.
2. Three games in four days isn’t the ideal way to close out the regular season
While the Sixers do have an easy schedule in terms of matchup-difficulty, they caught an unfair break with the way it’s set up. The final stretch of games will see them play three games in just four days, with two of those matchups coming against Houston and Toronto. While the team will be trying to develop rythym over these initial eight games, they obviously want to keep the players’ workload low before the playoffs—this four day stretch puts that in jeopardy.
They aren’t “must win” games for the simple fact that the Sixers status in the East standings doesn’t matter all that much, but they still hold importance in terms of developing chemistry on the floor. Since Brett likely won’t be resting his players in any of these matchups, it’s fair to wonder just how much this three games in four day stretch will impact a team that’s likely still getting their legs under them.
3. Brett Brown is afforded time to tinker with lineups
This is symptomatic of the team’s easy schedule. The fact that they have a string of matchups against the Spurs, Wizards, Magic, Blazers, and Suns means they have a low-stakes run of basketball to play around with lineup combinations without risking much in terms of outcome.
I’m not saying these games are cake-walks, they aren’t, but the simple truth is Brett will be more comfortable testing concepts on these teams than he would against Indiana or Toronto for example.
The Sixers might have caught a small break with this easy schedule, but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter all that much. Improving their place in the standings won’t change the difficulty on their path through the East, so these games are more about getting “right” as a team more than anything.