Now that the NBA is basically officially back, the big question I now have is how does the league come up with that 8 game regular season schedule. My initial idea was just look at the final schedules of everyone in the 22 field and take the first 8 games against teams that will make the trip to Orlando. On the surface that made sense, but then once I started looking deeper I realized that not everything lined up since there were teams out there that faced a top 22 team twice to end the season. For example the Sixers would not face MIL in their first 8 games but given that MIL plays the same team twice the Sixers would be their 7th new team. Then I realized it shouldn't matter if you have to play a team twice. It's not about playing against 8 "teams", it's about playing 8 "games" and if that's how the schedule was going to play out if nothing ever went on hiatus, why shouldn't you be OK with that idea? Well even when you do that it, once you break it down I'm afraid it still doesn't work. Here's what that would look like if you allow teams to play twice.
PHI/BOS/DEN/LAL/MEM 2x/MIL 2x
SA 2x/LAL/LAC/OKC 2x/TOR/MIA
OKC/NO/MEM/LAL 2x/SA 2x/DAL
LAC 2x/SAC/WSH/BOS/ORL 2x/POR
SAC/BKN 2x/IND/NO/BOS 2x/PHI
DEN 2x/MEM/NO 2x/UTA 2x/SAC
You can see the issues here almost right away. Based on how existing schedules line up, teams find themselves in another team's list of 8 that isn't included in their own. For example the Celtics don't have ORL in their first 8, but ORL has BOS twice in their first 8. You have the Grizzlies twice in POR's top 8 but for MEM they only have POR once. I think that pretty much kills things.
So what else could they do? There's this idea
Once you have that order, how do you pair things? We all know the Pelicans have the easiest remaining schedule, so do they get to face the 8 lowest strength of schedule percentages of the field? I suppose I could be down for that. The whole competitive balance issue of how the league determines the 8 game schedule leading into the play-in tournament/playoffs is pretty important. Someone is going to feel screwed.
Do you maybe just do a random drawing somehow with the entire field? Remember, things are so close in each conference these 8 games mean more than just figuring out the bubble teams and who back into the playoffs. Potential playoff paths are at stake with all the movement that could go on in 8 ramp up games. We've heard a bunch of leaks already about what the return looks like, but we haven't heard too much about that 8 game schedule or what this might mean for the lottery order.
The good news is I imagine we'll have this all sorted out by tomorrow night. But if it were up to you, how would you come up with that 8 game schedule? It could ultimately determine who wins the whole damn thing when you think about it.