According to fivethirtyeight, the Oklahoma City Thunder have by far the toughest stretch of games in the 2018-19 NBA schedule for the regular season. Currently sitting at the 3rd spot in the Western Conference standings, the first half of the season has been really good for Oklahoma City.
Paul George’s MVP-caliber impact on both ends of the floor has driven the Thunder to a 25-15 start to the season through 12 weeks and the Basketball News fraternity has been rightly showering praises on PG. They had a poor start to the season, going 0-4 in their first 4 games before recovering to win 10 of their next 11 games and reaching their current standing of 3rd in the Conference.
The Thunder’s SoS rating for their remaining 42 games stands at nearly 0.55, with the team closest to them in rating being the Mavs at a shade below 0.52 (0.50 is considered average on this scale). The Minnesota Timberwolves check in at the 3rd position, in a sign that does not bode well for Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns’ stock.
The Lakers, who have been headlining all the Basketball news columns since LeBron’s arrival, check in at 6th position, just behind the Warriors in 5th. Having missed LeBron James since late in the 3rd quarter of their showdown with the reigning champions, the Lakers’ young core had a rough initial stretch without The King before recovering to post a 3-5 record without him in the side thus far. The likes of Rondo and McGee have also missed a bunch of games of late.
At the other end of the NBA schedule strength spectrum are 3 playoff teams from the 2017-18 season – the Toronto Raptors, Utah Jazz and the Milwaukee Bucks. The Jazz have had, the toughest NBA schedule for the 41 regular season games they’ve played thus far, checking in with a score of 0.529.
With 25 of their remaining games to be played at home and ten of the 41 slated against teams currently in the bottom five of the league’s overall standings thus far, the Jazz are much more likely to make the playoffs this time around than, for instance, the 20-21 Sacramento Kings.
The Raptors and Bucks check in with an SoS score of 0.502 and 0.498 thus far, which is where the flaws of this model become apparent – the Raptors have played 3 more back-to-back sets and 3 more games in total than their Conference rivals for the #1 seed.
The top-seeded team in the Western Conference (Denver) have an easier schedule compared to the Warriors, but it remains to be seen whether Golden State steps on another gear or is content to chug along as they have this season thus far.