Thursday, 23 May 2024

NBA Storylines: Analyzing January’s Strength of Schedule Rankings

The new year brings new challenges and opportunities for NBA teams as they navigate the month of January. With the 2023-24 season nearly 40% complete, this month will be crucial in determining playoff positions and testing teams’ abilities. In this article, we will break down the strength of schedule for each team, ranking them from the toughest to the easiest based on cumulative opponent winning percentage.

January Strength of Schedule

To better understand the challenges ahead, let’s take a closer look at the January schedule for every team. The following factors contribute to determining the strength of schedule:

  • Cumulative opponent winning percentage (as of December 31)
  • Back-to-back games
  • Home games vs. road games

It’s worth noting that teams have performed better in rest-advantage games, where they have had more time to recover, compared to their opponents. However, the advantage is more significant when playing at home.

Eastern Conference Outlook

Let’s start by examining the Eastern Conference teams and their January schedules:

  • The Boston Celtics have a league-high five rest-advantage games this month, including a crucial matchup against the Minnesota Timberwolves, who currently hold the second-best record. The Celtics’ perfect home record will be put to the test in these games.
  • The Brooklyn Nets have struggled against Western Conference opponents, holding a 2-7 record against them. They will face 11 Western Conference teams in January, providing them with an opportunity to improve their performance.
  • The Chicago Bulls have the easiest January schedule in terms of cumulative opponent winning percentage. However, they will face the challenge of playing the majority of their games on the road, with only five out of 15 games at the United Center.
  • The Cleveland Cavaliers will have 13 games in January, excluding a unique “home” game against the Nets in Paris. They are the only team without a back-to-back game this month.
  • The Indiana Pacers face a daunting task defensively, ranking 28th in the league. They will play the most games against top-10 offensive teams in January, including multiple matchups against the Milwaukee Bucks, Atlanta Hawks, and Boston Celtics.
  • The New York Knicks have displayed a significant disparity in their performance against teams above and below .500. While they have a solid record against weaker teams, they will face tougher challenges against the Minnesota Timberwolves and Philadelphia 76ers.
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Western Conference Outlook

Now, let’s shift our focus to the Western Conference teams and their January schedules:

  • The Dallas Mavericks have excelled on the road, boasting a better record away from home. They will have the advantage of playing 11 home games in January, including a seven-game homestand against the Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, and the first-place Minnesota Timberwolves.
  • The Golden State Warriors will enjoy a predominantly home-heavy schedule, with 10 out of 14 games taking place at Chase Center. They will have a chance to make the most of their home-court advantage during this month.
  • The Los Angeles Lakers will have the luxury of playing 11 of their first 12 January games in L.A., including matchups against their cross-town rivals, the LA Clippers. They will benefit from a rest advantage when they face the Utah Jazz on the road.
  • The Minnesota Timberwolves have had a favorable discrepancy between rest-advantage and rest-disadvantage games thus far. In January, they will enjoy a positive differential, with four advantage games and three disadvantage games.
  • The New Orleans Pelicans face a challenging January schedule, with a cumulative opponent winning percentage of .582, the toughest in the league. They will also be without a rest-advantage game this month.
  • The Oklahoma City Thunder will encounter two intense stretches of five games in seven days during January. The first stretch will take them from Miami to L.A., while the second includes matchups against the Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs, and the Detroit Pistons.
  • The Phoenix Suns find themselves in a position where they need to make up ground to secure a top-six spot in the Western Conference. However, they face a relatively tough January schedule, with 10 of their 16 games against winning teams.
  • The San Antonio Spurs, along with the Charlotte Hornets and Detroit Pistons, have yet to secure a win against teams from the opposite conference. Their January schedule consists of 12 games against Eastern Conference opponents following their visit to Memphis.
  • The Utah Jazz will face their only true road game in January against the LA Lakers, benefiting from a rest advantage in that matchup.
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In summary, January will be a crucial month for NBA teams, with a mix of challenging matchups and opportunities to climb the standings. As teams navigate their schedules, fans can expect exciting storylines to unfold. Stay tuned for more NBA updates and analysis!


Q: Which NBA team has the toughest schedule in January?
A: Based on cumulative opponent winning percentage, the New Orleans Pelicans face the toughest schedule in January.

Q: Which NBA team has the easiest schedule in January?
A: The Chicago Bulls have the easiest schedule in January in terms of cumulative opponent winning percentage.

Q: How many games will the Cleveland Cavaliers play in January?
A: The Cleveland Cavaliers will play 13 games in January, excluding their unique “home” game in Paris against the Brooklyn Nets.


January brings new challenges and opportunities for NBA teams as they strive to climb the standings. The strength of schedule varies for each team, with some facing tougher opponents than others. The Eastern Conference features intriguing matchups for teams like the Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, and Indiana Pacers. Meanwhile, the Western Conference poses challenges for teams like the Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors, and Phoenix Suns. Stay tuned for more exciting NBA action in January and beyond!

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