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On Schedule Difficulty

I haven't delved too much into scheduling matters, but Bradford Doolittle's Basketball Prospectus piece on strength of schedule got me thinking. Brad used his 2009-10 projections to assert the Kings will have the fifth most difficult schedule next season. I imagine the projections closely link to 2008-09 performance with adjustments made for the biggest personnel moves; for instance, Brad notes the Spurs are his system's current 2009-10 favorite, and I have no doubt replacing Bruce Bowen, Fabricio Oberto and Kurt Thomas with Richard Jefferson, Antonio McDyess and DeJuan Blair is a big part of that.

Zach at CK linked the BP article and questioned why bad teams (the Grizz, Clips, Wolves and Warriors have more difficult skeds than the Kings) have to be stuck with tougher schedules.

Well, it's because teams like the Kings don't get to play against ... the Kings. Replace four games against a .500 team with four games against .207 (or 17-win) team, and the preseason strength of schedule looks different. In fact, it looks drastically different: the actual .512 opponent winning percentage would become a .497 opponent winning percentage if the Kings were able to play against themselves four times instead of a .500 team (like Phoenix).

That's why you see a real stratification (with some outliers, like Denver and Charlotte) in Brad's list: bad West teams --> bad East teams and middling West teams --> good West teams and middling East teams --> good East teams. Cleveland's schedule looks weak in part because Cleveland doesn't have to play against Cleveland, et cetera.