Could Wizards' 2022-23 schedule lead to a fast start?

·4 min read

Could Wizards' 2022-23 schedule lead to a fast start? originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

There is a good deal of uniformity when it comes to NBA schedules, to where even before they are released you know the opponents and the locations. There is little variation from team to team within a conference, unlike the NFL where there are first-place and last-place schedules, and where division matchups decide the playoff picture.

But the NBA schedule also has its wrinkles that can determine a team's success. Usually, they show up at a later date. A team loses four or five straight games, looks up, and realizes their most challenging road trip awaits.

When you examine an NBA schedule more closely, you can see where things are probably going to be most manageable and most difficult. The Wizards' 2022-23 schedule, which was released on Wednesday, may tell us something about how their season will go.

What first stands out is the consolidation of home games at the beginning and the end. The Wizards play 11 of their first 17 games and 14 of their final 20 games at home. That could lead to a strong start and finish, ideal for a team projected to be in the playoff/play-in tournament picture.

It also creates an imbalance of road games at different points. For example, after the Wizards open with 11 of 17 games at home, they play 17 of their next 23 on the road. A slow start could be compounded by what lies ahead.

The home games during that stretch won't do the Wizards any favors, either. The six games at Capital One Arena include the Timberwolves, Lakers, Clippers, Nets, Sixers and Suns. All of those teams could be in the playoffs and each has a chance to be true title contenders this season (yes, even the Lakers).

Related: John Wall's return highlights best games of Wizards' 2022-23 schedule

The 17-of-23 games on the road will start out with what might be the Wizards' toughest stretch of the entire season. They go at Miami twice, then play at the Celtics, return home briefly to host Minnesota, then go back on the road to Brooklyn. After that, they see the Hornets, Lakers and Bulls; all three teams having the talent to surprise this season.

There are lighter parts of the Wizards' schedule that they can take advantage of. Beginning in late January, they will face the Magic, Rockets, Spurs, Pistons and Blazers all within a seven-game stretch. In mid-March, the Wizards will play the Pistons, Kings, Magic and Spurs within a six-game stretch.

The Wizards also play three of their first five games against teams that didn't make the playoffs last season (Pacers twice and Pistons) and neither of the other two (Bulls and Cavs) finished higher than the 6th-seed. The start of the Wizards' season is going to produce some interesting early returns on what they are capable of, as all of their first nine opponents are Eastern Conference teams.

During that run the Wizards will see the Bulls, Cavs, Celtics, Sixers (twice) and Nets. That should give them a great feel for where they stand in the conference. If they come out of those nine games with a solid record, it should improve their outlook. If they lose to the Pacers and Pistons, expectations may be adjusted accordingly.

Back-to-backs are always a consideration, especially when teams aim to manage injuries and rest later in the season. The Wizards have 14 back-to-backs with December featuring four of them. They play at Indiana on Dec. 9 and then at home against the Clippers the next night. Their back-to-back on the 17th and 18th won't be bad, as both games are in Los Angeles against the Clippers and Lakers. But the other two won't be easy because of travel (Utah and Sacramento) and their opponents (at home vs. Suns and Sixers).

The Wizards have two long road trips to keep in mind. They go on an 11-day, 6-game trip in December to play at the Nuggets, Clippers, Lakers, Suns, Jazz and Kings. Then, in late January and early February they play at the Mavs, Rockets, Pelicans, Spurs and Pistons.

Late in the year, when the games can become much more magnified, the Wizards will have a mixed bag. While 14 of their last 20 games are at Capital One Arena, their final four games include the Bucks, Hawks and Heat. All three teams have made the Eastern Conference Finals in the last two years.

The Wizards, though, will see the Rockets in their final game, a matinee on April 9. Houston may be in full tank mode by then, resting all their key players in hopes of securing good enough odds to land Victor Wembanyama in the draft. If the Wizards badly need one win to close the year, for a playoff spot or seed, it could be an ideal situation.

The Wizards' schedule will likely take on new context as the season transpires. Injuries will change the calculus, while some teams will be better or worse than expected. But as of now, the Wizards may like how things shook out, as they have a chance to start fast and finish strong. It will be up to them to capitalize.