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Diving into the 2019-20 Atlanta Hawks schedule

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Looking a little deeper into Atlanta’s slate.

2019 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

At this stage of the summer, the draft, free agency and Las Vegas Summer League feels like a long time ago. Compare that to when the regular season ended back in April... it’s been a struggle.

But on Monday, some life was finally breathed into a new season with the release of the Atlanta Hawks’ 2019-20 schedule, along with the rest of the NBA.

A number of games are appealing off of the bat, but today we’re going to look at the schedule in a little more detail, month-by-month, and look at some of the finer details of the Hawks’ schedule.

Alright, before we get into it, I’m going to referencing strength of schedule from November onward and these are based on the Las Vegas over/under projections, with all 30 teams’ strength of schedule month-by-month, pre and post All-Star break all compiled in this graphic from Jared Dubin:

This will be referenced often, so just a heads up that this is where the information is gotten from.

Alright, let’s get to it, starting with the shortened month of October.

Total games: 5

Home games: 3

Road games: 2

Back-to-backs: 0

Longest road trip: 1 game (twice)

Longest homestand: 2 games

Starting off, the season begins a little later this season compared to last year — a week later to be exact — on the 24th of October against the Detroit Pistons on the road, with the home opener against the Orlando Magic coming a few days after.

That Magic game will prove a solid test of the Hawks against a Southeast Division opponent who are going to be aiming for the playoffs, something the Hawks will obviously want to aim for too.

Following that home opener is the Hawks’ first test against what should be an elite team against the Philadelphia 76ers. Interesting tidbit: the way the schedule has broken down in the last few seasons, it took until March for the first visit of the Sixers to State Farm Arena but this season that wait will be significantly less.

Following on from that to close the month is a home-and-home with another Southeast rival against the Miami Heat, the latter of the two the first nationally televised game of the season for the Atlanta Hawks on TNT, which should be fun.

Total games: 15

Home games: 6

Road games: 9

Back-to-backs: 4

Longest road trip: 5 games

Longest homestand: 3 games

Strength of schedule (based on Vegas Over/Under lines): 0.555 (October & November)

If October eased the Hawks into the action, November will probably be a month where the Hawks will be snapped back to reality...it’s probably the worst month of the entire season in terms of opponent quality and road games. The only thing that helps the Hawks is a four-day break to begin the month but by the end of the month, that won’t really mean much.

Before that five-game road trip is a three-game homestand on the back of that four-day break, with the middle game against the Chicago Bulls standing as the Hawks’ best opportunity to notch a win before the trip.

The final game of that homestand against the Sacramento Kings will be a game of significance. The Kings are on a similar timeline and trajectory than the Hawks (perhaps a little ahead right now) and how the Hawks handle that contest will say a lot about them and what they hope their season to be, especially before they head out on what could be a season-defining road trip.

That Kings game also represents the return of former Hawks center Dewayne Dedmon, who will no undoubtedly receive a video tribute for his fine work in two seasons in Atlanta.

Speaking of that road trip...it’s a brutal stretch for the Hawks with contests against the two Los Angeles clubs — both aspiring for a title — as well as two likely strong playoff teams in the form of the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers. The Phoenix Suns represent the best shot at a win on that trip and if the Hawks manage to emerge from that trip 2-3, that’d honestly be a success, and anything above that is an absolutely resounding success.

Sadly for the Hawks, things don’t really get easier after that trip, with two contests against the East’s best team from last season — the Milwaukee Bucks — as well as an extremely tough road back-to-back to end the month in Indiana and Houston.

Obviously it’s tough to say who’s going to be what until all the balls are rolled out there, but on paper November could be a brutal month for Atlanta — there’s about three, maybe four, realistically winnable games on the table there. Again, on paper.

It’s early in the season, but November could end up being a make-or-break month for the Hawks and how they handle their tough schedule. They just have to be not completely buried in terms of losses by the end of the month and they’ll be intriguing going forward — they can be below .500 and things could still look up on their season, which we’ll get to later.

Moving on...

Total games: 14

Home games: 6

Road games: 8

Back-to-backs: 2

Longest road trip: 3 games

Longest homestand: 2 games (twice)

Strength of schedule (based on Vegas Over/Under lines): 0.500

December offers the Hawks a chance to recover somewhat. While the schedule is still road heavy, there’s a few more winnable games than there were in November.

There are a few notable home games, such as the one to begin the month with the arrival of the Golden State Warriors, followed by the return of Taurean Prince with his new team, the Brooklyn Nets, of which you can expect to see a lot more of their fans (or even, ‘fans’) at State Farm Arena.

Speaking of bandwagoners, the Los Angeles Lakers will also make their annual visit to Atlanta later on in the month — the now annual LeBron James visit to State Farm is always a hoot. In addition to some of those already mentioned home games are the Utah Jazz, Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Bucks — the Hawks face some stern competition at home in December and home wins aren’t going to come easily.

On the road, there are certainly some winnable games against the likes of the Charlotte Hornets — the first time of the season the Hawks will face the Kemba Walker-less Hornets — the Bulls (twice), possibly the Knicks and Cavaliers too. If the Hawks want to see some success in December, it’s probably going to have to largely come from those road games — the only playoff lock they face on the road are the Nets (but that really depends on how you feel about the Orlando Magic and the Miami Heat).

Speaking of the Heat, December 10th’s tilt in Miami will be nationally televised on TNT, giving the loser of the first nationally televised game back in October the chance to push the narrative for a “revenge game”. A pretty crappy narrative but alas...it’s there if you really want it to be.

Total games: 15

Home games: 9

Road games: 6

Back-to-backs: 1

Longest road trip: 2 games

Longest homestand: 3 games (twice)

Strength of schedule (based on Vegas Over/Under lines): 0.528

The turn of the new year also marks the turn of the schedule beginning to lighten up — not so much in terms of opponents but at least in home games, the Hawks enjoying more home games than road games for the first time since October, including two three game homestands.

As well as that, the Hawks will welcome the champions, the Toronto Raptors, on MLK Day, a game that will be televised on NBA TV.

It’s also a month where the Hawks finish off some of their Western Conference bouts, such as the Suns, Clippers, Rockets, Spurs and Nuggets. January also marks a few firsts of the season, such as the first meetings between themselves, the Boston Celtics and the Washington Wizards (twice) — a little unusual it would take until January for the Hawks to face someone from their own division but hey-ho there you go. Though, to be fair, this also happened last year when it was the Orlando Magic the Hawks did not face until January.

Again, some tough games in there with games against the Clippers, Celtics, Nuggets, Rockets and Sixers to name a few but there’s certainly some winnable games in January.

Total games: 13

Home games: 7

Road games: 6

Back-to-backs: 2

Longest road trip: 2 games (twice)

Longest homestand: 3 games

Strength of schedule (based on Vegas Over/Under lines): 0.506

The schedule is a little road heavy on the run-in to the All-Star break with some difficult games in Boston and Minnesota. The Hawks also get their first shot at the Dallas Mavericks to begin the month in Dallas, a game that will, of course, garner some attention for obvious reasons.

Good things comes in twos and the Hawks have plenty of them in February — two meetings with the Celtics, Mavericks and Magic to make note of.

Once the All-Star break is over, that’s when things really begin to pick up for the Hawks as they enjoy a stretch of five home games in six games to end February, a sign of things to come.

Speaking of the end of February, on the unique date of the 29th of February, the Hawks will welcome back an old friend: Kent Bazemore will make his Atlanta return in what is sure to be an emotional night for the now former Hawk who invested a lot into the city of Atlanta and the Hawks.

Total games: 14

Home games: 7

Road games: 7

Back-to-backs: 3

Longest road trip: 4 games

Longest homestand: 3 games

Strength of schedule (based on Vegas Over/Under lines): 0.426

March represents the upturn in the schedule the Hawks were looking for as they enjoy the easiest strength of schedule in the league in the month of March as they finally see both the Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Pelicans for the first and last time in March as they square off twice each in March. Add to that, some (in theory) very favorable home games against the likes of the Hornets, Knicks, Cavaliers, Wizards and potentially the Oklahoma City Thunder (though, we’ll see how they look to begin and end the season).

Though the Hawks will face a very difficult four-game road trip against the Warriors, Kings, Jazz and Sixers, their overall schedule in March is still a favorable one and they can begin to rack up some of the wins they may have found difficult earlier in the season.

The match-ups against the Grizzlies and Pelicans in particular will generate some excitement — both young teams in a rebuild with exciting players all around. They may be March games, but there’s going to be plenty of reasons to be excited to watch the Hawks in March.

And finally...

Total games: 6

Home games: 3

Road games: 3

Back-to-backs: 0

Longest road trip: 2 games

Longest homestand: 1 game (three times)

Strength of schedule (based on Vegas Over/Under lines): 0.433

A nice, light way to finish the season: a home-and-home against the Hornets, a home game against the Cavaliers. Add to that a home game against the Pistons and a game against the Bucks who, I’m sure, will be resting players ahead of the playoffs.

One last trip to Toronto near the end of the season will give the Raptors a chance to say goodbye to Vince Carter, who is likely to retire at the end of the season. It’ll be an emotional night across the border...

Not a ton else to say for April...


So, let’s talk about the schedule as a whole...

The beginning of the season is a rough one for the Hawks and even up until the All-Star break, the Hawks have one of the toughest schedules in the league — only the New Orleans Pelicans and the Oklahoma City Thunder have, in theory, tougher schedules before the All-Star break than the Hawks, including 30 road games before the break.

It also won’t help the Hawks that they’re tied with the Cavaliers for the most back-to-backs in the league this season with 14.

After the break though, the only way for the Hawks can go can is up. Other than the Miami Heat — by the smallest of margins — the Hawks have the easiest strength of schedule in the league.

If the Hawks can just keep their head above water for November, December and January (and I mean literally just above water, or even below water and bobble up-and-down and just not drown) and are in-or-around striking distance of a playoff spot by the All-Star break, there’s a good chance the Hawks can get to the playoffs because their schedule is very kind from there on out.

It’s a big ask but even if they aren’t in a playoff race by February, the final few weeks of the season can at least provide some optimism for the following season.

Plenty to look forward to as the season gets (slowly) closer but it’ll be important to remember that things are probably going to get worse before they get better for the Atlanta Hawks next season.