It’s been many, many moons since the Atlanta Hawks played a basketball game. Finally, there is an end in sight, and now the Hawks can look forward to the specifics of what could be a promising season compared to recent seasons, as the NBA released Part 1 of the 2020-21 NBA schedule on Friday.
However, it’s been a different year and the NBA has had to change the way it schedules its 30 teams ahead of the 2020-21 season.
In case you missed it, the NBA is releasing their 2020-21 schedule in two parts. The first ‘half’ of the season covers December 22nd to March 4th whereas the ‘second half’ will be released at a later date and will cover the remainder of the NBA season after the All-Star Break (March 5th to March 10th) — March 10th to May 16th.
From there, the NBA’s play-in tournament will take place from May 18-21 and the NBA playoffs will begin shortly after that.
In total, all 30 NBA teams will play 72 games, they will play their teams from within their own conference three times (42 games) and will play their opposing conference rivals twice as normal (30 games).
Added to this...
Within each team’s division, the league has already assigned which opponents will be played twice at home, and which will be played twice on the road.
Each division within a conference will then play all five teams from another intraconference division twice at home, and all five teams from the remaining division twice on the road.
So, with all of that out of the way... If you want to look at some of the games of interest off of the bat, we’ve got you covered, but this will be a deeper look at the Hawks’ schedule from December to March 4th, starting with December itself.
This has become a bit of a tradition here at Peachtree Hoops, but you happen to be newer around these parts, you’ll get the idea of how this works pretty quickly. Let’s get to it, starting with December.
Total games: 4
Home games: 1
Road games: 3
Longest road trip: 2 games
Longest homestand: 1 game
Strength of schedule based on DraftKings projected winning percentage: 44.25%
There’s obviously not a ton to say for the very short month of December. Two road games to begin proceedings but both should prove to be interesting matchups in the form of the Chicago Bulls and the blossoming Memphis Grizzlies.
The Hawks then kick off their home campaign against the Detroit Pistons (who they began their campaign against last season) before wrapping up the month with what should be a tough matchup against the Brooklyn Nets, boasting the returning Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Total games: 16
Home games: 8
Road games: 8
Longest road trip: 3 games
Longest homestand: 3 games
Strength of schedule based on DraftKings projected winning percentage: 48.43%
On paper, January has the potential to be one of great difficulty. An even split in terms of home and road games but two more games against the Brooklyn Nets, a road game in Milwaukee, a three-game Western Conference road trip against the much improved Phoenix Suns, Utah Jazz and Portland Trail Blazers. Throw in home contests against the Los Angeles Clippers and Philadelphia 76ers for good measure too — that Sixers game at State Farm Arena has a lot of potential to be a very fun game.
That said, it also has the potential to be a strong month. The Hawks won’t lose all of those games mentioned above and there are some favorable games to be found in the form of the Cleveland Cavaliers, two games against the Charlotte Hornets (who knows what one might expect from them this season) and home fixtures against the Knicks, Pistons and Minnesota Timberwolves could end up being fruitful for the Hawks’ chase for a playoff spot.
The Hawks will play on MLK Day, a home fixture against the Minnesota Timberwolves — a potentially winnable game right, you’d have to say at this moment.
I think a .500 month for the Hawks in January would be a success but it go either way to be honest...
Moving onto February...
Total games: 15
Home games: 8
Road games: 7
Longest road trip: 3 games
Longest homestand: 4 games
Strength of schedule based on DraftKings projected winning percentage: 53.13%
A potentially tougher month for the Hawks here. Let’s start with the positives though.
A four-game homestand to open the month, more home games than road games in February, and a few games against potential lottery teams like the San Antonio Spurs, the New York Knicks and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The bad news?
The four-game homestand features teams that all project to be very solid playoff teams in their respective conferences, including the defending NBA champions, the L.A. Lakers, in what will be one of the most anticipated games of the Hawks’ season. Following immediately from that game begins the first of two meetings with the Dallas Mavericks, one of which will be on national TV, the Hawks’ only nationally televised game this season (though, it’s possible they’ll win a few ‘Fan Night’ game slots on NBA TV if they’re fun to watch).
Not long after that kicks off the first of three (!!) meetings between the Hawks and the Boston Celtics in February. The Celtics should be a strong playoff contender in the Eastern Conference and two of those games will take place T.D. Garden — that’s tough going. Throw in a tough road trip to South Beach against the Miami Heat for their first meeting of the season for good measure.
Potentially tough going indeed. It’s going to be so important for the Hawks to take care of their business and win the games they’re ‘supposed to win.’ There will be a lot more of those types of games this season as the Hawks are simply a better team and will outright be better than some of the teams they face this season, and that hasn’t often been the case over the last few seasons.
And to finish, two games in the month of March that we know of so far:
Nothing to really note here: just two games against Southeast division rivals, including a first matchup against the Orlando Magic.
Before we get into some of those, there are some additional stats on the Hawks’ ‘Part 1’ schedule compared to their competitors, courtesy of Positive Residual.
The Hawks are one of four teams who have the fewest number of home games — along with the Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Toronto Raptors and Utah Jazz — with 17 home games. Everyone else in the league will play 18 or more at home, with seven teams playing 20 home games.
As you might expect then given that information, the Hawks are one of six teams who play 20 road games — every other team outside of those six teams will play less than 20 games.
Nothing too wild but worth noting the Hawks will play more games on the road than some of their competitors before the break.
An interesting stat Positive Residual detail is ‘Rest Advantage,’ which are games with rest advantage — this will certainly prove to be a factor in a slightly congested schedule at times.
The Hawks rank toward the lower end of the spectrum with five games with rest advantage, along with six other teams. Only the Raptors (four) have fewer games with rest advantage. The rest of the NBA have more games with rest advantage, the majority of those teams having 7-9 rest advantage games. The Miami Heat have a staggering 12 games with rest advantage.
Also worth noting the lack of matchups in some spots. The Hawks will not play the New Orleans Pelicans in Part 1, nor the Sacramento Kings. In fact, the Hawks won’t play any games in California, with their contests against the Clippers and Lakers in Part 1 being played at State Farm Arena.
There could be some potential for the Hawks to perhaps have an easier time of things in terms of their schedule in Part 2, but that’ll be a conversation for another day.
Overall though, looking at the Hawks’ schedule, it’s a little road heavy at times but seven back-to-backs ranks about in the middle of the NBA, so there is at least that respite for the Hawks.
That first full month, the month of January, really stands out. The Hawks need to get off to a strong start, and they have the potential to start that month out with momentum — there are a lot of winnable games there (and it’s the same to end December too). They can use that confidence and momentum and have a go at their tougher matchups as the month goes on but getting off to a strong start will be very key in their playoff push (which is the absolute aim this season).
February could be a tough month — the Hawks play a lot of good teams, teams that will absolutely make the playoffs. The four game homestand at the beginning of February gives them a chance to start off the right way but even those are tough games. We’ll see what happens in February but I think January is the big month if the Hawks want to solidify themselves as a team with playoff intentions this year. Whether that holds in February remains to be seen but January will surely be one of the defining months.
I’ve mentioned the projected winning percentage of teams the Hawks will face... The over/under on the Hawks themselves is 36.5 in a few places, which is just over 50%. It’s also worth mentioning that these are just projections... Some teams will exceed expectations, some teams will come up short, but it’s just about putting a rough estimate on what the competition could shape up to be.
Teams rise, teams fall. The Hawks look poised to be one of the NBA’s most improved teams next season. They now have their schedule, their path forward... Can they return to the NBA Playoffs?
Time will tell...