All things considered, the Thunder should start this season with a 20-4 record.
Not bad for a relocated franchise that started 3-29 during its inaugural season of 2008-09.
“Twenty and four?” said a stunned Scott Brooks, eyebrows raised when the projected record was suggested to the Thunder coach. “Can I take that right now?”
The NBA schedule is well-rounded, which leaves little discrepancy in each team's strength of schedule (SOS), as opposed to collegiate sports where there can be significant differences.
Because NBA teams play every opponent in the opposite conference twice and everyone within their own division four times, the only scheduling variable is whether teams from the same conference play other division's teams three or four times.
For example, this season the Thunder plays the Los Angeles Lakers four times, but plays the LA Clippers only three times (twice on the road).
An NBA schedule's difficulty lies in the subtleties — how many games in how many nights; number of back-to-backs against who and where; quality of opponent and when you face them; the timing of lengthy road trips; injuries.
Three-time scoring champ Kevin Durant acknowledged there are several keys to surviving the 82-game schedule.
“Especially taking care of home court,” Durant said. “That's something that's very important, so we've got to capitalize at that.”
The Thunder plays 16 of its first 24 games this season at home, which makes getting off to a quick start vital.
The past three seasons, OKC has proved its worth no matter where the game is played.
Since 2009-10, the Thunder has the NBA's fourth-best overall record at 152-78 (.661), trailing San Antonio (161-69), the Los Angeles Lakers (155-75) and Chicago (153-77).
In this season's General Managers Survey conducted by NBA.com, OKC was selected as having the league's best home-court advantage, receiving 70.0 percent of the votes (up from 44.4 percent the previous season).
The Thunder somewhat underachieved at Chesapeake Energy Arena last season despite tying for the second-best home record in the Western Conference at 26-7. OKC lost home games to Portland, Cleveland and Houston in addition to less egregious setbacks against San Antonio, Memphis, the Los Angeles Clippers and Denver.
OKC had the league's sixth-best home record the previous three seasons at 83-32 (.722), trailing San Antonio (93-22), the Lakers (90-25), Denver (87-28), Chicago (86-29) and Orlando (84-31), but edging Miami (82-33).
The Thunder and Miami tied for the NBA's best road record the past three seasons at 69-46 (.600), one victory ahead of San Antonio and Dallas and two ahead of Chicago.
Based on OKC's winning percentages at home and on the road the past three seasons, an average start for the Thunder this upcoming season would be 16-8.
However, that doesn't take into account even greater expectations this season for the defending Western Conference champions, nor the fact that these first 24 opponents had a combined record of 70 games below .500 last season at 757-827 (see chart).
Brooks admits to being both nearsighted and farsighted when he studies the yearly schedule.
“I have to look at it both ways, no question,” Brooks said, “but if you start looking ahead and start focusing on the big picture too much, you lose that the most important thing is that day.
“We're not looking at our schedule. We're not looking that we have to have this record at this time.”
Not buying 20-4? How about 19-5?
“Expectations, huh?” Brooks said, shaking his head.
FROM THE OPENING TIP
The Thunder plays 16 of its first 24 games this season at Chesapeake Energy Arena, which makes getting off to a quick start vital for the defending Western Conference champions.
This takes on even greater urgency because these first 24 opponents lost 70 more games than they won last season.
Nov. 1 — at San Antonio (50-16)
Nov. 2 — Portland (28-38)
Nov. 4 — Atlanta (40-26)
Nov. 6 — Toronto (23-43)
Nov. 8 — at Chicago (50-16)
Nov. 9 — Detroit (25-41)
Nov. 11 — Cleveland (21-45)
Nov. 12 — at Detroit (25-41)
Nov. 14 — Memphis (41-25)
Nov. 16 — at New Orleans (21-45)
Nov. 18 — Golden State (23-43)
Nov. 21 — LA Clippers (40-26)
Nov. 23 — at Boston (39-27)
Nov. 24 — at Philadelphia (35-31)
Nov. 26 — Charlotte (7-59)
Nov. 28 — Houston (34-32)
Nov. 30 — Utah (36-30)
Dec. 1 — at New Orleans (21-45)
Dec. 4 — at Brooklyn (22-44)
Dec. 7 — LA Lakers (41-25)
Dec. 9 — Indiana (42-24)
Dec. 12 — New Orleans (21-45)
Dec. 14 — Sacramento (22-44)
Dec. 17 — San Antonio (50-16)
Opponents' combined record: 757-827 (.478)