When the NBA schedules are announced, one of the most interesting places to look is at how many games happen on back-to-back days.
It’s a dreaded experience for most players and a prime option to rest a star to try and avoid the wear-and-tear of the long season.
While the load management crisis has since become one of the hottest topics in basketball circles, this is also a conversation about injury recovery. Playing one full game can be grueling but suiting up for a second while still suffering from an injury can potentially exacerbate the initial problem.
For example, reigning NBA Finals MVP recipient Kawhi Leonard has been unable to play in the second game of back-to-backs for the Clippers due to his nagging knee issues.
There is also an obvious disadvantage for a team playing on zero days rest. While these are inevitable in the schedule. we looked at the franchises that have had the biggest assists from decision-makers. Teams listed in green are in the Western Conference while the red represents the Eastern Conference.
One takeaway is that the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers have been blessed with the fewest back-to-back games on their schedules since 2000-01.
The Atlanta Hawks, however, have not been as lucky since the turn of the century. They are the only team that has averaged more than 20 back-to-back games on their schedule per season since 2000, per our research.
This season, the Hawks have a league-high 14 games with zero days rest on their schedule. For what it’s worth, the Hawks have already played seven of those games on the second night of a back-to-back and have lost all of them.
For perspective, that is still quite a bit less than when the league average NBA team had as many as 20.4 back-to-back games on their schedule in 2011-12 as officials tried to make up for time lost during the lockout season.
But as Tim Reynolds explained, it has been a top priority for the league to remove this trend for the safety of players (via AP):
“Players might be getting a touch more rest this season as well. For the fifth straight year, the NBA has found a way to lower the average number of times a team has to play on consecutive days. The league average is 12.4 back-to-backs this season, down from 13.3 last year and 36 percent down from the average of 19.3 five years ago.”
It is worth crediting the league for their push in recent years to avoid back-to-back games in their scheduling. The players are overwhelmingly against their existence and as such, the product may suffer on the court.
HoopsHype’s Alberto de Roa contributed research to this report