After what has seemed like an eternity, the NBA has released its official schedule. Highlighted by the Lakers' 35 nationally televised games, the Hornets new schedule didn't seem to gather much attention. In fact, the Hornets will only play eight games in the National spotlight. Despite this, the Hornets are expected to make a playoff run. The issue of resting players has been half-adjusted. The NBA completely eliminated the parts of a schedule where a team could play four games in five days. Also, the NBA reduced the number of back-to-backs per team, from 16.3 per team to only 14.4.
All in all, the NBA treated the Hornets very well, only giving them 14 back-to-back games. Another note, the Hornets have the least amount of rest-disadvantages this season at 14. What this means that the Hornets should be well rested for at least 68/82 total games this season. Meanwhile, the Hornets have 20 rest advantages this season, which is just under the average. They will have a total of two west coast trips, playing a total of four games in California and Oregon.
Opening Game: @ Detroit Pistons, October 18, 7 pm
The Hornets open with what should be a very competitive game. Two very different teams both fighting for the same goal. Both teams made great acquisitions in the offseason, with the Pistons adding SGs Avery Bradley and Luke Kennard, while the Hornets added Malik Monk, Dwight Howard, and Michael Carter-Williams.
First Primetime Game: Cleveland Cavaliers, November 15, 8 pm
The Hornets host their primetime debut this season, against the defending Eastern Conference Champions, which they will play a total of three times this season. This game may not bring the intensity expected now, due to the Kyrie Irving trade situation. While he is expected to be traded before the beginning of the season, we shall see if it actually happens.
Longest Home Stretch: January 17-26 (Five Games)
January 17th: Washington Wizards
January 20th: Miami Heat
January 22nd: Sacramento Kings
January 24th: New Orléans Pelicans
January 26th: Atlanta Hawks
Starting with two playoff-caliber teams, this home stretch won't be easy. It starts with the Wizards, who have the three-headed monster of John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter. Things will not get easier for Charlotte until the Hornets play the Kings, led by veterans George Hill and Zach Randolph. To end the stretch, the Hornets play against the Hawks, who they traded Marco Belinelli, Tyler Dorsey, and Miles Plumlee to acquire Dwight Howard and Frank Jackson (who was later traded).
Longest Road Stretch: March 13-21 (Five Games)
March 13th: New Orléans Pelicans
March 15th: Atlanta Hawks
March 17th: New York Knicks
March 19th: Philadelphia 76ers
March 21st: Brooklyn Nets
To start this road trip, the Hornets visit New Orléans and will have to deal with Demarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis, while also keeping an eye on Jrue Holiday. The toughest team they will have to play over this stretch of games is arguably the Philadelphia 76ers, if they can stay healthy. With two number one picks starting this season, it will be interesting to see what Philly does, and how the offense run, especially with Joel Embiid returning.
Toughest Game: @ Golden State Warriors, December 29, 10:30 pm
This is easily the toughest game the Hornets are slated to play. With four all-stars on their team (and arguably five if you are talking to a Warriors 'fan'), this team is almost unbeatable, as demonstrated by their 15-1 playoff record. Lead by Durant and Curry, when healthy, the Hornets simply will not beat this Golden State team.
Final Game: @ Indiana Pacers, April 10, 7 pm
The Hornets will play four sub-par teams to end the season, hopefully cementing a top four playoff seed. If they are able to finish the final games of the season strong, I have no doubt that the Hornets will be playing come mid-April, possibly even May.
How will the Hornets finish?
These are the projections by some major sports outlets:
Vegas Odds: 40.5 wins
CBS Sports: 42-40
My Prediction: 45-37
All in all, the Hornets had a clear drop off with Cody Zeller injured last season, however, when he was healthy, the Hornets were a top five seed in the Eastern Conference. And that, on top of the additions of Dwight Howard, Malik Monk, and a backup point-guard that actually knows how to dribble a basketball, and you've got a recipe for success.