Utah Jazz: Three most brutal aspects of the 2017-18 schedule

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - MAY 8: Joe Johnson Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - MAY 8: Joe Johnson Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images) /
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Utah Jazz Rodney Hood Rudy Gobert
SALT LAKE CITY, UT – OCTOBER 20: Rudy Gobert #27 and Rodney Hood #5 of the Utah Jazz during the preseason game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on October 20, 2015 at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Three-Game Opponents vs. Four-Game Opponents

For the most part, the NBA schedule has a lot of constants. Each team always plays 82 total games, 41 at home and 41 on the road. Divisional opponents are always played four times each, which opponents from the opposite conference are played just twice.

However, the one inconsistency has to do with non-divisional opponents in the same conference. Playing divisional opponents four times (16 games) and opposing conference opponents twice (30 games) brings the total number of games to 46. To get to that grand total of 82 games, that leaves 36 games for 10 opponents within the same division. If split equally, that would amount to playing non-divisional teams in the same conference 3.6 times per year.

Of course, that’s not possible. So instead, six of the division opponents from the same conference are played four times (24 games) while the remaining four are played just three times (12 games) amounting to that remainder of 36 games to total an 82-game season. To determine which teams will play each other only three times, a five-year rotation is used.

As it turns out, that five-year rotation was far from kind to the Utah Jazz this season. The four teams that Utah plays only three times just so happen to be among the weakest in the conference, namely the Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, Sacramento Kings and Memphis Grizzlies. Fortunately, they do play the Phoenix Suns, who were last in the conference last season, four times, but the remaining inter-conference squads they face four times are daunting.

They include the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers and New Orleans Pelicans. Sure, the Clippers and Pelicans could very well be beatable, but the fact that the Jazz have to play each of the Warriors, Spurs and Rockets – the three teams that most have predicted will finish in the top three spots in the West – four times is definitely painful.

Especially when considering that that’s on top of already having to play each team in the loaded Northwest Division four times, that is one heck of a tall order. Swapping a few of these teams from being played three times to four times could easily cause a three to four game swing for the Jazz’s final record. And in a conference that’s so tightly contested, that many games could be the difference between making and missing the playoffs.

The Jazz were already in for a tough schedule considering how good the Western Conference is, particularly the Northwest Division that boasts five potentially playoff-caliber teams. Throw in the fact that Utah also has to face the three teams that figure to be the best in the West four times instead of three, and there’s no denying that their Western Conference schedule is a brutal aspect of the 2017-18 slate.