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Five takeaways from the Spurs 2023-24 schedule

Some key stretches, matchups and findings from the Spurs ‘23-’24 schedule release

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at San Antonio Spurs Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

The release of the NBA schedule is a lot like the teaser trailer for a blockbuster film. It generates a lot of hype about an upcoming product. Fans scramble to put together their theories on what exactly we can expect in a few months when all is revealed.

The reality is we don’t have a great idea of what is coming. But what the heck, it’s fun to theorize. The schedule release is the first big piece of new for the San Antonio Spurs in a bit of time. Let’s dive deep into five takeaways from the 2023-2024 NBA schedule release.

1. The Spurs have one of the toughest schedules in the NBA

“Congratulations on getting the number one pick, San Antonio! Now we are going to test how good he really is.”

That’s probably what Adam Silver and company thought when putting together this year’s schedule. According to Positive Residual, an NBA analytics hub, the Spurs have the toughest schedule in the NBA. Their model is based on opponent team strength, rest for both teams, the altitude where games are played, distanced traveled and time zone changes. It’s a thorough model that considers more factors than most.

They use another model called a Vegas-informed Estimate of Team Strength or “VETS.” This is a metric to decide the potential quality of the team in the upcoming season. San Antonio has the third-worst VETS, in front of Washington and Detroit. So it’s not entirely surprising that San Antonio isn’t favored in most of their games. The Spurs will also have 11 games where they have a rest advantage, and 9 games where they have a rest disadvantage.

The Spurs will play 54 games against teams who made the NBA playoffs last season, 29 of those games will be played in San Antonio. The teams that made the playoffs last season won’t necessarily be in the hunt this year. Teams always over-and underachieve, but these metrics are a good glimpse into where the Spurs may fall in the NBA hierarchy next season.

2. The beginning of the season is going to be tough

Victor Wembanyama is going to have quite the welcome into the NBA. The Spurs first 10 games include matchups against their two in-state rivals, four games against Western Conference contenders in the Suns, Timberwolves and Clippers, as well as tough matchups against the Knicks and Heat.

There is a likely chance that the Spurs finish that stretch below .500, and it doesn’t get easier after that. Next they will go on a 9-game stretch against strong opponents like the Nuggets, Thunder, Kings and Warriors. This young roster is going to be tested early by good NBA teams. Their record in the first 20 games will set the tone for the rest of the season.

3. A late-season playoff push will be difficult

Much like the start of the Spurs’ schedule, the ending will be a test. If the Spurs find themselves in the play-in hunt come mid-March, they will have a long road ahead of them to get in.

This is the schedule from March 15th, through the end of the season.

Three matchups with the reigning champs, a double-header with the Suns, and two games against Memphis could prove to be games that squash a young teams hopes of playoff glory. It’s also an opportunity for a “stealth tank” if the Spurs wants to improve their lottery odds late in the year.

An optimist’s view is that the Spurs will have the chance to not only make the playoffs, but topple some of the league’s best in order to do so. A run of that nature would be the highlight of the season, and a great reward for the pains of March and April last season.

4. Wembanyama will frequently clash with the best bigs in the league

The NBA was once a guards league, but it’s quickly becoming all about the big man. Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Anthony Davis are some of the most dominant players in the league. The Spurs are hoping that Wemby joins that tier of players.

FiveThirtyEight’s RAPTOR model uses player tracking, wins above replacement and plus-minus measurements to weigh which players have the biggest impact on winning. Last season the list of big men that ranked top-10 in RAPTOR included: Jokic, Embiid, Davis, Brook Lopez, Antetokounmpo, Domantas Sabonis, Kristaps Porzingis, Kevon Looney, Bam Adebayo and Al Horford. Wemby will face off against those big men just over 20 times.

That’s a fourth of the Spurs games this season, and a few of those guys play on the same team. The basketball world will be watching to see how Wembanyama will stack up against the league’s best.

5. A better “rodeo road trip” could be coming

Thanks to the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, the Spurs have to take the road for nine straight games again this year. Last season the team won the last game of the road trip in Utah, saving themselves from going 0-9. This year’s trip will start in early February and close at the end of the month.

The Spurs have some winnable games in Orlando, Brooklyn, Dallas, Toronto and Utah on the trip. There is a real chance they could go 5-4 or even 6-3 on this year’s road trip. If the team manages to stay healthy over this grueling stretch, it could put them in a good position heading into their tough stretch towards the end of the season.