How the NBA Schedule is Made

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Access to NBA schedules in Excel sheet including teams’ and opponents’ rest days.
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Follow updates and important dates about 2017-2018 NBA schedule in this post.

Matt Winick, who stepped down in September 2014 as Senior Vice President of Scheduling and Game Operations, had been the architect of the NBA schedule for more than 20 seasons. In his interview with ESPN, he unveiled how he responds to complaints about strength of schedule and common questions on building the NBA schedule. According to Matt Winick, the NBA sets the league schedule to accomplish both competitive balance and a reduction of costs.

The goal of the NBA schedule, as it is constructed, is to be efficient from a competitive standpoint with an indirect consideration of travel costs.

Matt Winick had a complicated system that assigns a point value to each date or series of dates a team makes available. The point system rewards a team for making several consecutive dates available instead of insisting on a particular date. Each time team must amass at least 50 points. Generally, teams play 3.5 games in a week and those 82 games take roughly 165 days through the end of regular season.

In MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference 2016, Evan Wasch, who is the Senior Vice President of Basketball Strategy & Analytics for the NBA, has presented the most recent challenges and improvements in NBA scheduling. For the last few seasons, Evan Walsh, Tom Carelli (Senior Vice President of Broadcasting) and their colleagues have taken a much deeper look at arena availability so they could minimize the number of nights where a tired team will face a well-rested, fresh opponent. Starting from 17-18 season, an extra week is added to schedule with eliminating fourth game in five nights for the first time.

Getting started in February, NBA schedule has usually been released in the first weeks of August. Factors that have an impact on setting NBA schedule can be summarized as follows:


Each team has to play:

  • 4 games against the other 4 division opponents, [4×4=16 games]
  • 4 games against 6 (out-of-division) conference opponents, [4×6=24 games]
  • 3 games against the remaining 4 conference teams, [3×4=12 games]
  • 2 games against teams in the opposing conference. [2×15=30 games]
A five-year rotation determines which out-of-division conference teams are played only 3 times.

All teams, about a month before the end of the preceding regular season, have to submit to the NBA office a list of:

  • at least 50 dates on which their home court will be available,
  • 4 Mondays,
  • 4 Thursdays (to help TNT plan its telecasts).
(3) OFFICIAL BREAKS (on which no games are played)
  • Christmas eve,
  • The all-star game,
  • NCAA championship game,

The conflicts such as NHL games on the same court have to be resolved.


Games can be moved to satisfy the NBA’s TV partners (ABC, ESPN, and TNT). Game times can be tweaked.