Handicapping NBA Home Court Advantage
There’s no denying that most teams play better at home than they do on the road. During the 2010-11 season home teams went 743-487 (60.4%). That really shouldn’t come as a big surprise, over the years home teams win right around 60% of the time. The question everyone wants to know is how you incorporate home court advantage when picking against the spread.
A lot of people like to use a set number that home teams are given, for example most believe the home team gets 3-points before any other factors are determined when the line is being made. If you base it off our NBA point spread conversion chart, teams who win at a 60% clip should be favored by 3.5-points. Others believe the number is closer to 2-points.
By setting a set number for every home team you are saying there is no difference in playing a game in Boston than there is in playing a game in Denver. If you follow the NBA you know that is simply not the case. I believe that if you really want to find out where the home court advantage is, you have to compare how well a team does at home compared to how well they do on the road. Great teams are going to have a great home record, but they are also going to win a lot of games on the road. That doesn’t mean they have more of a home court advantage than a team who finishes below .500.
I went back over the last 10 seasons and compared the home and away winning percentages of every team. The bigger the difference the stronger the home court advantage.
|Team||Home Winning %||Away Winning %||Difference|
|Golden State Warriors||55.60%||28.50%||27.10%|
|Los Angeles Clippers||50.20%||28.00%||22.20%|
|Portland Trail Blazers||61.20%||39.50%||21.70%|
|Los Angeles Lakers||73.90%||53.20%||20.70%|
|New Jersey Nets||50.00%||30.80%||19.80%|
|San Antonio Spurs||80.00%||60.50%||19.50%|
|New Orleans Hornets||60.80%||41.50%||19.30%|
|New York Knicks||48.30%||30.00%||18.30%|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||58.50%||45.50%||13.00%|
It has long been believed that the Nuggets and Jazz have a huge home court advantage, and this data definitely backs that up. If you were one of those that thought there was no difference from playing a game in Boston and Denver, you can see that it isn’t the case at all.
If there wasn’t a true home court advantage you would expect to see a huge difference between the Lakers and Clippers who both play their home games at the Staple Center. Despite the difference in how much better the Lakers are at home, the numbers show that there is just a 1.5% difference between the two teams in how well they play at home compared to on the road. That 1.5% difference isn’t that much when you consider there is a 16.4% difference in playing in Denver and Boston.
No one in the NBA has a better home winning percentage over the last 10 years than the Spurs, who have cashed in 80% of their games played at the AT&T Center. To the average fan it may seem like the Spurs would have the best home court advantage of any team, but they have simply been the best team over the last decade. The fact that the Spurs win at such a high percentage at home, will likely result in oddsmakers overvaluing San Antonio against the spread in home games. Last year the Spurs were 36-5 SU and just 19-21-1 ATS at home.
How do you use this information to help you handicap the NBA? Because it is so widely known that teams like the Nuggets and Jazz are so much better at home than they are on the road, oddsmakers are going to shift their lines closer to what they should be, so you aren’t going to find a lot of value. I suggest looking for teams that have shown a great home court advantage on the chart that aren’t considered great home teams and back them against the spread, as oddsmakers aren’t likely to adjust those lines as much as they would the Nuggets and Jazz. You can also use this chart to see when teams are getting too much respect on the road. A team like the Hawks have won just 29.3% of their road games over the last 10 years. That means Atlanta should rarely ever be favored on the road, but because of how well they play at home there is a good chance they will be overvalued on the road, especially off a long homestand.
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