11. March 2011 01:32
The other night, NBA Network analyst Chris Webber said something along the lines of "Miami doesn't have a home court advantage" because of a home crowd that's been criticized for arriving late and expecting victories. I hadn't seen the numbers for this year and decided to dig them up...
Using the "team splits" option over at Basketball-Reference that appears on the Navigation pull-down for each team, I logged the average home score and road score for all 30 franchises. Those of you familiar with NBA stats know that home court is generally worth something in the neighborhood of three points. For any non-statheads out there, imagine for the sake of example that it's worth 4 points. For an average team, that would create a breakdown like:
Winning 102-98 at home
Losing 98-102 on the road
Playing 100-100 ties on a neutral court
A difference of +4 at home to -4 on the road for a differential of 8 points. I think it's generally been worth less than four points for many years now. Try writing up an easy example with 3 points where you don't have to explain what a 99.5 all tie looks like! Back in the 1980's it was worth more than four points when tempos were much faster and travel less friendly. If you just pencil in 3 points as a general rule in the modern game, you're going to be in the ballpark.
Individual years for individual teams have such a small sample size that you can't really trust the numbers in a confident way. Atlanta for example has a NEGATIVE home court advantage this year because of a couple of blowout losses where they fell behind early and let the margin blow up. Atlanta is likely to regress to its mean in the future and post a more standard differential.
Still, it's interesting to see how the differences shape up. And, Webber was right in reporting that Miami has one of the smallest home court advantages in the league this season.
Biggest Spreads from Road Margin to Home Margin:
Denver: +11.4 (equating to a home court advantage of 5.7)
LA Clippers: +8.8
New Jersey: +7.4
Oklahoma City: +7.3
San Antonio: +7.0
Cut each in half to determine what an "advantage" would be over a neutral site game. San Antonio's equating to a home court advantage of 3.5 points to this point in the season (all stats in this article are through the games of Wednesday night). The Clippers would be at 4.4. Denver, which historically has a big split because of its home altitude advantage, is almost off the charts.
Of course, it wouldn't be out of line to equate some of this to what might be termed "road court disadvantage" for bad teams who stink up the joint away from home. We can save that discussion for another time. I just wanted to get the numbers up when I had them handy.
Golden State: +6.3
LA Lakers: +5.4
Note that Memphis and Toronto at 6.2 are the medians for the 30 team league. That gives you 3.1 for the median home court advantage.
New Orleans: +4.7
New York: +2.2
We have some good teams down at the bottom here. Many top contenders are playing very well on the road this season. Again, it's easy to start spinning around in circles when defining terms. This group is seeing less of a lift at home than you normally get in the NBA. That doesn't mean Boston is an easy place to play. Miami is showing the 6th lowest differential out of 30 teams between home margins and road margins.
With the playoffs coming up soon, talk of home court advantage will become a lot more prominent. It will be good to have some numbers to frame the discussion.
This will be it for Thursday night. Looks like the late games were blowouts anyway. The NY and Dallas defenses seemed to play tired with both in their fourth game in five nights. New look Denver still seems to have a chip on its shoulder based on their win in Phoenix. Friday's marquee matchups are Boston-Philadelphia and Atlanta-Chicago. Notes on those games and a few others a bit before midnight...