Five NBA Teams Where Home Court Makes a Difference
by Trevor Whenham - 02/06/2007
Determining the value of the home field advantage is a very challenging aspect of handicapping the NBA. It's generally thought that the home court is worth three or four points, but it's not as simple as applying that universally. The length of the road trip that the visiting team is on, the distance they have traveled, and the strength and loudness of the home crowd can all make the home court more or less valuable for a team.
Thankfully, though, there are some teams that make home court advantage really easy to compensate for. Teams that are either abnormally good at home or abnormally bad, when compared to what their overall performance would lead us to expect, give us an advantage when it comes to picking their games, and advantages are what handicapping is all about. Here are five teams that stand out for their home court performance, with a look at how their home court strength translates to handicapping on them:
Detroit - The Pistons are in a tough fight with Chicago and Cleveland for the Central Division crown, and they currently have the edge. They wouldn't be in that position, though, if they didn't play half of their games on the road. Of the six division leaders, the Pistons are the only team that has a better record on the road than they do at home. They are 15-9 on the road and just 13-9 at home. That means that it is fairly easy for casual gamblers to overvalue them at home, because it would be easy to look at their solid 28-18 record and assume that they are tougher at the Palace. The team's ATS record shows that bettors have struggled with just that - they are 8-14 at home and 15-9 on the road, a clear sign that they are better than people think away from Detroit, and worse than they think at home. This situation is getting worse, too - the Pistons are 2-9 ATS in their last 11 at home.
Milwaukee - Milwaukee is just a pretty bad team, and it doesn't take a brilliant handicapper to come to that conclusion. They've been hurt by more injuries than a team should have to deal with, and with players -- most notably Andrew Bogut -- that aren't developing as quickly or contributing as much as the team would have hoped. They are 18-30 overall, and they are sitting where they are likely to stay - at the bottom of the Central. Given their record, then, it is somewhat surprising that they have a winning record, if only just (10-9), at home. That means, of course, that they are a really terrible road team. It's important to note, though, that the value in betting on the Bucks doesn't come from their overachieving home record, but rather their underachieving road record. They are 9-10 ATS at home, but they are 15-14 ATS on the road. On the surface that may not seem impressive, but you have to consider that they are just 8-21 on the road, so they have far exceeded bettors expectations away from Milwaukee.
Seattle - Like the Bucks, the Sonics are a bad team that are better than their record would suggest at home. They are 17-30 overall, but they have a slight winning record, 13-12, at home. As seems to often be the case in a situation like this, bettors give them too much credit for playing well at home and don't give them enough credit for what they do on the road. Their 13-12 home record translates into a 10-15 ATS record, while the dismal 4-18 road mark improves dramatically to 12-8-2 ATS. By understanding both situations you can understand the way the team works and, most importantly, avoid the situations that are costly to your bankroll. You would need, for example, a much better reason to back the Sonics at home than you would on the road.
L.A. Clippers - The Clippers are the definition of an average team this year. They can beat most teams if they have a good day, and lose to any team if they don't. Their mediocrity is reflected in their 24-23 record. It could easily escape detection, then, that the Clippers are very good in the Staples Center. Their 17-8 record at home far outshines their overall record. The challenge with handicapping the Clippers, though, is that their betting patterns don't mirror their success. They have a 7-15 road record and a nearly identical 7-14-1 record ATS on the road. At home they are just 12-12-1 ATS, so the trick is to realize that they actually perform, from a betting perspective, in a manner at home that reflects their overall record instead of their home record. Despite their success at home, then, the betting value on the Clippers comes as much from their opponents as it does from them. That means that you have to essentially discard the impact of playing at home from your handicapping decisions in this case.
Golden State - The Warriors are similar to the Clippers - an average team that shines at home. The difference is that, despite having the same 17-7 home record, the Warriors are worse overall - 22-26. The Warriors are also a better betting team than the Clippers, with an overall ATS record of 24-23-1. Unlike the other teams on this list, the Warriors' home success translates to betting success. They are 15-10 ATS at home. That means that the Warriors have more of a home court advantage than most teams in the league from a betting perspective. It will be worth tracking that trend to see if it continues after their current long road trip.