What NBA Teams Need for Road Success
by Trevor Whenham - 01/17/2008
As we have talked about before, the NBA home court advantage is one of the strongest of any sport. All things being equal, the home team wins more than its share of games. The public is generally aware of this trend, and they love few things more than betting on the home team. That means that there is real value in finding and betting on teams that excel away from the friendly confines of home.
We're about 40 percent of the way into the NBA season, and just eight of the 30 teams in the league have a winning road record. Of those, the five with clearly the best records are Boston, New Orleans, Detroit, the Lakers and Orlando. By looking at the traits some or all of those teams share we can get a better sense of what it takes for a road team to succeed, and we may be able to better spot teams that have what it takes to win on the road for our NBA picks. Here are six traits shared by several of the top teams:
They are all good teams - This probably goes without saying, but it's important to note. All five of these teams either lead their division or are tied for the lead. Of the six divisions, only the Northwest does not have a team with a winning road record. You can decide whether this is a chicken or an egg, but teams that do well overall tend to be teams that can get their business done on the road. Conversely, it's no surprise that the teams that have records below .400 overall, the true dregs of the league, are all pitiful on the road.
All are very profitable ATS - There are only eight teams that have returned at least two units of profit to bettors that have flat bet over the course of the entire season. All five of our teams are on that list, and all have been significantly profitable. Two more of those profitable teams have a road record of .500. The lesson is this - when teams consistently exceed the expectations of the public, they especially tend to do it on the road. Those eight profitable teams have a combined record of 96-61 on the road, a very respectable .611 clip.
They can shoot - Four of the teams on our list are in the top eight in the league for field goal shooting percentage. It makes sense that a team that can shoot well is a team that is less likely to get rattled on the road, and is therefore more likely to win away from home. Only the Hornets aren't in the top eight, and they are still more than respectable at 16th in the league. The five worst shooting teams in the league are an ugly 34-56 on the road.
They play strong defense - If a team can't score at home then it isn't going to win. The teams on our list tend to play strong defense. Three of the teams on our list are in the top four for points allowed. Four of them are in the top 10 for defending the field goal. All five teams are in the top 14 for three-pointer defense. It's pretty clear - a team that plays defense is a team that has a good chance of succeeding on the road. On the other hand, the five teams in the league that have allowed the most points have a combined record of 42-62 away from home.
They share the scoring load - The obvious exception is the Lakers, who are mostly a one-player team. Besides that, the other teams all have at least two players with very similar scoring totals, and the Celtics and Orlando have three players to spread the offensive load. When a team has multiple all-star level offensive threats then there is less chance that the home team will be able shut down the visitors and coast to a win. It also means that teams have the option of changing up their offense so that the defense is off-guard.
They feature strong guard play - Except for the Magic, the teams on this list have their engines in the back of the court. They are all guard-centered teams, and they all rely heavily on those guards for their scoring and for setting the tempo of the play. Teams that rely on their guards are generally harder to contain because they are faster and more creative, and they tend to be more consistent than teams built primarily around a frontcourt. That clearly and obviously translates to success on the road.