For whatever reason, even after you adjust for homecourt advantage, most NBA teams perform at different relative levels at home than they do on the road.
Here’s what I mean. In basketball, homecourt advantage is an historical fact. Almost all teams are better performers at home than on the road (Vegas, I think, automatically gives a home team 4 points right off the top). I get that. But even if you account for that, it seems that most teams are just different entities on the road than at home, sometimes better, sometimes worse.
Realizing this discrepancy, when I do my NBA Power Rankings, I now treat each team as two separate teams — a “Home Team” and a “Road Team” and average their strengths.
In this post and the post that follows I rank each version of each team, with this post featuring a ranking of home team strength and the next post featuring a ranking of road team strength.
Power of Thin Air and Rabid Fans
The strongest home team, relatively speaking, should be no surprise. Its the Denver Nuggets. I think they’ve been the strongest home team since they jumped over from the ABA. The atmosphere in Colorado almost certainly has something to do with this advantage, but the rabid fan base also deserves a good deal of credit.
If you go back and look at the first post merger season, 1976-77, the Nuggets home/road disparity is almost unbelievable. The Nuggets were a below average team on the road and a virtually unbeatable team at home. That season the Nuggets only lost 5 games at home, and their first loss did not come until they lost a two point game to the defending world champion Celtics on the day after Christmas. Prior to March 15th, the team lost only 3 home games by a total of 14 points and those losses were to the previous champion and that season’s two NBA Finalists.
What do the rankings mean?
The number after the team’s ranking indicates how many points the team’s home court pythagorean winning percentage is above or below the rest of the NBA’s pythagorean home court winning percentage against the very same home schedule. For example, Denver’s pythagorean home winning percentage is .847%. Playing at home against the very same opponents, the rest of the NBA’s pythagorean winning percentage is just .604%. Thus Denver’s home strength is (+.243).
The Schizo teams
Which teams stand out as the most schizophrenic? (1) Dallas Mavericks: the Mavericks are the NBA’s best road team and just a middle of the pack home team. Figure that one out. (2) Charlotte Bobcats: Although Charlotte picked up a huge road victory last night in Cleveland, generally speaking they have been a terrific home team and a substandard road team. (3) Philadelphia Sixers: This team I cannot figure out. They are actually better in an absolute sense on the road than they are at home (so are the Clippers). (4) Boston Celtics: Boston is an overpowering team on the road, and just a very good team at home.
NBA Home Team Power Rankings
1. Denver Nuggets_________________(+.243)
2. Phoenix Suns___________________(+.208)
3. Orlando Magic__________________(+.194)
4. Atlanta Hawks__________________(+.193)
5. San Antonio Spurs_______________(+.161)
6. LA Lakers_____________________(+.152)
7. Cleveland Cavaliers______________(+.140)
8. Boston Celtics___________________(+.109)
9. Charlotte Bobcats________________(+.103)
10. Utah Jazz______________________(+.100)
11. Houston Rockets________________(+.088)
12. OKC Thunder___________________(+.042)
13. Portland Trailblazers_____________(+.039)
14. Dallas Mavericks________________(+.003)
15. Memphis Grizzlies_______________(+.001)
16. Milwaukee Bucks________________(-.002)
17. Toronto Raptors________________(-.035)
18. Miami Heat____________________(-.037)
19. New Orleans Hornets_____________(-.038)
20. Sacramento Kings_______________(-.041)
21. Golden State Warriors____________(-.058)
22. Chicago Bulls___________________(-.110)
23. Indiana Pacers_________________(-.122)
24. Washington Wizards______________(-.131)
25. Detroit Pistons__________________(-.133)
26. New York Knicks________________(-.133)
27. LA Clippers____________________(-.171)
28. Philadelphia Sixers_______________(-.233)
29. Minnesota Timberwolves__________(-.297)
30. New Jersey Nets_________________(-.324)