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HA101: Introduction to Homecourt Advantagology

All season long teams vie for the best record so that they can have it.  Teams look forward to playing in their arenas so they can take advantage of it.  Team win/loss records are segregated to account for it.  Is it mental or physical?  Are the cheers and jeers of the home team fans responsible for it?  Is the away team just exhausted from travel, affected by time changes, or variations in environment?  Or, maybe the referees are just unconsciously partial to the home team.  The aim of this piece is to search for the stats that are the most polarized by home or away status.

Data obtained from the 05?-06? season indicated that the average team in the NBA wins 61% of their home games and 40% of their away games.  The Western Conference teams average higher win percentages home and away than their Eastern counterparts, and the difference between the average win percentages at home and away were 3% smaller in the West.  

The reality of the home court advantage is clearly evident with only 1 of the 30 NBA teams winning fewer games in their arena than away during the first portion of the season.  The only team with significantly more wins on the road than away were the Houston Rockets.  They surprisingly won just 38% of their home games and 46% of their games on the road.  

Five teams with large disparities in home versus road games during the first half of the season were the Denver Nuggets, Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers, Philadelphia 76ers, and Los Angeles Clippers.    The source of the preponderance of home wins compared to road wins was probed by examination of the following statistics during the first half of the season:  FG%, FGA, TO, ORB, DRB, AST, 3pt%, 3ptA, FT%, FTA, and STL.

Playing on the road did not significantly impact the average FG% or FT% for the teams.  One might expect that the pressure from the home crowd would be a factor possibly in FG% and definitely in FT%.  The money and effort teams spend on passing out blow-up batons to fans to distract opponents attempting free throws appears to be in vain and for the amusement of those fans waving them. Other statistics that were more or less the same for these five teams at home and away were FGA, TO, and STL.  

Although FGA were nearly the same at home and on the road, fewer 3ptA and more FTA were made at home.  On average, these teams attempted one less shot from behind the arc and went to the free throw line one more time during home games compared to away games.  The higher propensity to attempt three point shots coupled with a 5% lower 3pt% on the road was one of the most instrumental forces responsible for the home court advantage.

Rebounding and assists were other aspects of the game that contributed substantially to home court wins.  These teams collectively rebounded offensively (+1 board) and defensively (+3 boards) more effectively in their familiar space.   Assists were dallied out on average 2 more times at home than on the road.

The average number of assists is directly proportional to winning percentage, and thus this is another contributing factor to the homecourt advantage.

The Deal:

1.  The home court advantage is a real phenomenon.

2.  FG%, FGA, TO, FT%, and STL were not factors in team propensities for home wins.

3.  Offensive and more-so defensive rebounding was more effective at home.

4.  The homecourt environment was more Assist friendly than the Road.

5.  Three point percentages dropped on the road while attempts from 3 point land were higher when playing away from home.

6.  More free throw shots were attempted at home.

7.  The number of possessions was not dependent on game location.


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