NBA Betting: How Much Is Home Court Worth?

Toronto court for the 2016 All Stars

Saturday, October 22, 2016 5:18 PM GMT

Understanding home-court advantage is one of the most important factors in making a sharp basketball pick. So how many points is home court worth in the modern NBA?

 

What's that? The NBA regular season starts on Tuesday? Praise be. We've been surviving on thin gruel here at the home office: Summer League, exhibition games... heck, we almost watched the Olympics. But everything's okay now. “Real” basketball is about to begin.

Which means it's time to brush up on our NBA betting fundamentals. One of the easiest ways to make a sharp NBA pick is to find a game between two evenly-matched teams, and if the home team is laying more than the standard home-court advantage of three points, bet on the visitors instead. But is three points still the right number to use? The home court used to be worth four points back in the day, and that advantage has only gotten smaller.


Home Economics

Or has it? In January 2015, ESPN's Tom Haberstroh and Steve Ilardi crunched the numbers and found home teams winning much less often as the years have gone by, from nearly 70 percent in 1977-78 to 53.7 percent in the 2014-15 campaign up to that point. That translated to a drop from 3.2 points in 2012-13 to 2.6 points the following year, and just 2.2 points in 2014-15.

Ah, but according to The Economist, the rest of the 2014-15 NBA regular season saw home teams win 62.1 percent of the time. The average for home teams between 1979 and 2014 was 62.2 percent. Regression to the mean, in other words. Haberstroh and Ilardi said the chances of their recorded drop-off in home-court value being random were less than one in 1,000, which would suggest this drop-off was statistically meaningful. Yet fluctuations like this – both up and down – have happened quite frequently over the past 40 years.

 

 

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Back-to-Back Is A Bad-Ass Fact

Still, home-court advantage does appear to have tailed off somewhat, and the 2015-16 regular season saw home teams win “only” 59 percent of the time. This could be in response to the NBA's new officiating rules, the smaller number of free-throws being attempted in today's wide-open offense, and the league's attempts to cut down on the number of back-to-back games, which unfairly punish road teams.

Our recommendation here at the ranch: Make home-court advantage worth three points when you're looking at the NBA odds. It's close enough for government work, but feel free to look at all 30 teams and see which ones perform better at home, if you think that extra scrap of profit margin is worth your time and effort.

Remember to drop by SBR's list of the best-ranked bonuses, and find out which of the top sportsbooks is offering the top rated sportsbooks.

 

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