NBA Metrics 101: The 10 Best Home-Court Advantages

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 25, 2017

NBA Metrics 101: The 10 Best Home-Court Advantages

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    Ron Turenne/Getty Images

    Every NBA arena can be hostile to the opposition. 

    Even when they fill up with visiting fans, they still don't feel like home for teams on the road. Rough stretches are greeted with silence rather than cheers of encouragement, and the roars in support of the hometown favorites are even more deafening while trying to drown out the invading supporters. 

    But playing in front of a packed arena, sold out with fans of the city in question, is a different proposition. That can be a brutal experience for the visitors. Every mistake is jeered and every run greeted with exhortations for the hosts to turn up the proverbial dials. 

    Some locations are more difficult than others. They're the ones that are always sold out while propelling their squads to even higher levels.


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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    These rankings, which are entirely objective, reward teams that have excelled in two different factors—home attendance percentage and schedule-adjusted net rating improvement at home. Here's how the calculation works: 

    1. Find each team's net rating at home and on the road, via 
    2. Calculate the average Team Rating, per NBA Math's formula, of each opponent on the home and road schedule for all 30 squads. Dividing these by 100, such that 1.0 is a perfectly average schedule and anything higher is harder, gives us the factors by which we multiply home and road net ratings (or divide, in the case that the net ratings are negative). By doing so, teams receive scaled boosts for playing tougher schedules.
    3. Find each team's average home attendance percentage, per
    4. Calculate the average rank for each team in the two factors, with home attendance percentage serving as the tiebreaker. 

    No one receives subjective boosts, and only what's been done this season matters.

10. Golden State Warriors, Oracle Arena

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    Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

    Adjusted Net Rating Improvement at Home: 5.706

    Home Attendance Percentage: 100

    The crowd at Oracle Arena roars every time their beloved Golden State Warriors start trouncing another opponent. Those in attendance hoot and holler when Stephen Curry knocks down a three or Kevin Durant creates his own looks. They egg on Draymond Green when he's engaged in his trademark histrionics. 

    And, most importantly, they always show up. 

    Back in early December, Golden State achieved its 200th consecutive sellout—a streak that dates back to December 2012—and it's packed Oracle Arena to the gills ever since. Fans turn out en masse to support the team that ended the city's championship drought in 2015, blew a 3-1 lead one year later and then assembled a superteam in response. 

    The only reason the Dubs can't rank any higher? They're so darn good on the road (league-best 9.56 schedule-adjusted away net rating), they can only improve by so much at home. Even though their home net rating is nearly four points per 100 possessions better than any other squad's, that doesn't allow for the improvement necessary to populate one of the top five spots.

9. Chicago Bulls, United Center

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    Gary Dineen/Getty Images

    Adjusted Net Rating Improvement at Home: 4.6

    Home Attendance Percentage: 103.3

    The Chicago Bulls faithful can't get enough of Jimmy Butler, whether he's dominating during less crucial minutes or stepping up his scoring game in the highest-leverage situations. They're packing the United Center each and every night, to the point they lead the NBA in home attendance percentage. 

    Technically, the arena holds 20,917 people when configured for a basketball game, per But's reported attendance is a staggering 21,602 per contest. 

    They have to come out and see Butler, but they're also interested in catching a glimpse of Dwyane Wade, who returned home to Chicago after spending the first 13 seasons of his professional career with the Miami Heat. Plus, the Bulls fanbase has been a loyal bunch throughout its history, even during the down years that followed Michael Jordan's second retirement. 

    Their support has also spurred the team to new levels. 

    Chicago doesn't improve as much when it returns to the United Center as many other teams do—it actually ranks just No. 22 in net rating improvement. But it's still on the plus side at home and the minus when playing without friendly ovations.

8. Indiana Pacers, Bankers Life Fieldhouse

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    Gary Dineen/Getty Images

    Adjusted Net Rating Improvement at Home: 12.502

    Home Attendance Percentage: 91.1

    The Indiana Pacers play like an entirely different team at home. 

    When away from Bankers Life Fieldhouse, they're one of the Association's worst squads. But as soon as they hear adoring chants and cheers* from their supporters, they suddenly become quite difficult to topple. Just take a peek at the drastic difference (sans schedule adjustments): 

    LocationOffensive Rating (Rank)Defensive Rating (Rank)Net Rating (Rank)
    Home105.5 (No. 15)100.8 (No. 1)4.7 (No. 12)
    Away103.4 (No. 21)110.7 (No. 30)Minus-7.3 (No. 26)

    "I think one of the biggest things right now is energy. We have to start off games like we start off at home," Thaddeus Young recently explained, per's Greg Rappaport. "We start off with a lot of energy at home, get ourselves a big lead and we are able to sustain throughout the course of games."

    That energy manifests itself on defense, where the Pacers became impenetrable. Whereas they play like the league's most porous bunch on the road, they contest every shot and avoid giving up fast-break buckets in their preferred location. 

    Just imagine what might happen if enough fans showed up that they ranked better than No. 20 in home attendance percentage.


    *Keep in mind, when they boo, it's an indication the team isn't elite, not that it's any worse at home. It's still far better there.

7. Miami Heat, American Airlines Arena

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Adjusted Net Rating Improvement at Home: 6.379

    Home Attendance Percentage: 100.2

    Remember when the Miami Heat fans drew well-deserved grief for walking out early from an epic NBA Finals game still in progress? That led to a reputation that South Beach residents were fair-weather fans, though that notion was always misleading. 

    Even when LeBron James wasn't wearing a Miami uniform, Heat supporters consistently attended games and sold out the home arena. Maybe they were sometimes late to arrive, but they showed up en masse before halftime. 

    That hasn't changed now that Miami is one of the league's worst outfits. The team's average home attendance is greater than 100 percent, and the fans have created a raucous environment even while they watch a team bound for some of the NBA's best lottery odds. 

    That pays off on the rare instances that see Miami spring a massive upset, as it did Jan. 23 when Dion Waiters sparked the late-game victory over the Golden State Warriors that prompted major cheering and the above celebration from Hassan Whiteside. Except that might not have been as monumental an upset as it appeared. 

    As bad as the Heat have been throughout the 2016-17 campaign, they're only getting outscored by a mere 0.2 points per 100 possessions at American Airlines Arena.

6. Los Angeles Clippers, Staples Center

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    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    Adjusted Net Rating Improvement at Home: 9.867

    Home Attendance Percentage: 100.0

    When the Los Angeles Clippers are able to perform in front of their fans at Staples Center, they're nearly unstoppable. 

    Despite playing two fewer games on the road thus far, two more losses have come away from home. They shoot 48.1 percent from the field in Los Angeles, as opposed to 45.6 percent on the road. They also force more turnovers at home, depress opponents' field-goal percentages and play more engaged defense.

    If you have to find a flaw, it would be their sloppy passing. Occasionally, they can feed off the energy of the Staples Center crowd and attempt a few too many fancy feeds that bounce harmlessly into the stands or wind up in enemy paws. 

    But the Clippers can live with those mistakes. 

    After all, they're perfectly average on the road and utterly dominant when bolstering their confidence with supportive cheers. Even after adjustments for schedules, which show Los Angeles has faced slightly weaker opponents at home, only the Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors have been more dangerous on their customary floors.

5. Los Angeles Lakers, Staples Center

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    Adjusted Net Rating Improvement at Home: 15.176

    Home Attendance Percentage: 99.1

    No team improves more when playing in front of its fans. 

    The Los Angeles Lakers have been putrid away from home. While surrounded by the enemy's supporters, they've mustered a pathetic minus-14.5 net rating, which would rather easily be the league's worst full-season mark. For context, the Brooklyn Nets are "only" being outscored by 8.3 points per 100 possessions. 

    But at the Staples Center, the Lakers are an above-average outfit in proud possession of a 0.7 net rating. That's most comparable to the Oklahoma City Thunder (0.3), Washington Wizards (0.8) and Milwaukee Bucks (1.2).

    "Home-court advantage to me is overrated," Kobe Bryant once told's Brian Kamenetzky.

    Maybe that's true for wily old veterans, but it's not for youngsters still learning how to play the game. D'Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle and the other up-and-comers on the Lakers roster all seem to get excited when cheers are ringing down from the rafters.

    They play like they want to impress the fans buying their jerseys and spending their hard-earned money to root for them in person.

4. Oklahoma City Thunder, Chesapeake Energy Arena

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    Layne Murdoch/Getty Images

    Adjusted Net Rating Improvement at Home: 10.967

    Home Attendance Percentage: 100.0

    Maybe the Oklahoma City Thunder are still grateful for the decision to bring professional basketball to the Sooner State. Their enthusiasm hasn't waned since Clay Bennett led the charge to move the Seattle SuperSonics before the 2008-09 campaign, though it's helped that the city has never lacked for star power. 

    Even without Kevin Durant, the crowds at Chesapeake Energy Arena get to cheer for Russell Westbrook and his unquenchable thirst for triple-doubles.

    They get to scream every time he scores, whether it's coming via a pull-up jumper or rim-rattling slam in transition. They get to yell when he pulls down a rebound to draw closer to double digits in another category, and they have the privilege of celebrating when he showcases his vision with yet another assist. 

    It helps. 

    Playing in front of a sellout each and every night there's a home game on the schedule, the Thunder have gone from posting a minus-6.0 net rating on the road to outscoring their foes by five points per 100 possessions at home.

    And as for Westbrook? He's shooting more efficiently in Oklahoma City while averaging an additional 0.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists. 

3. Cleveland Cavaliers, Quicken Loans Arena

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Adjusted Net Rating Improvement at Home: 10.716

    Home Attendance Percentage: 100.0

    This may be hard to believe, so prepare for your jaw to hit the floor. 

    Though they remain a title contender and should still be the prohibitive favorites to earn the Eastern Conference's top seed, the Cleveland Cavaliers have been eminently beatable when they're playing outside the friendly confines of Quicken Loans Arena: 

    LocationOffensive Rating (Rank)Defensive Rating (Rank)Net Rating (Rank)
    Home113.2 (No. 1)104.7 (No. 12)8.5 (No. 3)
    Road104.8 (No. 16)107.3 (No. 23)minus-2.5 (No. 21)

    Sure, the 126-91 blowout loss to the Golden State Warriors in Oracle Arena warps those numbers. But even without digging deep into the advanced stats, it's not tough to see how much better Cleveland has been at home. 

    In The Q, Cleveland has gone 19-4. Away from home, it's earned a meager 11-9 record. 

    Making that disparity even larger, the Cavaliers' average opponent in their own building has been slightly more difficult than their typical foe on the road. Chalk that up as yet another piece of evidence in the not-hard-to-prove case that they're significantly deadlier in Northeast Ohio. 

2. Dallas Mavericks, American Airlines Center

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    Glenn James/Getty Images

    Adjusted Net Rating Improvement at Home: 8.251

    Home Attendance Percentage: 102.1

    The Dallas Mavericks have been far better in recent weeks, but they're still sitting well outside the Western Conference playoff picture. They've given their fans precious little to get excited about, with Dirk Nowitzki missing the season's opening salvo while Harrison Barnes and Seth Curry served as two of the primary draws. 

    But it didn't matter. 

    Even as the team struggled, the Mavs fanbase showed up. Only the Chicago Bulls beat them in home attendance percentage, as American Airlines Center routinely boasts nary an open seat. 

    "Look, my attitude has always been put people in the seats," owner Mark Cuban told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Dwain Price in December. "So if it means bringing in a bus full of kids to get it, then we'll do it, because I don't care about that money. I just care about having kids in the seats."

    He's had a lot in the seats over the years. The team's sellout streak, which began Dec. 15, 2001, is still alive and well, even as the Mavericks struggle. It also keeps pushing Dallas to new levels.

    Whereas they're on the wrong end of a minus-7.3 net rating away from American Airlines Center, they're outscoring opponents by a point per 100 possessions in front of the hometown faithful.

1. Toronto Raptors, Air Canada Centre

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    Ron Turenne/Getty Images

    Adjusted Net Rating Improvement at Home: 9.872

    Home Attendance Percentage: 100.3

    Kudos, Canada. 

    The Toronto Raptors don't improve at home by quite as much as some of the NBA's other teams that rely on local games for record boosts. Though they jump from a 1.5 net rating to an 11.4 at Air Canada Centre, that boost still leaves them behind the Cleveland Cavaliers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Washington Wizards, Indiana Pacers and Los Angeles Lakers. 

    A similar story unfolds when we look at home attendance percentage. The Raptors surely can't complain about finishing over 100 percent, but that number has them trailing the Sacramento Kings (100.6), Dallas Mavericks (102.1) and Chicago Bulls (103.3). 

    It's the combination that allows for their rise to the top. 

    Every time an opponent travels north of the border, it knows it's in for a brutal night against a team that thrives in Toronto and plays in front of a raucous, packed arena. 


    Adam Fromal covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @fromal09.

    Unless otherwise indicated, all stats from or NBA Math and accurate heading into games on Tuesday, Jan. 24.