NBA Schedule Quirks
UNBALANCED HOME-ROAD SPLITS ALREADY CAUSING NBA ILLUSIONS
We're roughly 15% of the way into the new NBA season. But, already, sports bettors must avoid the pitfalls of placing too much weight on won-lost records. Some teams have played home-friendly schedules that make them seem better than they are. Others have played road-heavy schedules that make them seem worse.
We have a stat to adjust for that which you longtime readers will recognize. We love using it on both pro basketball and pro baseball because the long seasons in those sports often have large home-road differentials amidst play before things finally even out for everyone on the final day of the season. That stat? Wins Minus Home Games Played.
Pollution gets cleaned up pretty quickly with this methodology, allowing everyone to see the sport clearly.
Let's take our first run through the NBA. Data is through the games of Monday Night because of publication deadlines. We hope you enjoyed that Knicks/Nets game Monday on TNT...a sign of things to come when the best teams are playing each other this year in the NBA. We'll start with that Atlantic Division because the Knicks are a team that's been dealt an unfriendly early schedule.
New York +4
Monday Night's overtime win for the Nets forged a tie at the top of this division in your newspaper standings at 9-4. But, the Knicks have only played FIVE home games compared to eight on the road. The Nets have split in the other direction, having played eight home games. It's the Knicks who grade out as the best team in the division once you factor in schedule splits. And, the fact that New York could take that game to overtime even with Jason Kidd on the sideline makes the same point. Put that game in the Garden, and Kidd on the floor...and the Knicks are very likely to get the win.
Note that Philadelphia had had a home heavy schedule so far that makes them look like contenders in this division in your newspaper. They're further behind the Knicks than an 8-6 record would suggest. Of course, New York beat Philly twice to start the season, establishing superiority right off the bat. Give the teams the same schedules...and New York's true standings advantage increases.
This isn't a very good division at all this season. Indiana and Chicago are missing key players to injury. Now Cleveland is too! It's important to note here that Cleveland and Detroit both grade out much better in this measure than they do in the newspaper. The Cavs have only played FOUR home games this year, compared to 10 road games. That's a very unfair start. Detroit has played six home games and nine road games. We're not going to suggest that the Pistons are a good team. They're probably not as bad as you were thinking.
Miami ties New York in this stat for tops in the East. If you've been keeping your own Power Ratings this season, that won't surprise you. The market has had those two teams best in the conference for awhile now in terms of "neutral court" settings. Atlanta sneaks up to third best in the league. The race for the 3-6 spots in the playoff brackets is going to be interesting once teams settle in. Brooklyn and Atlanta are currently make the best cases for "best of the rest" in the East. A few others are likely to make solid runs later.
Charlotte is a nice story this year. They were basically Washington last year (or Washington is Charlotte this year!). They have done a good job fighting in winnable games vs. other bad teams in the East. You saw Monday in Oklahoma City, though, that this team is extremely outmatched when playing a league power. It's worth remembering that our Wins Minus Home Games stat will start to spread out more the deeper we get into the season. The bad teams are going to have large minuses. The powers are going to be plus big numbers. Parity is not a word used in the NBA much these days.
San Antonio +6
New Orleans -2
The Spurs pop the biggest number we've seen so far...and the biggest number in the league to this point in the season. It's amazing how great those guys are at the fundamentals of smart basketball. That puts them in great shape to dominate in the regular season in an era of non-parity. But, once you put the best of the best in a playoff structure, the Spurs look more mortal. We're likely to see that play out again this season.
Memphis is getting a nod from many as the true #1in the league right now. They don't grade out that way here. But, if you factor in strength of opponents, they would rise up to match any of the other powers. However you slice it, San Antonio, Memphis, Miami, and New York are the clear "big four" in the league at the moment in quality and production.
Oklahoma City +2
This is shaping up as a great division. Oklahoma City has played nine home games compared to just six road games...so they may not be as good as their raw numbers look out of the gate. Denver has had an extremely unfair schedule thus far...with only five home games and 10 road games. When that equalizes, they may turn out to be a Western power on par with OKC, San Antonio, and Memphis. An interesting story developing for that new-look team. Really, you can't sleep on anybody in this division. Minnesota is on the verge of having Love and Rubio back on the floor again, with Love having already returned.
Golden State +2
LA Clippers even
LA Lakers -2
This is a head scratcher division. The early season schedule was home-heavy for most of these teams. The Clippers and Lakers in particular take a hit because they've played so many at Staples Center. The Clippers have played a tough schedule opponent-wise...and have had a knack for struggling when they step down in class. We think they're better than this stat is showing...but this stat is helping temper enthusiasm in a way that's productive. What would everyone think of the Lakers if they didn't have a 9-5 home/road split? Kobe and company are only 1-4 on the road. Those LA teams will be on TV a lot, so sports bettors can watch those storylines develop.
You can always purchase the top basketball plays on the board right here at this website. JIM HURLEY has studied tonight's 11-game card very closely...including Brooklyn-Boston, New York-Milwaukee, Houston-Oklahoma City, and Minnesota-LA Clippers. He's also looking at college games like Ohio State-Duke, Michigan State-Miami, and Virginia-Wisconsin (see yesterday's NOTEBOOK preview of the Big Ten-ACC challenge for more information). Make a few clicks for big, juicy winners. Or, call the office at 1-800-323-4453 for more details. Be sure to check on COMBINATION packages with football when you call.
As we mentioned yesterday, it's going to be a HUGE sports week in basketball and football. We're back with you tomorrow to preview New Orleans-Atlanta in the NFL. We'll have expanded previews in the Pac 12 Championship and SEC Championship games Friday and Saturday. Make sure you're with us EVERY DAY in the NOTEBOOK so you know what's REALLY happening in the world of sports!
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