The overrated power of the NBA home opener

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Teams always win their home openers, right? Nope. Also in The Hook: when rebuilds need rebuilds and more on Mark Cuban's comments on Dwight Howard.

It is incredibly hard to win an opponent's home opener, right? Well, it's difficult to win opponents' home openers inasmuch as it is hard to win on the road in the NBA in general. Home teams generally win about 60 percent of the time, and most teams finish with better home records than road records. In fact, some teams finish with much better home records than road records. (A classic example from last season: Denver was 38-3 at home and 19-22 on the road.)

But don't home openers present a special advantage? I looked at some recent data to find out, and ... well, yes, actually. Teams do better than expected in home openers. But in the aggregate, it's a small advantage over the norm.

Season W-L Win%
2010-11 19-11 .633
2011-12 18-12 .600
2012-13 20-10 .667
2013-14 17-2 .889
TOTAL (not incl. '13-14) 57-33 .633

Over the three years ending with last season, the difference between teams' record in home openers is only three games better than the standard homecourt advantage in the NBA. It's a pretty small bonus.

That said, this is a quick and dirty look that doesn't take into account opponent quality or rest. We know the NBA likes to load up opening week with some high-profile matchups; you don't send the Bobcats to the NBA champions' ring ceremony, you know? This was especially the case in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, which began on Christmas Day with a mammoth five-game Christmas spread. Home teams went 2-3 that day. The "true" home opener advantage is potentially understated by schedule quirks. That said, those schedule quirks are a part of the deal.

The outlier here is this season, where teams are a magnificent 17-2 so far in home openers. (The losers: New Orleans and Utah.) With 11 home openers left, we'll see if this becomes an insanely successful year for home openers or whether things revert toward the norm over the next few days.


Pete D'Alessandro took over a Kings team that hasn't made the playoffs since 2005-06. So, a lot of lottery picks were around, right? Nope. In fact, the last two pre-D'Alessandro lottery picks -- top-10 picks, mind you -- were Jimmer Fredette and Thomas Robinson. By the time Geoff Petrie was let go, he'd already traded Robinson for, basically, Patrick Patterson, on track to be a restricted free agent in 2014. And now, the Kings have elected to decline the fourth-year option for Fredette. At season's end, unless Patterson is re-signed, the Kings will have nothing to show for the last two lotteries of D'Alessandro's predecessor.

It's almost like the team needs to rebuild from Petrie's failed rebuild. Unfortunately, D'Alessandro has no such luxury: he needs to get a decent team together by 2016, when the Kings' new arena is expected to open. Ownership has indicated that it wants to arrive with a playoff contender. So D'Alessandro has time for one more high lottery pick. If the team is already too good for that, there's some more bad news: thanks to Petrie's horrendous J.J. Hickson-Omri Casspi deal, the Kings owe Cleveland a future first-round pick. It is protected in the top 12 in 2014 and in the top 10 over the following three years. Chances are that it will convey over to the Cavaliers in 2015 in the late lottery. A team Pete D. has knocking on the doors of the playoffs won't get the benefit of a solid asset to use for cheap improvement.

The Kings' new management didn't just acquire a mess on the business and fan relations side. The front office quite a bit of a basketball mess, too. Making a tough decision to potentially let Jimmer go early is just another reminder of that.


Pretty much no more needs to be said about Mark Cuban with regards to his comments about Dwight Howard making a mistake by picking the Rockets over the Mavericks. The comment, and Cuban's history of histrionics, speaks for itself. But Cuban also delved a little deeper into a philosophy he thinks players should follow.

"You choose teams," Cuban said. "You don't choose players. If he made a choice off of an individual player, yeah, he made a mistake. You choose teams. You choose organizations. You choose coaches. And it's just not relative to Houston. That's just the way I look at it, because if he's that good, then the right organization ... Put aside Dwight. Any young superstar looking to make a move, if you're that good, then the right organization gets all the right pieces around you."

Let's use a relevant example here. Dirk Nowitzki kept on choosing to stay with the Mavericks through the 2000s. Not because of players, necessarily, because he had opportunities to leave or ask out to team up with players better than, say, Devin Harris, Jason Kidd and Jason Terry. But he stuck with the team. It took him a decade to win a title, and that title was no sure thing.

LeBron James chose players. Not a team, but players. He chose to team up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. He made three straight Finals series (and counting) and won two titles within three years.

At the very tip top, where one superstar can swing the balance, Cuban's theorem falls apart. It implies that if in 2010 Nowitzki would have decided to sign with an organization that wasn't the "right" one, but had a superstar player on hand -- say, Chris Paul's Hornets -- he wouldn't have won a title. It's a mutation of Jerry Krause's old "organizations win championships" canard, which may apply in baseball, but just isn't the case in the NBA.

Superstars win championships. Howard picked a 24-year-old superstar over the 35-year-old superstar. Seems like a pretty solid choice to me. Furthermore, I'd like to see Cuban's criteria for the "right" organization. What qualifies Dallas, but not Houston? Is Cuban implying that the Mavericks are better club, despite being falling behind the Rockets in the final standings last year? Is Cuban claiming to be a better owner than Leslie Alexander, who has twice as many NBA championships?

In the end, there's little actual sense to it. It's just Cuban's way of dealing with failure: impugn the intelligence of those who spurned you. Ironically, Cuban's insistence in reacting like this probably does the Mavericks no favors when it comes to recruiting players. These guys pay attention to how their peers are treated, and we now have fresh evidence of Cuban dissing the last two max players -- Deron Williams and Dwight -- who refused him.

More from SB Nation NBA:

Longform: How the Pistons became a team apart from Detroit

James Herbert: He’s now ‘Coach Rondo’

Mark Deeks: Bogut’s extension was unnecessary

The King's Revolution: How things changed since LeBron made The Decision

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