Without fans to influence the game and each game on a neutral court at Disney World in Florida, how have the odds to win the title changed?
If you have been watching the Premier League, Bundesliga, or any of the other European football leagues over the last few months, you will know that the home field advantage has taken a huge hit.
There are no fans, which means no one gets on the referees, hence there is minimal pressure on them to make calls, something that can be seen in almost any American sport, from College Football (think Death Valley at LSU or Bryant-Denney Stadium at Alabama) to the NBA.
Thursday night, the NBA returns with a bang, as two of the favorites to win the 2020 NBA title, the Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers, will kick off an eight-game sprint for each team to the playoffs.
But without fans to influence the game and each game on a neutral court at Disney World in Florida, how have the odds to win the title changed?
This is the theory that the traders at are working with for the upcoming NBA Playoffs.
Home court advantage has now been removed entirely from all modeling and oddsmaking for the remainder of the rescheduled NBA season, meaning on average, sides who would have previously been playing at home lose three points per game.
In theory, this should benefit the outsiders and slightly harm favorites - but with home court advantage often the difference for middle seeds, the seedings are devalued meaning the better teams are expected to advance on merit in games that should simply be decided in pure ‘on court’ form by the best players playing the best basketball, with no fan hostility and unconscious referee bias meaning the playing field should be more level than ever before.
Mid-ranking teams that would have benefitted from a home advantage now have that eliminated, while the weakest teams - who on paper should have faced the hardest road matchups - have now been given a slight upper hand in terms of facing a better class of opponent on neutral courts.
This trend is reflected in the Championship odds changes following the restructure announcement, which has seen the very best and worst teams shorten, while many mid-ranking teams have lengthened.
“Our assessment of the revised NBA season reveals that in a sport where home advantage is key for a number of reasons, the best sides are least likely to be inconvenienced by the move to neutral courts of Disney World,” Björn Wischnewski, head of trading for , said. “The unprecedented circumstances also hand the slimmest glimmer of hope to the underdogs who will attempt the Hail Mary in the absence of any tough road trips. Calculations suggest that the absence of the approximate three-point advantage associated with the home court would be most problematic for the mid-ranked teams contesting the closest match ups on paper, where such a narrow margin could make the difference.”
Here are some examples from both sides of the argument.
LA Lakers: +300 to +240 - implied % rising from 25% to 29.41%.
Milwaukee Bucks: +300 to +250 - implied % rising from 25% to 28.57%.
LA Clippers: +350 to +300 - implied % rising from 22.22% to 25%.
Toronto Raptors: +1800 to +2200 - implied % falling from 5.26% to 4.34%.
Philadelphia 76ers: +2200 to +2800 - implied % falling from 4.34% to 3.44%.
Miami Heat: +2000 to +3000 - implied % falling from 4.76% to 3.22%.
So basically, the neutral courts in Florida should help the three favorites, the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, and Milwaukee Bucks, in their quest to win this interesting season.
“The bottom line is that without the usual off-court fanfare, the cream should simply rise to the top,” Wischnewski said. “The odds movement suggests one of the Lakers, Bucks or Clippers have already enhanced their chances of lifting the Championship at Disney World without stepping onto the court.
"Regardless, fans, bettors and oddsmakers alike will all benefit from the return of elite basketball and the unprecedented nature of this season means from a mathematical point of view, it’ll be one of the most fascinating on record. The battle between sharp bettors and sportsbooks in terms of spotting new trends whilst identifying the effects of the shutdown on players both mentally and physically means oddsmakers need to remain even more diligent than usual.”
So which of the teams will you take to win the title? My picks before the season restarts to make the final are the Clippers and the Bucks, with help, of course, from the neutral courts.