Through the halfway of the season, the NBA’s road splits are quite staggering – and historic.
The NBA regular season is about halfway complete. Every year comes with many surprises, but this year, there is one shocking development happening in the NBA that hasn’t been given the attention it deserves. That development is the league-wide road issue.
Throughout the entire Association, there are only four teams who have won more than they have lost on the road so far this season: The Boston Celtics (14-7), the Brooklyn Nets (14-8), the Milwaukee Bucks (11-10), and the New York Knicks (12-8). The rare win for New York basketball.
In addition to that, just three teams have a .500 record on the road: The Denver Nuggets (10-10), the Memphis Grizzlies (10-10), and the Sacramento Kings (9-9).
To add that all together, out of 30 NBA teams, only four have a winning record, none of which are in the Western Conference, and a total of six are .500 or better.
Historic road woes in the NBA
This is unprecedented.
Over the past ten NBA seasons, the fewest number of teams that have finished the regular season above .500 on the road is seven which happened in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons. Furthermore, six of the past 10 NBA seasons have featured 10 or more teams with winning road regular season records.
Again, there are currently only four teams in the league who own that title.
So, what does any of this mean?
Well, it might mean nothing. History suggests we should see improvement from teams on the road throughout the second half of the regular season. However, I am not of the belief that this is nothing.
The regular season is about halfway complete as mentioned previously. To have just four teams with a winning road record is staggering.
With how little success teams are having on the road this season, home-court advantage has never been more valuable. A Game 7 at home as opposed to on the road may prove to be the difference between one team winning it all and another team getting bounced in the first round.
As a result, we may see teams opt to not rest their star players down the stretch of the season as much as in previous seasons with how important homecourt will be in the playoffs. That, however, is unlikely with how the NBA functions these days, but it’s something to consider.
Nevertheless, history tells us that winning on the road in the regular season matters when it comes to postseason success.
Since the turn of the century, out of the 46 teams that have reached the NBA Finals, only six had a losing road record in the regular season. In fact, three of those six instances featured teams that were just one game below .500: The 1999-00 Indiana Pacers, the 2006-07 Cleveland Cavaliers, and the 2016-17 Cavs were all 20-21 on the road. All six of those teams ended up losing in the Finals. None of those Finals went to seven games and two of them ended in sweeps.
Winning on the road isn’t something that gets discussed much as it pertains to the regular season. However, it’s an invaluable experience that a team can use to their advantage in the postseason, as history suggests.
It’s silly to expect a team who hasn’t performed well on the road all season to magically flip a switch and turn it on in the postseason. For instance, the Golden State Warriors, a popular Finals pick heading into the season, own the league’s worst road record at 3-16.
Having said that, there is still a lot of basketball yet to be played. The league can shift in an instant as we saw recently with the terrible news of Kevin Durant’s injury.
As the season progresses and the playoffs get closer and closer, it’s important to look at each team’s road record in trying to understand who has the best chance to take home the hardware. History suggests it will be a team that proved they can do it on the road in the dog days of the NBA grind.