If you have 14 active players on a busy Friday night, but only 12 active roster spots, whom do you exclude? You probably consider the difficulty of opposing defenses, players’ recent performance, and possibly how much rest they've had (back-to-back, three days’ rest, etc.), but home/road splits can be very telling on an individual basis.
There are also long-term implications to home/road splits. If a player is struggling mightily in road games this season, perhaps they simply hit a prolonged slump during their team's longest road trip. If it's more than that, however, indicating persistently poor play in away games, that creates a problem for fantasy owners -- inconsistency. It's almost always preferable to have a player who produces comparable stats on an every-night basis, rather than suffering through wild swings in value. When it comes to fantasy value, volatility is unwelcome.
To begin the analysis, I cobbled together the away/home stats for an initial population of 375 players. That included plenty of guys irrelevant to fantasy owners, or whose limited minutes/appearances could unnecessarily skew the data, so I then I eliminated anyone who has averaged fewer than 15 minutes per game (home or away) or appeared in fewer than 15 games (home or away). This brought the population down to a more reasonable 246 players.
When I ran the numbers for their 9-cat fantasy value in home vs. away games, here’s what resulted:
Players Who Gain Value at Home: 124 (average 23.4% value gain, compared to road games)
Players Who Lose Value at Home: 122 (average 15.6% value loss, compared to road games)
This tells us a few things. Most glaringly, the split between players who gain or lose value at home is nearly even. This was surprising, since we associate road games with the rigors of traveling, tired legs, hostile crowds, etc. There's a reason teams like the Spurs and Warriors are willing to push their veterans late in the season to secure home-court advantage, but that doesn’t seem to convey to individual fantasy values.
The real benefit of playing at home might be revealed in the average percentage of value gained or lost. The players who have benefited at home this season have gained an average of 23.4% value. Klay Thompson basically represents the mean here with +23.2% value in Oracle Arena this season...here are his home/road splits (notice that he's playing more minutes on the road, but is shooting just 42.0% from the field).
Meanwhile, players who have lower value in home games this season are losing an average of -15.6%. So far, we're talking about trends among a group of 240+ players, which makes it hard to draw any nuanced conclusions. We can say, generally, that a significant rotation player chosen at random is just as likely to gain or lose value during home games -- but that if they gain value, they'll likely gain more than the players who lose value.
With the 'big picture' in mind, let's look at which players have fared the best or worst in home vs. away games this season.
One important note: A player who is far better in home games isn't inherently better than a guy who is far better in away games. In either case, that player displays exaggerated volatility which is typically unwelcome (especially in season-long leagues...DFS owners can take every player/game on its own merit). As a fantasy GM, I'm more inclined to start Nikola Mirotic in Chicago-based games, where he's been significantly better, but I'm happier with players who hover right around the break-even mark -- they never get too high or too low based on the location of a game. Moving on to specific players...
There are three players whose fantasy value has at least doubled in home games this season -- Marquese Chriss, Andre Roberson and Dorian Finney-Smith. Chriss gets the biggest home-arena bump of any player under consideration, with his value surging more than 250% at home. Here are his splits.
Chriss has played more minutes at home, sure, but he's also vastly more effective with 30% more points, 15% more rebounds, 50% more steals, 55% more blocks, 50% fewer turnovers, and far better percentages from both the field and the free throw line. Fantasy owners surely hope that Chriss can level off his production with more minutes in the season's final weeks -- Phoenix has seven home games and eight road games remaining, including a six-game East Coast swing that begins on Sunday. Fingers crossed for the talented lottery pick.
Emmanuel Mudiay has also nearly doubled his meager fantasy value at home this season, but that's irrelevant since he's not even in Denver's rotation -- the fact that he can't earn minutes at the end of a lost season is very telling. Fantasy-relevant players who gain significant value in home games include (in descending order of value gained): Monta Ellis, Richaun Holmes, Kyle Korver, Allen Crabbe, Greg Monroe, Nikola Mirotic, Moe Harkless, Ricky Rubio, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Thaddeus Young, Klay Thompson, Carmelo Anthony, Julius Randle, Hassan Whiteside, J.J. Redick, Kyrie Irving, Brandon Ingram and Evan Fournier.
Not too far behind that motley group are Goran Dragic, Blake Griffin and Al Horford...even Russell Westbrook has seen a nearly 10% bump playing at Chesapeake Energy Arena. For the big-name players I just mentioned, knowing their splits is primarily useful in DFS leagues -- for season-long purposes, you're going to start them regardless. For players like Ingram, Redick, Harkless, Mirotic and Crabbe, the location of their game on any given night could be a determining factor in whether you want to deploy them in any situation.
I mentioned earlier that 122 of the 246 players under consideration actually lose value in home games, meaning they've been better playing on the road. That's almost exactly 50% of the population, so this isn't a fluky or isolated event. There are some extreme examples, however, which deserve more attention. Lance Thomas has been far superior on the road this season, but even then he's only worth owning in deep leagues or when injuries strike the Knicks' frontcourt. A more prominent player is Ryan Anderson, who has the following home/road splits:
Why would a veteran sharp-shooter go 45.7%/92.3% in away games, compared to 36.6%/77.3% in home games? I honestly have no idea. Maybe he doesn't like the lighting or backdrop in Houston's arena, but the cause isn't what we're interested in here. What matters for fantasy purposes is to recognize how vastly superior he's been on the road this season, and set your rosters accordingly.
Here's a list of other players whose value has increased at least 20% in road games this season (descending): Derrick Favors, Brandon Knight, Joe Johnson, T.J. McConnell, Dewayne Dedmon, Isaiah Whitehead, Jusuf Nurkic, Buddy Hield, Willy Hernangomez, Andre Iguodala, Channing Frye, Elfrid Payton, George Hill, Tyler Johnson, James Johnson, Zach Randolph, Gorgui Dieng and Dario Saric. I'll note that Nurkic has been great in four home games since joining the Trail Blazers, so we shouldn't read into his inclusion on this list.
If you want to peruse the entire spreadsheet, just click here to view it on Google Sheets. You can also download it by going into the 'File' menu. You can sort by home value or away value, look at guys who are basically unaffected by location (e.g. LeBron James, Otto Porter, Isaiah Thomas), or do whatever else you can think up. If you have any questions or insights, you can always find me on Twitter @Knaus_RW. Good luck this week.