NBA Betting Strategy

In this article, we’ll go over some key aspects of becoming a successful NBA handicapper. We have several other articles devoted to NBA betting, and some of these concepts will be touched on here. The concepts discussed below are focused on sides and totals betting.

Watch NBA Basketball

The NBA more than any other sport is one that must be observed to grasp fully how a game is playing out. Many advanced statistics can help us see the numbers behind the box score, but bettors are doing themselves a severe disservice by only glancing at the box score of a contest or reading a game recap.

Watch as much basketball as you can. Few people bet the NBA professionally and we all have lives outside of betting sports, (well, most of us!) but there should be some time each week that bettors can dedicate to watching the game. NBA League Pass is available online and offers just about every game, except those that are nationally televised.

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Take Advantage of Early Season Uncertainty

The sportsbooks are by far the best resource when it comes to predicting the outcome of sporting events. However, the lines makers, like sharp bettors, benefit from information.

At the beginning of an NBA season, rotations aren’t set in stone, particularly on teams where a new head coach has taken over, or the rosters have changed from the previous season. NBA free agency is one of the more active sports when it comes to trades and roster moves, so there’s usually quite a bit of turnover year-to-year.

In the early part of the season, larger line movements will be more frequent due to odds being more inefficient to start the season compared to later in the year. The sportsbooks may be a little in the dark when it comes to certain players’ and teams’ performances.

We’re not saying the sportsbooks don’t know what they are doing early in the year – that’s far from the reality. Nevertheless, it is vital to realize their lines are not as sharp as they are later in the season when compared to the first two months.

Focus On Totals

There’s a reason that NBA totals (and college) have significantly lower betting limits than sides. It’s because the oddsmakers are considerably more vulnerable when it comes to predicting totals versus handicapping sides.

One of the areas to focus on here is possessions per game. TeamRankings.com offers detailed stats on possessions per game. The number of possessions per game directly correlates to the tempo and pace that each team plays.

Teams that are defensive focused and more methodical on the defensive end will be on the lower end of possessions due to their playing style. Those that “run-and-gun” and look to score in transition will score more points due to up-tempo basketball.

We aren’t saying bettors should steer clear of point spread wagers, but determining how a game might play out from a tempo and scoring perspective can be easier than picking the winner on the point spread and moneyline.

The team that has the upper hand in the game will certainly affect the amount of scoring, but if we can determine the pace of play in a given contest – that offers us a lot more accuracy in predicting the outcome than trying to handicap sides.

The focus on totals should not be limited simply to the full game’s total. Just about every sportsbook these days offers multiple options for totals, including team totals, quarter totals, first half line, and halftime totals.

It’s vital to realize that there is a reason sportsbooks have lower betting limits on totals, and even lower limits on quarter, first half, and halftime totals. It’s because they’re much more vulnerable in these markets to sharps.

However, these markets do have considerably larger limits than some player props, which are usually capped at $500 or so. Mid to larger sportsbooks will often take several thousand on halftime lines.

Handicapping first half, quarter and halftime odds can be difficult, but for those who put the time into learning the league, they’re among the most vulnerable odds to spot inefficiencies when it comes to NBA betting markets.

Understand “Coach Speak”

This goes back to following the league and watching games on a nightly basis. Coaches, of course, are a huge factor when determining a team’s style of play, any changes in scheme and which players will receive the most minutes on a nightly basis.

Some coaches are predictable. They have players who are going to get x amount of minutes per night, give or take several minutes (often dependent if the player gets in foul trouble) in either direction. They may not mess with their allotted minutes for each player much and rarely shake things up.

Others are less predictable. Players’ minutes will vary more widely depending on the matchup, and they often aren’t afraid to bench guys who have a bad first half. They also may be quick to change up their scheme or pace of play.

During press conferences, coaches may discuss their strategy for upcoming games and will often tip their hat in regards to future changes in style of play, their starting lineup or allotment of minutes. These should be taken with a grain of salt, but there’s usually an element of truth to their press conferences.

For instance, if a coach suggests that a bench player will get more minutes or be inserted into the starting lineup, it’s worth considering how this change might affect the rest of the team’s play and how it matches up against their next opponent.

Likewise, if a coach wants to increase the pace of play and attack more in transition, the number of points scored by his team will likely increase. If the coach does follow through with his plan, it may take the oddsmakers several games to “catch up” with this new change in philosophy.

Of course, often what coaches talk about with the media is just that, talk. They may not follow through with their changes. However, there’s a hidden edge here for handicappers who are paying attention to the coaches and front offices of teams. This is something that many don’t factor into their handicapping at all.

It’s also something the oddsmakers may miss as well. If a coach does decide to change his philosophy slightly or make changes to his lineup, the sportsbooks may not pick up on it immediately.

Fatigue Factor

The NBA season is an 82-game grind. Even for what some think are the best athletes in the world, the wear and tear of an NBA season takes a toll on every team. Some teams react to fatigue better than others. It’s a significant factor that should be taken into each night of betting.

There are multiple times during the season that teams will play three games in four nights, and there are rare occasions when they play four games in five nights. Though the players are making millions and should give it all they have on a given night, we would be fools to think they are playing their best game when fatigued.

Tired legs and minds equal short jumpers and careless turnovers. It’s often the team that is the freshest that will cover the spread that evening. Letdown spots are commonplace for even the best teams after a grueling stretch of games.

Monitoring a team’s schedule, including upcoming opponents and the minutes of key players is a vital aspect of being a successful NBA bettor.